NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Astronomy & Astrophysics


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on astronomy and astrophysics.

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms
Dmitry Savransky
Cornell University

Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer
Jordan Wachs
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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Bound for Mars: Countdown to First Interplanetary Launch from California

NASA’s InSight to Mars undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., ahead of its May 5 launch date. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In the early morning hours of May 5, millions of Californians will have an opportunity to witness a sight they have never seen before – the historic first interplanetary launch from America’s West Coast. On board the 189-foot-tall (57.3-meter) United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will be NASA’s InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region located in Mars’ northern hemisphere. The May 5 launch window for the InSight mission opens at 4:05 am PDT (7:05 EDT, 11:05 UTC) and remains open for two hours.

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NIAC Phase II Awards for Propulsion Projects


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at the following three Phase II awards focused on advanced propulsion.

Mach Effect for In Space Propulsion: Interstellar Mission
James Woodward
Space Studies Institute, Inc.

A Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions
John Brophy
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion Concept
Robert Adams
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Each award is worth up to $500,000 for a two-year study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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NASA Ready to Study Heart of Mars

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA is about to go on a journey to study the interior of Mars. The space agency held a news conference Thursday at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, detailing the next mission to the Red Planet.

Scheduled to launch as early as May 5, NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), a stationary lander, will be the first-ever mission dedicated to exploring Mars’ deep interior. It also will be the first NASA mission since the Apollo moon landings to place a seismometer, a device that measures quakes, on the soil of another planet.

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House Science Committee Approves Measure Designating NASA Marshall as Lead Propulsion Center


The House Science Committee has approved a bill that would designate the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to “provide leadership for the U.S. rocket propulsion industrial base, and for other purposes.

“It is the sense of Congress that the Marshall Space Flight Center is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s lead center for rocket propulsion and is essential to sustaining and promoting U.S. leadership in rocket propulsion and developing the next generation of rocket propulsion capabilities,” the bill states.

“Erosion of the rocket propulsion industrial base would seriously impact national security, space exploration potential, and economic growth,” the bill states. “The Marshall Space Flight Center has decades of experience working with other Government agencies and industry partners to study and coordinate these capabilities.”

The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry (ALSTAR) Act was introduced by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who represents Huntsville.

“This bill will ensure the long-term stability of the rocket propulsion industry through better coordination and collaboration between all relevant stakeholders,” Brooks said in a press release. “With Marshall leading the charge to explore and develop new rocket propulsion technology in conjunction with its partners, NASA can inspire the next generation to look to the stars and aspire to do the impossible.”

NASA Marshall Advances 3-D Printed Rocket Engine Nozzle Technology

Through hot-fire testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, engineers put this nozzle through its paces, accumulating more than 1,040 seconds at high combustion chamber pressures and temperatures. Now, this technology is being licensed and considered in commercial applications across the industry. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/David Olive)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Rocket engine nozzles operate in extreme temperatures and pressures from the combustion process and are complex and expensive to manufacture. That is why a team of engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, developed and proved out a new additive manufacturing technique for nozzle fabrication that can greatly reduce costs and development time.

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A Closer Look at National Space Council User’s Advisory Group Nominees


So, I finally had a chance to go through folks that Vice President Mike Pence nominated to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Below is my attempt to break down the 29 nominees by category. It’s far from perfect because several of them could easily be listed under multiple categories. But, here’s my best shot at it.

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NASA Announces Ninth Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 11 small research satellites from seven states and Puerto Rico to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The selections are part of the ninth round of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative. CubeSats are a type of spacecraft called nanosatellites, often measuring about four inches on each side and weighing less than three pounds, with a volume of about one quart. CubeSats are built using these standard dimensions as Units or “U”, and are classified as 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in total size.

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NASA to Outline Plans Next Week

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA centers across the country are opening their doors Monday, Feb. 12, to media and social media for “State of NASA” events, including a speech from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, and unique opportunities for a behind-the-scenes look at the agency’s work. These events follow President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal delivery to the U.S. Congress.

Events at NASA centers will include media tours and presentations on the agency’s exploration goals for the Moon, Mars and worlds beyond, the innovative technologies developed and under development, as well as the scientific discoveries made as NASA explores and studies Earth and our universe, and continues to make advancements in next-generation air travel.

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NASA Experiments with Kilopower Fission Reactor

Kilopower reactor (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — When astronauts someday venture to the Moon, Mars and other destinations, one of the first and most important resources they will need is power. A reliable and efficient power system will be essential for day-to-day necessities, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home.

That’s why NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower, a new power source that could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions.

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NASA Deep Space Exploration Systems Look Ahead to Busy 2018


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Engineers preparing NASA’s deep space exploration systems to support missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond are gearing up for a busy 2018. The agency aims to complete the manufacturing of all the major hardware by the end of the year for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), which will pave the road for future missions with astronauts.

Planes, trains, trucks and ships will move across America and over oceans to deliver hardware for assembly and testing of components for the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket while teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida prepare the Ground Systems infrastructure. Testing will take place from the high seas to the high skies and in between throughout the year and across the country, not only in support of EM-1, but also for all subsequent missions.
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NASA Selects 3 Companies to Develop Prototype Space FabLab

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA is taking the next step in the development of a space-based, on-demand fabrication capability by partnering with three U.S. companies, under NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, to create prototypes.

The selected companies are: Interlog Corporation of Anaheim, California; Techshot, Inc. of Greeneville, Indiana; and Tethers Unlimited, Inc. of Bothell, Washington. Combined funding for the awards is approximately $10.2 million. These companies will have 18 months to deliver the prototype, after which NASA will select partners to further mature the technologies.

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NASA Opens $2 Million Third Phase of 3D-Printed Habitat Competition

HUNTVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond will require innovative options to shelter our explorers, and we won’t be able to carry all of the materials with us from Earth. NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a Centennial Challenges competition, seeks ways to create or develop the technologies needed to create such habitats on-site, and challenges citizen inventors to lead the way. Today, NASA and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, announce the opening of Phase 3 of the competition for team registration.

“The ideas and technologies this competition has already produced are encouraging, and we are excited to see what this next phase will bring,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “The solutions we seek from our competitions are revolutionary, which by nature makes them extremely difficult. But this only fuels our teams to work harder to innovate and solve.”

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Dawn Mission Extended at Ceres

Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015. The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.

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