NASA Adds Return Sample Scientists to Mars 2020 Leadership Team

This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover exploring and taking a core sample on the Red Planet. The mission will investigate the geology of Jezero Crater. It will acquire and store samples of the most promising rocks and soils that it encounters, setting them on the surface of Mars for a future mission to bring back samples to Earth for deeper study. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The leadership council for Mars 2020 science added two new members who represent the interests of scientists destined to handle and study the first samples from Red Planet.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — In the fall of 2019, the Mars 2020 rover team welcomed ten members to serve as Returned Sample Science Participating Scientists. Scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet, the Mars 2020 mission will search for signs of past microbial life, characterizing the planet’s climate and geology, and will be the first planetary mission to collect and cache Martian rock core and dust samples. Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA (in conjunction with the European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

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Blue Moon Program Fact Sheet

Blue Moon crewed landing vehicle. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin released a fact sheet about its programs when it opened its new Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. Below is an excerpt on the company’s advanced development programs and Blue Moon lunar lander.

BLUE ORIGIN FACT SHEET

Advanced Development Programs

Blue Origin is developing advanced technologies to enable space exploration and development, including a NASA Tipping Point contract to mature cryogenic liquid propulsion for integrated large-scale lunar lander applications and several years of progress on the Blue Moon Lunar Lander and its BE-7 lunar landing engine.

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NASA Announces Next Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

Space Test Program Satellite-4 (STPSat-4) reaches its final orbit after deploying from the International Space Station, Jan. 28, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 small research satellites from 11 states to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in August 2019.

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Blue Origin Fact Sheet on New Glenn, Engine Development

New Glenn is a reusable, vertical-landing booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin released a fact sheet about its programs when it opened its new Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. Below is an excerpt on the company’s New Glenn rocket and its BE-3, BE-4 and BE-7 engine development program.

BLUE ORIGIN FACT SHEET

New Glenn

Named after John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, New Glenn is a single configuration, heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle capable of carrying people and payloads routinely to low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, cislunar and beyond. Its first stage is fully reusable and built for 25 missions initially.

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Improving Shoes, Showers, 3D Printing: Research Launching to the Space Station

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor mixes samples for the Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment and installs them into the Multi-use Variable-g Platform. The research uses the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station to investigate the complex process of cement solidification. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A variety of science investigations, along with supplies and equipment, launch to the International Space Station on the 20th SpaceX commercial resupply services mission. The Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to leave Earth March 2 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its cargo includes research on particle foam manufacturing, water droplet formation, the human intestine and other cutting-edge investigations.

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Former CASIS Chief Economist Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

TAMPA, Fla. (Department of Justice PR) – Charles R. Resnick (69, Charlotte, NC, formerly from Florida) has pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false income tax return. He faces a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison. Resnick also agreed to make restitution to the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (“CASIS”). A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to the plea agreement, on October 15, 2013, Resnick filed a 2012 Individual Income Tax Return (IRS Form 1040), which he signed under penalty of perjury. On the return, Resnick attested that his total income for tax year 2012 was $225,947, when he knew that his income was substantially greater.

Resnick understated his total income by approximately $209,916 and failed to report approximately $158,000 in gross receipts that he had earned from consulting clients.

In addition, he improperly deducted business expenses in the approximate amount of $51,500, despite the facts that (1) he had been reimbursed for the expenses and (2) some of the deducted expenses were not ordinary and necessary business expenses.

For sentencing purposes, Resnick is responsible for the total tax loss for tax years 2010 through and including 2013. That amount will be determined at sentencing.

This case was investigated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachelle DesVaux Bedke.

CubeSat Launch Initiative Celebrates its 100th CubeSat Mission Deployment

An artistic rendering of HARP’s wide field of view of aerosols below. (Credits: NASA/SDL/UMBC)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Today the Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) CubeSat made history by becoming the 100th CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) selected mission deployed into space. This mission marks nearly 12 years of the CSLI providing CubeSat developers rideshare opportunities to space via Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions.

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Experts Say Much More Required to Avoid Satellite Collisions, Space Debris

Space debris

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Senate and House committees held hearings on consecutive days last week about space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM), i.e., the ability to accurately track objects in Earth orbit and to avoid dangerous collisions that could knock out satellites and even render entire orbits unusable.

The overall conclusion was that, although progress is being made, we’re not nearly as aware as we need to be as orbital debris poses an ever bigger problem and companies prepare to launch tens of thousands of new satellites.

“Near Earth space is geo-politically contested, it’s commercially contested and it’s in dire need of environmental protection because it is a finite resource,” said Moriba Jah, an associate professor of astronautics at the University of Texas.

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DLR Göttingen Tests Bartolomeo Commercial Payload Platform for Space Station

Bartolomeo platform undergoing testing. (Credit: DLR)
  • DLR Göttingen has tested a payload platform for the International Space Station
  • The Bartolomeo platform was developed by Airbus
  • Commercial users will be able to conduct experiments in space more quickly and with increased cost effectiveness

Göttingen, Germany (DLR ) — The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has tested a new type of payload platform created by Airbus for the International Space Station (ISS). Researchers at DLR in Göttingen investigated the vibration behaviour of the component in order to rule out any potentially dangerous vibrations during launch or while in service.

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Cygnus Cargo Craft Attached to Station for Three-Month Stay

Feb. 18, 2020: International Space Station Configuration. Three spaceships are parked at the space station including the U.S. Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 74 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — After its capture this morning at 4:05 a.m. EST, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s

Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 6:16 a.m. At the time of installation, the space station was flying over south of New Zealand.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 7,500 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Here are some of the scientific investigations:

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Blue Origin Opens Huntsville Manufacturing Facility

Ribbon cutting ceremony at Blue Origin’s production facility in Huntsville, Ala. (Credit: Blue Origin)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., February 17, 2020 (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin opened its rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, AL. The world-class engine manufacturing facility in The Rocket City will conduct high rate production of the BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will undergo testing at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center on the historic Test Stand 4670. BE-7, our lunar landing engine, is also currently in test at NASA Marshall.

“At the core of every successful launch vehicle program are the engines that power those vehicles to space. Early on in Blue Origin’s history, we made a crucial decision to invest in developing the next generation of reusable rocket engines. And now, it’s an exciting time for Blue, our partners and this country –we are on the path to deliver on our promise to end the reliance on Russian made engines – and it’s all happening right here, right now, in the great state of Alabama. We couldn’t be prouder to call this our home for engine production,” said Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin.

Blue will add more than 300 jobs to the local economy with an investment of over $200 million in the facility.

Here is a video of the BE-4 engine progress.

NASA Science, Cargo Heads to Space Station on Northrop Grumman Mission

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft launched on an Antares 230+ rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops at 3:21 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (Credits: NASA)

WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with about 7,500 pounds of science investigations and cargo after launching at 3:21 p.m. EST Saturday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The spacecraft launched on an Antares 230+ rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops and is scheduled to arrive at the space station at about 4:05 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival will begin at 2:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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NASA Goes BIG, Selects University Teams to Build Technologies for the Moon’s Darkest Areas

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Almost a quarter of a million miles away from home, the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions are the closest extraterrestrial water source. These craters have remained dark for billions of years, but student-developed technologies can help shine light on all they have to offer.

Through the competitive Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge and the Space Grant project, NASA has awarded nearly $1 million to eight university teams to build sample lunar payloads and demonstrate innovative ways to study the Moon’s darkest areas.

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OSIRIS-REx Experiences Laser Altimeter Anomaly

This image shows sample site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

NASA MISSION UPDATE

On Feb. 11, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft safely executed a 0.4-mile (620-m) flyover of the backup sample collection site Osprey as part of the mission’s Reconnaissance B phase activities.

Preliminary telemetry, however, indicates that the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) did not operate as expected during the 11-hour event. The OLA instrument was scheduled to provide ranging data to the spacecraft’s PolyCam imager, which would allow the camera to focus while imaging the area around the sample collection site. Consequently, the PolyCam images from the flyover are likely out of focus.

The other science instruments, including the MapCam imager, the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emissions Spectrometer (OTES), and the OSIRIS-REx Visual and InfraRed Spectrometer (OVIRS), all performed nominally during the flyover. These instruments and the spacecraft continue in normal operations in orbit around asteroid Bennu.

The mission team is currently reviewing the available data from the flyover in order to fully assess the OLA instrument. The entire data set from the flyover, including the PolyCam images, will be completely downlinked from the spacecraft next week and will provide additional insight into any impact that the loss of the OLA data may have.

OLA has already completed all of its principal requirements for the OSIRIS-REx mission. OLA’s scans of Bennu’s surface were used to create the high-resolution 3D global maps of Bennu’s topography that were crucial for selecting the primary and backup sample collection sites last fall.