NASA iTech Winners Impress with Tech Ideas for Use in Space, on Earth

Three companies at the NASA iTech 2019 Cycle I forum were recognized by program executive Kira Blackwell during a ceremony in Mountain View, California, on July 12. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Water-fueled satellites, 3D medical scans and vibration resistant metal fasteners impressed judges at the NASA iTech competition this week in Mountain View, California. NASA iTech is an initiative to find and foster innovative solutions to challenges faced on Earth and in space.

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NASA, UK Space Agency to Cooperate on Future Moon Missions

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

LONDON (UKSA PR) — The UK and US space agencies have signed a statement of intent, which paves the way for UK commercial satellite communication and navigation services to be used by future NASA missions to the Moon.

The agreement was announced in a speech from Science Minister Chris Skidmore at the Policy Exchange in London on ‘Embracing the New Space Age’ on 16 July, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch.

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NASA Releases Pre-solicitation for LEO Commercial Free Flyer

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NASA intends to release Appendix K to the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) entitled “Appendix K: Commercial Destination Development in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Free Flyer.”

This appendix will request proposals from United States (U.S.) commercial entities to enter into a public-private partnership to develop and demonstrate commercial destination technologies and markets in LEO.

The primary objectives of Appendix K to the NextSTEP-2 BAA are (1) to successfully develop commercial markets through demonstration of products and services in LEO in habitable commercial destinations and (2) to provide a plan to establish a long-term, sustainable, commercial, human spaceflight enterprise in LEO where NASA is one of many customers.

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Four Moon Walkers Remain as America Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin steps down the ladder to the surface of the moon. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Fifty years ago today, three astronauts set off on the journey of a lifetime to make the first human landing on the moon. Twelve men would walk on the lunar surface, collect rocks and soil samples, and drive electric cars before the Apollo program ended in December 1972.

As the United States marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic first lunar landing on July 20, four of the 12 men who walked on the surface and eight others who flew around the moon are alive to celebrate it.

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Dynetics Sets its Sights on the Moon and Beyond

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Dynetics PR) — For forty-five years, Dynetics has distinguished itself as a premier aerospace and defense contractor in Rocket City, USA. In 2009, we first expanded our capabilities to the space sector, shocking the industry with the success of our Fast, Affordable, Scientific, SATellite (FASTSAT) small satellite. In just ten short years, Dynetics has built a reputation as a company that provides reliable, rapid, and efficient space solutions. 

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Ferguson: Starliner Flight Test in September “Looking Good”

Boeing’s Starliner prepares for acoustic testing at Boeing’s spacecraft test facilities in El Segundo, California. This vehicle, known as Spacecraft 2, will fly Starliner’s Crew Flight Test after it returns to Florida from environmental testing. (Credits: Boeing)

News 6 interviewed Boeing’s Chris Ferguson on Saturday about the status of the company’s effort to launch its Starliner commercial crew vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) this year:

“We have an uncrewed test flight here in September. It’s looking very good. We were working late into the night last night doing test work, 24/7 operations,” Ferguson said. “We are in the final push and I’m optimistic that you’re going to see humans return to space from the Space Coast within the next several months. It’s been a long time.”

[….]

After the uncrewed test flight, Boeing will also need to complete a launch abort test with the spacecraft before it can launch astronauts. During the abort test, ULA will launch the capsule and trigger an abort, which will send the capsule away from the rocket testing the system designed to carry the astronauts to safety.

Ferguson will pilot Starliner, with NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann and Mike Fincke, to the space station on its first crewed test flight.

“I’ve learned to not count my chickens early but I’m optimistic this year is going to be a very good year for the Boeing team,” Ferguson said.

SpaceX Says Nitrogen Tetroxide Leak Resulted in Destruction of Crew Dragon Vehicle

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 18:13 UTC, SpaceX conducted a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort test vehicle on a test stand at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Planetary Society-funded PlanetVac Picked by NASA for Possible Moon Flight

PlanetVac Sample Collection: Attached to a lander leg, PlanetVac collects a surface sample by using an inert gas to move regolith into the sample container. (Credit: The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Calif. (Planetary Society PR) — PlanetVac, a Planetary Society-funded technology that simplifies the process of collecting samples from other worlds, may fly to the Moon.

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House Science Leaders Seek Answers on Removal of NASA’s Gerstenmaier, Hill

Eddie Bernice Johnson

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Yesterday, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) leadership reassigned Mr. William H. Gerstenmaier from his post as Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. He will now serve as special assistant to NASA’s Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. Mr. William Hill, who served with Gerstenmaier as Deputy Associate Administrator of HEO, was also reassigned to now serve as a special advisor to NASA’s Associate Administrator, Steve Jurczyk. 

“I am baffled by the NASA Administrator’s decision to abruptly remove the highly respected heads of NASA’s human spaceflight directorate and its Exploration Systems Development office with no permanent successors identified,” said Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “The Trump Administration’s ill-defined crash program to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024 was going to be challenging enough to achieve under the best of circumstances. Removing experienced engineering leadership from that effort and the rest of the nation’s human spaceflight programs at such a crucial point in time seems misguided at best.  The Administrator needs to explain this personnel action, as well as provide an executable program plan accompanied by a credible budget if Congress is to have any basis for supporting the President’s Moon initiative.”

“As the head of NASA’s human exploration program, William Gerstenmaier has a long, successful track record of shepherding people safely into space,” said Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK) of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. “He had just testified on the future of the International Space Station before the Subcommittee that I chair the morning of the announcement. The Subcommittee found his testimony very important given his technical insight and his depth of NASA experience.

“I was surprised about the Administrator’s announcement. I look forward to speaking further with the Administrator about his decision.

“I am concerned about the impacts that such abrupt leadership changes in our nation’s human space flight programs could have at a time when we are at the threshold of testing the integrated Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle that will take humans into deep space and the commercial space flight systems that will take our astronauts to the International Space Station.”

Blue Canyon Provides CubeSats for NASA Lasercom Demo Mission

BOULDER, Colo. (Blue Canyon Technologies PR) –Small satellite manufacturer Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) announced it has been selected by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Small Spacecraft Technology program and NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, in collaboration with the University of Florida and MIT, to provide multiple 3U spacecraft for its CubeSat Lasercom Infrared Crosslink (CLICK) flight demonstration missions.

The CubeSats will be used for separate demonstration missions: the first is a laser space-to-ground demonstration mission and the second will demonstrate laser crosslinks and ranging in low-Earth orbit.

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UC Berkeley Scientists Scramble to Build Payload for 2021 Moon Landing

Commercial landers like this will carry science and technology payloads, including one built by UC Berkeley, to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. (Credit: NASA)

Robert Sanders
UC Berkeley Media Relations

Scavenging spare parts and grabbing off-the-shelf hardware, University of California, Berkeley, space scientists are in a sprint to build scientific instruments that will land on the moon in a mere two years.

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Goodbye, Gerst: Longtime Human Spaceflight Leader Removed From Post

William Gerstenmaier

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shook up management of the space agency’s effort to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024 on Wednesday by removing long-time associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) William Gerstenmaier from a post he held for 15 years.

“Effective immediately, Ken Bowersox will serve as Acting Associate Administrator for HEO,” Bridenstine said in a memo. “Bowersox, who previously served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for HEO, is a retired U.S. Naval Aviator with more than two decades of experience at NASA. He is an accomplished astronaut and a veteran of five space shuttle missions and served as commander on the International Space Station.”

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NASA Devises New Plan to Keep Voyager Spacecraft Operating Longer

This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, outside of the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — With careful planning and dashes of creativity, engineers have been able to keep NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flying for nearly 42 years — longer than any other spacecraft in history. To ensure that these vintage robots continue to return the best science data possible from the frontiers of space, mission engineers are implementing a new plan to manage them. And that involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters.

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European Service Module 2 Being Assembled in Germany

European Service Module 2 assembly (Credit: Airbus)

BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) is somewhat like the portal it appears to be in this image. By providing power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, it will transport humans back to the Moon, roughly fifty years after humankind first landed on its surface.

In assembly at Airbus in Bremen, ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will fly its second mission and first with a crew. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is set for launch in 2022.

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MSU Researchers to Send Computer Prototype to the Moon

A MSU computer prototype that was tested aboard the space station, shown here on Oct. 24, 2016, resembles the new version that will go to the moon. (Credit: MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez)

by Marshall Swearingen
MSU News Service

BOZEMAN, Mont. — In their quest to develop an improved computer that could one day be used in NASA spacecraft, Montana State University researchers have tinkered with their creation on the laboratory bench, dangled it from high-altitude helium balloons, sent it to the International Space Station and launched it into Earth’s orbit on a bread loaf-sized satellite. Now it will go to the moon.

NASA announced earlier this month that an MSU team led by Brock LaMeres has won a coveted spot on a 2020-2021 lunar mission that will be the biggest trial yet for the radiation-tolerant computing concept LaMeres conceived more than a decade ago.

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