NASA CubeSat Mission to Gather Vital Space Weather Data

Dione will gather data not collected since NASA’s dual-spacecraft Dynamics Explorer mission launched in the early 1980s. (Credits: NASA)

By Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA has selected a new pathfinding CubeSat mission to gather data not collected since the agency flew the Dynamics Explorer in the early 1980s.

The new mission, called Dione after the ancient Greek goddess of the oracles, will carry four miniaturized instruments to study how Earth’s upper atmospheric layers react to the ever-changing flow of solar energy into the magnetosphere — the enveloping bubble of magnetic field around Earth that deflects most of the particles that erupt from the Sun.

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Orbit Fab Wins SBIR Award for Satellite Refueling System

Orbit Fab has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award worth $222,713 to help fund the development of a refueling system for smaller satellites.

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) America’s Seed Fund awarded the $222,713 grant to the company, which is based in Cupertino, Calif. Daniel Faber is the principal investigator

“The proposed project will remove the complexity of performing spacecraft proximity operations and docking in order to facilitate commercial refueling through a ‘bolt on’ standardized component with the associated sensors and functions,” according to the proposal abstract.

“The system will be installed during production on the ground. This integrated package of sensors, communications, fueling valves, and docking latches will provide the functionality required for a servicing vehicle and a client satellite to safely approach, securely dock, and exchange fuel between the two vehicles,” the abstract added.

Orbit Fab will use the NSF funding to refine the concept, determine the optimal optical alignment for operations and docking, and identify the suite of sensors required.

NASA is Part of COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium

WASHINGTON (Trump Administration PR) — The White House announced the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide with access to the world’s most powerful high performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus.

“America is coming together to fight COVID-19, and that means unleashing the full capacity of our world-class supercomputers to rapidly advance scientific research for treatments and a vaccine. We thank the private sector and academic leaders who are joining the federal government as part of the Trump Administration’s whole-of-America response,” said Michael Kratsios, U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

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NRAO, SETI Institute Agree on New Research Programs

SEATTLE (NRAO PR) — The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the SETI Institute have agreed to collaborate on a broad range of future scientific and technical projects in radio astronomy and related research. Initial efforts under the agreement will be focused on developing capabilities for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) on radio telescopes operated by NRAO.

The two organizations will collaborate to develop and install a signal processing system on the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) that will analyze data collected by that telescope to identify transmissions possibly generated by extraterrestrial technologies. This system — dubbed COSMIC: the Commensal Open Source Multimode Interferometer Cluster — will receive data from a newly-developed parallel Ethernet interface to the VLA, using the same data stream used for other research but analyzed in parallel by COSMIC.

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New Technologies, Strategies Expanding Search for Extraterrestrial Life

SEATTLE (NRAO PR) — Emerging technologies and new strategies are opening a revitalized era in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). New discovery capabilities, along with the rapidly-expanding number of known planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, are spurring innovative approaches by both government and private organizations, according to a panel of experts speaking at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle, Washington.

New approaches will not only expand upon but also go beyond the traditional SETI technique of searching for intelligently-generated radio signals, first pioneered by Frank Drake’s Project Ozma in 1960. Scientists now are designing state-of-the-art techniques to detect a variety of signatures that can indicate the possibility of extraterrestrial technologies. Such “technosignatures” can range from the chemical composition of a planet’s atmosphere, to laser emissions, to structures orbiting other stars, among others.

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Progress Made Toward Priorities Defined in 2013-2022 Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey

In this image, taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on Feb. 27, 2000, a coronal mass ejection is seen erupting from the Sun, which is hidden by the disk in the middle, so the fainter material around it can be seen. (Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO)

WASHINGTON (National Academies of Sciences PR) – NASA, NSF, and NOAA have made substantial progress in implementing the programs recommended in the 2013 decadal survey on solar and space physics (heliophysics) despite a challenging budgetary landscape, says a new midterm assessment from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Heliophysics is the study of our star, the Sun, its influences on the planets of our solar system, and its interaction with interstellar space. It is also the science behind space weather.

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A New Tool for ‘Weighing’ Unseen Exoplanets

The NEID instrument, mounted on the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The NASA-NSF Exoplanet Observational Research (NN-EXPLORE) partnership funds NEID (short for NN-EXPLORE Exoplanet Investigations with Doppler spectroscopy). (Credits: NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory /KPNO/NSF/AURA)

TUCSON (NASA PR) — A new instrument funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation called NEID (pronounced “NOO-id”; sounds like “fluid”) will help scientists measure the masses of planets outside our solar system — exoplanets — by observing the gravitational pull they exert on their parent stars. That information can help reveal a planet’s composition, one critical aspect in determining its potential habitability.

NEID recently made its first observations on the WIYN 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory when it studied 51 Pegasi, which in 1995 was the first Sun-like star found to host an exoplanet.

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Asteroid Impact, not Volcanic Eruptions, Killed the Dinosaurs

Nannoplankton fossils next to a deep-sea sediment section drilled from the North Atlantic. (Credit: Professor Paul Bown)

LONDON (University College London PR) — Volcanic activity did not play a direct role in the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs and about 75 per cent of Earth’s species 66 million years ago, according to a team involving UCL and University of Southampton researchers.

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House Science Committee Approves Space Weather Bill

Space weather effects. (Credit: ESA/Science Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Science Committee has unanimously approved a bill designed to enable the federal government to coordinate its monitoring of and response to space weather events.

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SpaceX Cargo Mission to Carry a Diverse Set of ISS National Lab-sponsored Payloads

Dragon arriving at Space Station (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), November 26, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) is poised to receive a multitude of critical research and supplies as part of SpaceX’s 19th commercial resupply services mission (SpaceX CRS-19) to the orbiting laboratory (contracted by NASA).

A wide variety of research investigations sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory will be part of this mission, including payloads from the life, materials, and physical sciences—each designed to leverage the unique space-based environment of the station to benefit life on Earth.

The launch is presently slated for no earlier than December 4 at 12:51 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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ISS National Lab, NSF Announce Joint Solicitation on Transport Phenomena

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), October 30, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and the 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 $3 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Lab. The ISS National Lab and NSF previously partnered on three separate fluid dynamics/multiphase processes solicitations and an additional funding opportunity focused on combustion and thermal transport.

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ISS National Lab and National Science Foundation Issue Joint Solicitation on Tissue Engineering and Mechanobiology

Up to $2 million in grant funding for investigators interested in advancing tissue engineering research on the International Space Station 

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., October 29, 2019 (ISS National Lab PR) – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced their third annual joint solicitation for investigators to leverage the microgravity environment onboard the orbiting laboratory for research in the fields of tissue engineering and mechanobiology. Up to $2 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Lab.

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Multiple Tissue Engineering Payloads Selected Through ISS National Lab & NSF Joint Solicitation

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), October 7, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced that five research investigations have been selected from a joint solicitation to leverage the microgravity environment of the orbiting laboratory for tissue engineering and mechanobiology research.

The ISS National Lab and NASA will facilitate hardware implementation and in-orbit access to the orbiting laboratory. NSF will fund the selected projects to advance fundamental science and biomedical engineering knowledge (up to $2 million in total). NSF supports transformative research to help drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security, and maintain America’s position as a global leader in innovation.

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Senate Appropriators Boost NASA’s Budget by $1.25 Billion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) – The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, which makes investments to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.

The $70.833 billion measure is $6.715 billion above the FY2019 enacted level and funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and related agencies. 

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NASA, NSF Announce Support for White House STEM Engagement Plan

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with other federal agencies, have committed to a White House-led effort to strengthen education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Charting a Course for Success: A Federal Strategy for STEM Education lays out the federal government’s role in furthering STEM education by working with state and local stakeholders, the education community and American employers. Its goals include building a STEM-proficient citizenry, creating a STEM-ready workforce and removing barriers to STEM careers, especially for women and underrepresented groups.

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