NASA Researchers Gain Valuable Data from OSCAR’s Second Flight

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, which carried payloads supported by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, lands on the pad in West Texas on Aug. 26, 2021. NASA’s Orbital Syngas Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR), which tests technology to convert trash and human waste generated during spaceflight into useful gases, was a part of the 17th New Shepard mission. (Credits: Blue Origin)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Data from a NASA payload investigating a new method for dealing with trash in space has researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida excited following the Aug. 26 flight test on Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission.

The Orbital Syngas Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) team watched the launch from a neighboring hill, witnessing liftoff, booster landing, and payload touchdown. Though, as researchers, they became even more energized after landing.

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NASA Technologies Slated for Testing on Blue Origin’s New Shepard

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

VAN HORN, Texas — While there won’t be humans on Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission, the fully reusable launch vehicle will carry technologies from NASA, industry, and academia aboard. The agency’s Flight Opportunities program supports six payload flight tests, which are slated for lift off no earlier than Aug. 26 from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas.

For some innovations, this is just one of several tests supported by NASA on different flight vehicles. Iterative flight testing helps quickly ready technologies that could eventually support deep space exploration.

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Blue Origin New Shepard’s 17th Flight to Space Set for August 25

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard’s next mission will fly a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration a second time on the exterior of the booster, 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, 11 of which are NASA-supported, and an art installation on the exterior of the capsule. Liftoff is currently targeted for Wednesday, August 25, at 8:35 am CDT/13:35 UTC from Launch Site One in West Texas. Live launch coverage begins at T-30 minutes on BlueOrigin.com.

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OSCAR ‘Trash-to-Gas’ Technology Readied for Thermal Tests

David Rinderknecht, a chemical engineer, and Malay Shah, a thermal/fluid analysis engineer, prepare the Orbital Syngas Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) for thermal testing Jan. 26, 2021. (Credit: NASA/Isaac Watson)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The Orbital Syngas Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) underwent thermal testing on Jan. 26 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The tests are preparation for a scheduled suborbital flight test later this year facilitated by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

The testing ensures that the thermal environment of the payload won’t create additional hazards during flight and that OSCAR can successfully operate within the temperature range it may encounter as it performs tests in microgravity.

Begun as an Early Career Initiative project, OSCAR evaluates technology to make use of trash and human waste generated during long-duration spaceflight – specifically, how to convert waste into useful gases such as methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. By processing small pieces of trash in a high-temperature reactor, OSCAR would reduce the amount of space needed for waste storage within a spacecraft and ensure waste is no longer biologically active.

Another potential benefit is making in-flight maneuvers more efficient by reducing trash mass on the spacecraft. Further development could allow astronauts to turn some waste into gases that have propulsive energy storage and life support applications.

NASA Technology Designed to Turn Space Trash into Treasure

Annie Meier, left, and Jamie Toro assemble the flight hardware for the Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When you think about what astronauts do in space, you probably don’t picture them taking out the trash.

As NASA prepares to return astronauts to the Moon and then venture to Mars, a lot of planning goes into how to keep crews safe and healthy and enable them to do as much science as possible. One of the challenges is how to handle trash. The Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) project, is an avenue to evolve new and innovative technology for dealing with garbage in space.

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