RIT Faculty and Alumni Receive NASA Funding to Develop New Diffractive Solar Sail Concepts

Alumna Amber Dubill receives phase III award from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program

Diffractive solar sails, depicted in this conceptual illustration, could enable missions to hard-to-reach places, like orbits over the Sun’s poles. (Image Credit: MacKenzi Martin)

ROCHESTER, NY (Rochester Institute of Technology PR) –NASA announced new funding for a project led by Rochester Institute of Technology alumni, faculty, and students that could power spacecraft to orbit the sun’s poles for the first time. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program will provide Phase III funding to the Diffractive Solar Sailing project led by Amber Dubill ’20 (mechanical engineering), ’20 MS (mechanical engineering) of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.‌

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OSIRIS-REx Scientists: Taking Asteroid Sample was Like Punching a Ball Pit

Bennu’s surface was disturbed in three different ways: by the force of the spacecraft touching down; by the sampling mechanism, which collected material by blowing gas into its collection filter; and by four of the spacecraft’s back-away thrusters, which moved the spacecraft away from the sample site (marked with a red “X” in the second of these two images) and agitated dust and boulders on the surface. The image above shows the TAG site and highlights (red circle) a large boulder thrown about 40 feet (about 12 meters). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — Asteroid Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, led by the University of Arizona, kept surprising the mission team while the spacecraft studied the asteroid from a distance. The biggest surprise, however, came when OSIRIS-REx swooped in to grab a sample of material from Bennu and encountered not a solid surface but one that gave way so easily the sampler arm sank 1 1/2 feet into it within seconds.

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NASA EXPRESS Racks Achieve 1 Million Hours of Service on Space Station

NASA astronaut Kayla Barron monitors experiments in one of the International Space Station’s 12 EXPRESS Racks during Expedition 66, which ran from October 2021 to March 2022. As many as 100 experiments at a time can be simultaneously conducted in the station’s full complement of racks, helping NASA achieve 1 million hours of powered EXPRESS Rack duty between 2001-2022. (Credits: NASA)

by Rick Smith
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA science research on the International Space Station reached an extraordinary milestone June 14.

The vital, versatile EXPRESS Racks – properly known as “EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to the Space Station” multipurpose payload shelving units – logged 1 million hours of combined powered duty on station. That’s the equivalent of nearly 115 years’ worth of scientific research completed in just two decades.

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NASA Marshall Team Delivers Tiny, Powerful ‘Lunar Flashlight’ Propulsion System

Lunar Flashlight is a low-cost, innovative CubeSat set to investigate the shadowy surface of the Moon’s South Pole. The Lunar Flashlight mission was developed and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. (Credits: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have built some of the largest rocket engines ever to light up the icy reaches of space. Now Marshall and its commercial partners have delivered one of the smallest propulsion systems in its history, designed to help propel an upcoming NASA mission to shed new light on the Moon’s South Pole – in search of a much more useful type of ice.

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NASA Awards Facilities Engineering Design, Inspection Services Contract

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded the Facilities Engineering Design and Inspection Services (FEDIS) II contract to Vanguard Pacific LLC of Foley, Alabama, to provide architect and engineering design services at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract has a potential mission services value of $25.6 million and a maximum potential IDIQ value of $22.5 million, for a total value of $ 48.1 million. The contract begins on Aug. 1, 2022, with a one-year base period, followed by four one-year option periods that may be exercised at NASA’s discretion.

Under the scope of work specified in the contract, Vanguard Pacific will be responsible for design services in support of the Minor Construction Contract for projects of $1 million or less. The scope also includes master planning, surveillance, and inspection services.

NASA Announces Artemis Concept Awards for Nuclear Power on Moon

Artist’s concept of a fission power system on the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are working together to advance space nuclear technologies. The agencies have selected three design concept proposals for a fission surface power system design that could be ready to launch by the end of the decade for a demonstration on the Moon. This technology would benefit future exploration under the Artemis umbrella.

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NASA Opens Second Phase of $3.5 Million Lunar Excavation Competition

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA launched the second phase of its Break the Ice Lunar Challenge to advance technology that is – quite literally – groundbreaking. The challenge invites the public to advance system technology for excavating and delivering lunar resources.

High on NASA’s list of innovation priorities are technologies that use the Moon’s resources to support sustainable surface operations while decreasing supply needs from Earth. This includes systems that could convert lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, or other vital resources. 

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Aeva 4D LiDAR Helps NASA Map the Moon

Astronaut working on the moon (Credit: NASA)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., April 21, 2022 (Aeva PR) – Aeva® (NYSE: AEVA), a leader in next-generation sensing and perception systems, today announced that NASA’s Kinematic Navigation and Cartography Knapsack (KNaCK) Instrument project, a LiDAR-based mobile terrain-mapping and navigation system designed to support the next generation of lunar and planetary exploration, is using Aeva’s 4D LiDAR™ technology. Aeva’s technology, including the new Aeries™ II sensor, is expected to enable the KNaCK Instrument to create highly accurate maps of the lunar surface and provide precise navigation capabilities to overcome the lack of global positioning and navigation systems on the Moon. These capabilities are designed to support missions that are part of NASA’s Artemis program which aims to return humans to the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years.

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NASA Sets Coverage for First Rollout of Space Launch System

SLS and Orion full stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will hold a media teleconference on Monday, March 14 to discuss the upcoming debut of the agency’s Mega Moon rocket and integrated spacecraft for the uncrewed Artemis I lunar mission.

Roll out of the integrated Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is slated for Thursday, March 17.

The media call will begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT after completion of a test readiness review, which will determine if the agency is ready to move forward with mission activities. The call will air live on the agency’s website.

Teleconference participants include:

  • Tom Whitmeyer, associate administrator for exploration systems development, NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager, NASA Headquarters
  • Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director, NASA Exploration Ground Systems program, Kennedy
  • John Honeycutt, manager, Space Launch System program, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama
  • Howard Hu, manager, Orion program, Johnson Space Center in Houston

Live coverage for rollout begins at 5 p.m. EDT on Thursday, March 17 and will include live remarks from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and other guests. Coverage will air on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website

At the pad, NASA will conduct a final prelaunch test known as wet dress rehearsal, which includes loading the SLS propellant tanks and conducting a launch countdown.

The rollout involves a 4-mile journey between the Vehicle Assembly Building and the launch pad, expected to take between six and 12 hours. Live, static camera views of the debut and arrival at the pad will be available starting at 4 p.m. EDT on the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube channel.

Credentialing deadlines for in-person activities have closed.

Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone on the way to Mars.

For updates, follow along on NASA’s Artemis blog at:

https://blogs.nasa.gov/artemis/

NASA Invests in Tech Development From Small Businesses, Researchers

A new round of awards for small business and research partnerships will advance technology development. A partnership between Interstel Technologies, Inc., and University of Hawaii at Manoa will develop a system for guiding swarms of vehicles, such as rovers, illustrated here. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program has awarded $15 million to U.S. small businesses and research institutions to continue developing technologies in areas ranging from aeronautics to science and space exploration.

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Lockheed Martin Selected For Critical Elements Of NASA’s Mission To Bring Back First Ever Samples From Mars

Lockheed Martin will lead development of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (pictured), cruise stage for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander, and the Earth Entry System that will help return the first ever Martian rock samples to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

DENVER, Feb. 15, 2022 (Lockheed Martin PR) – Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] was awarded three NASA contracts for key elements of the agency’s visionary Mars Sample Return program.

The first contract is for the cruise stage that will power and steer the Mars-bound journey of the lander that retrieves Martian rock and soil samples from the Perseverance Rover. For this $35 million award from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California (JPL), Lockheed Martin will produce the cruise stage and its comprehensive elements, including the solar arrays, structure, propulsion and thermal properties.

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Getting Pumped Up for Launch: NASA Inflatable Decelerator Prepared for Flight Test

Successful completion of final test of the LOFTID inflation system means it’s ready for integration with the rest of the re-entry vehicle. (Credits: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — No, we’re not pumping up inner tubes for a pool party, but the successful inflation of this stack of test rings marks the final test of the inflation system for NASA’s LOFTID demonstration which will make a splash when it lands in the Pacific Ocean after launch. 

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Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Develop Two Small Satellites for NASA Astrophysics Pioneers Program

Artist’s conception of the NASA StarBurst astrophysics mission. (Credit: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center)

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, 25 January 2022 (SFL PR) – Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) will develop two small spacecraft for the new NASA Astrophysics Pioneers Program. SFL will provide the spacecraft platforms, perform system integration, and conduct system testing for the StarBurst and Aspera astrophysics missions, led by Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and the University of Arizona, respectively.

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NASA Solar Sail Mission to Chase Tiny Asteroid After Artemis I Launch

NEA Scout is composed of a small, shoebox-sized CubeSat (top left) and a thin, aluminum-coated solar sail about the size of a racquetball court (bottom left). After the spacecraft launches aboard Artemis I, the sail will use sunlight to propel the CubeSat to a small asteroid (as depicted in an illustration, right). (Credits: NASA)

NEA Scout will visit an asteroid estimated to be smaller than a school bus – the smallest asteroid ever to be studied by a spacecraft.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Launching with the Artemis I uncrewed test flight, NASA’s shoebox-size Near-Earth Asteroid Scout will chase down what will become the smallest asteroid ever to be visited by a spacecraft. It will get there by unfurling a solar sail to harness solar radiation for propulsion, making this the agency’s first deep space mission of its kind.

The target is 2020 GE, a near-Earth asteroid (NEA) that is less than 60 feet (18 meters) in size. Asteroids smaller than 330 feet (100 meters) across have never been explored up close before. The spacecraft will use its science camera to get a closer look, measuring the object’s size, shape, rotation, and surface properties while looking for any dust and debris that might surround 2020 GE.

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