NASA Selects Solar Sail, Earth Atmosphere Study SmallSat Missions

Solar Cruiser spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two SmallSat missions – a study of Earth’s outer most atmosphere and a solar sail spaceflight test mission – to share a ride to space in 2025 with the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP).

The missions – the Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere (GLIDE) and Solar Cruiser – were selected as Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Missions of Opportunity. GLIDE will help researchers understand the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere – the exosphere – where it touches space. Solar Cruiser demonstrate the use of solar photons for propulsion in space.

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NASA Confirms New SIMPLEx Mission Small Satellite to Blaze Trails Studying Lunar Surface

Peering into the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, Lunar Trailblazer will detect signatures of water ice in reflected light, and it will pinpoint the locations of micro-cold traps less than a football field in size. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Producing maps to locate ice or water trapped in rock at the Moon’s surface, Lunar Trailblazer will help support NASA’s efforts to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A small-satellite mission to understand the lunar water cycle – detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface in order to investigate how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology – has received NASA approval to proceed with the next phase of its development.

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Solar Superstorms of the Past Help NASA Scientists Understand Risks for Satellites

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — At the edge of space, the ever-growing fleet of satellites in low-Earth orbit are locked in a constant, precarious battle with friction. 

These satellites orbit in a normally quiet region hundreds of miles above the surface, at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Usually, the satellites only feel a gentle push due to the headwinds of the rarified air there, but extreme storms from the Sun can change Earth’s atmosphere enough to pull a satellite farther off orbit in one day than they’d normally experience in a year.

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National Space Council to Hold 8th Meeting on Dec. 9

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The eighth — and most likely final — meeting of the National Space Council under the Trump Administration will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. at 12:30 p.m. EST.

Vice President Mike Pence will chair the meeting. NASA TV will livestream it.

The Trump Administration revived the National Space Council after a long period of non-existence. It’s not clear whether the Biden Administration will continue it.

NASA Will Name Companies Selected to Collect Lunar Resources Under Artemis Program

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will hold a media teleconference Thursday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m. EST to announce the companies it has selected to collect lunar resources as part of the Artemis program. NASA’s Acting Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations Mike Gold and Director of Commercial Spaceflight Development Phil McAlister will provide an update on the selections and answer questions from the media.

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at: 

http://www.nasa.gov/live

Next-generation lunar science and technology is a key objective for returning to the Moon under the Artemis program and preparing for Mars. The ability to extract and use space resources is critical to support a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.

Companies selected for space resources contracts will collect a small amount of lunar regolith from any location on the Moon’s surface and provide imagery to NASA of the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location.

After NASA receives the information, the company will conduct an in-place transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith to the agency, completing the commercial transaction.

Learn more about NASA’s space resources effort at:

https://go.nasa.gov/36nNUKI

Virgin Orbit Sets Holiday Season Launch Window

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Virgin Orbit has set a window for its Launch Demo 2 mission. The primary date is Saturday, Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST. There is a similar backup launch window on Dec. 20.

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Window for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Suborbital Flight Opens Dec. 11

SpaceShipTwo fires its engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE), today announced its new flight window since it paused the spaceflight preparations in response to state guidelines from the New Mexico Department of Health to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The new flight window will open on December 11, pending good weather conditions and technical readiness. This flight expects to fulfill a number of objectives, including testing elements of the customer cabin as well as assessing the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during boost. The flight will also carry payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.

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CASIS, NSF Announce Sixth Annual Solicitation in Transport Phenomena and Fluid Transport to Utilize the International Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., November 30, 2020 (CASIS PR) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a “Transport Phenomena” joint solicitation open to investigators interested in leveraging resources onboard the orbiting laboratory for research in the areas of fluid dynamics, particulate and multiphase processes, thermal transport, nanoscale interactions, and combustion and fire systems.

Up to $400,000 will be awarded for multiple research projects that will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory (NSF will award up to $3.6 million in total grant funding). CASIS is the organization responsible for managing the ISS National Lab through a Cooperative Agreement with NASA.

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Dig In: NASA Challenge Seeks Innovations to Excavate Moon Resources

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — From garage inventors to university students and entrepreneurs, NASA is looking for ideas on how to excavate the Moon’s icy regolith, or dirt, and deliver it to a hypothetical processing plant at the lunar South Pole. The NASA Break the Ice Lunar Challenge, now open for registration, is designed to develop new technologies that could support a sustained human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.

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NASA Awards Flight & Integration Services Contracts to Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems

Scientific payloads in SpaceShipTwo cabin (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

EDWARDS, Calif., November 30, 2020 (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Virgin Galactic LLC of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Masten Space Systems Inc. of Mojave, California, to provide flight and integration services for payloads chosen by the agency’s Flight Opportunities program, which is managed at the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The two companies join four others to provide service under commercial indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts with NASA.

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ABB and Nüvü to Deliver Exo-planet Cameras for NASA’s Roman Space Telescope

High-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

\MONTREAL (ABB PR) — A two-year contract awarded to ABB from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will see key ABB/Nüvü Camēras technology fly onboard the space telescope in 2025, on course to capture the first spaceborne images of planets outside our solar system.

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Artemis I Launch Preparations Are Stacking Up

The aft segments of the Space Launch System solid rocket boosters for the Artemis I mission prepare to move from high bay 4 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking on the mobile launcher inside high bay 3 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

By Madison Tuttle
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center


NASA has stacked the first piece of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on the mobile launcher in preparation for the Artemis I launch next year. At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers lowered the first of 10 segments into place Nov. 21 for the twin solid rocket boosters that will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket. Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight to test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon with the Artemis program.

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NASA Centers Collaborate to Advance Quiet Supersonic Technology During Pandemic

A NASA F/A-18 is towed to the apron at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California during sunrise over Rogers Dry Lake. The F/A-18 was used to test a transmitter for an air navigation system, called the Airborne Location Integrating Geospatial Navigation System, or ALIGNS. This system, designed to allow pilots to position their aircraft at precise distances to each other, will be critical for acoustic validation efforts of NASA’s next supersonic X-plane, the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology. (Credits: NASA/Lauren Hughes)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Two NASA centers on opposite sides of the countries are finding new ways to work together to support the agency’s mission to develop quiet supersonic technology, in spite of thousands of miles of distance and a global pandemic.

Using their available labs, Kennedy Space Center in Florida is building tools in collaboration with Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, which NASA will use in support of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or QueSST.

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NASA Flight Opportunities Program PI Spotlight: Kevin Crosby

Kevin Crosby during a microgravity flight on G-FORCE ONE airplane.

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — With a half-dozen Flight Opportunities campaigns under his belt (including one currently underway — see Flights section above), Carthage College professor Kevin Crosby understands the value of the program. Through flight testing, he has been able to raise the technology readiness level (TRL) of his slosh control and propellant gauging technologies for spacecraft.

As head of the school’s Space Sciences program, Crosby blends his development of these technologies with powerful learning opportunities for his students. We spoke with Crosby about what he has learned during his years of flight testing and how those lessons apply to both students and the research community as a whole. 

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