NASA’s Game Changing Entry, Descent and Landing

Video Caption: NASA EDGE gives an in depth look at the latest Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) technologies being developed at NASA. Chris Giersch is joined in studio by Steve Gaddis (Game Changing Development Program Manager) and Michelle Munk (EDL Principal Technologist) to discuss the game changing nature of EDL, while Blair and Franklin interview Mike Barnhardt (Systems Modeling), Mark Shoenenberger (MEDLI-2) and Joseph Del Corso (HIAD-2) in this first part of two episodes on EDL.

Tethers Unlimited Selected for 3 SBIR Phase I Awards

Tethers_Unlimited_LogoNASA has selected Tethers Unlimited, Inc., (TUI) for three Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards for materials that can be recycled on the International Space Station (ISS), an anchoring system that would allow rovers to explore rough terrain on other worlds, and a gimbal that would assist balloons in exploring the atmospheres of Venus and Titan.

Now that there is a 3D printer on the station, TUI is interested in developing cargo ship packing materials that can be easily recycled into feed stock for the printer.

“TUI proposes to develop Customizable Recyclable International Space Station Packaging (CRISSP), which is a set of materials, formats, and design methodologies optimized both for (1) the economic and mechanical requirements for ISS supplies packaging and (2) being efficiently recyclable onboard the ISS into high performance 3D printer feedstock,” the proposal states. “A range of packaging formats will be evaluated for use, including common bubble-wrap, foams, folded and thermoformed shells, and parametric cellular additively-manufactured boxes that can be readily optimized for specific payloads and launch environments.”


NASA Captures Falcon 9 Descent Data to Help With Planetary Exploration

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA successfully captured thermal images of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its descent after it launched in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The data from these thermal images may provide critical engineering information for future missions to the surface of Mars.

“Because the technologies required to land large payloads on Mars are significantly different than those used here on Earth, investment in these technologies is critical,” said Robert Braun, principal investigator for NASA’s Propulsive Descent Technologies (PDT) project and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “This is the first high-fidelity data set of a rocket system firing into its direction of travel while traveling at supersonic speeds in Mars-relevant conditions. Analysis of this unique data set will enable system engineers to extract important lessons for the application and infusion of supersonic retro-propulsion into future NASA missions.”


JPL Selects Europa CubeSat Proposals for Study

Artist's concept of CubeSats near Jupiter's moon Europa. (Credit: NASA/JPL)
Artist’s concept of CubeSats near Jupiter’s moon Europa. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has chosen proposals from 10 universities to study CubeSat concepts that could enhance a Europa mission concept currently under study by NASA. The CubeSat concepts will be incorporated into a JPL study describing how small probes could be carried as auxiliary payloads. The CubeSats would then be released in the Jovian system to make measurements and enhance our understanding of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

CubeSats are small, lightweight and low-cost satellites, often only inches on a side. With support from NASA, JPL is working to include small spacecraft on deep space exploration missions to complement primary spacecraft.


NASA Issues RFI for New Upper Stage

NASA LOGONASA has issued a request for information (RFI) from companies interested in providing a common upper stage for use on future planetary missions. According to the RFI:

NASA is interested in utilizing a complete and independent upper stage that is compatible with existing launch vehicles using an industry standard set of payload adapters and electrical connectors. Of primary interest is a stage that provides an approximate delta-V capability of 3,000 m/sec (~10,000 ft/sec) given a payload of 500 kg (1100 lbs) and is able to support a payload range of approximately 400 to 3800 kg (880 to 8400 lbs). Both larger and smaller systems are of interest as well.


Phobos-Grunt Undergoes Vacuum Chamber Tests

Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft


Experts of Lavochkin R&D prepare Phobos-Grunt spacecraft for electrical tests in thermal vacuum chamber. Ground hardware and harness mating is almost finished. The spacecraft will be accommodated in the chamber in the nearest future. The tests are to confirm spacecraft systems’ proper functioning in the environment close to the real one.

The launch of the spacecraft which is to return soil of Martian moon Phobos to the Earth is slated for late 2011.

In addition to conducting in depth studies of Phobos and Mars, the spacecraft will carry a Chinese sub-satellite that will orbit the planet and instruments from a number of other nations, including France. (more…)

NASA/ESA Orbiter to Search for Life on Mars

Artist conception of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (Image Credit: ESA)
Artist conception of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (Image Credit: ESA)


ESA and NASA are inviting scientists from across the world to propose instruments for their joint Mars mission, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. Scheduled for launch in 2016, the spacecraft will focus on understanding the rarest constituents of the martian atmosphere, including the mysterious methane that could signal life on Mars.


Venetia Phair, Who Named Pluto, Dies at 90

Pluto and its moon, Charon
Pluto and its moon, Charon (credit: NASA)

Venetia Phair Dies at 90; as a Girl, She Named Pluto
The New York Times

Frozen and lonely, Planet X circled the far reaches of the solar system awaiting discovery and a name. It got one thanks to an 11-year-old British girl named Venetia Burney, an enthusiast of the planets and classical myth.


NASA Running Out of Fuel for Deep Space Missions

NASA-ESA Cassini Huygens Mission
NASA-ESA Cassini Huygens Mission

Fuel for deep space exploration running on empty
Associated Press

NASA is running out of nuclear fuel needed for its deep space exploration.

The end of the Cold War’s nuclear weapons buildup means that the U.S. space agency does not have enough plutonium for future faraway space probes — except for a few missions already scheduled — according to a new study released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences….

Phobos: Interplanetary Moon of Mystery

Martian moon Phobos
Martian moon Phobos takes a look at missions being planned for the Martian moon Phobos. Most of the story is about Russia’s massive Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which is designed to return soil samples to Earth. That mission was set for launch later this year, but it will likely be delayed for two years.


Global Aerospace Developing Ballutes for Planetary Aerobraking

A Global Aerospace ballute performs aerocapture at Mars (credit: Kees Veenenbos).
A Global Aerospace ballute performs aerocapture at Mars (credit: Kees Veenenbos).


Global Aerospace Corporation announced today that it has begun development of a Hypersonic Control Modeling and Simulation Tool (HyperCMST).  HyperCMST will be used for control studies for planetary atmospheric entry and descent, aerodynamic orbital capture, and aerodynamic gravity assist.


NASA, Microsoft Work Together on Online Planetary Database


NASA and Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday plans to make planetary images and data available via the Internet under a Space Act Agreement.

Through this project, NASA and Microsoft jointly will develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to make the most interesting NASA content — including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon — explorable on WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft’s online virtual telescope for exploring the universe.