NGA Announces 10 Winners in MagQuest Phase 1; Launches $1

SPRINGFIELD, Virginia (NGA PR) — Today, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced 10 winners in the first phase of MagQuest, a $1.2 million global open innovation challenge to advance how we measure Earth’s magnetic field. The next phase of the challenge is now accepting detailed designs for geomagnetic data collection methodologies for the World Magnetic Model. Phase 2 is open to solvers from Phase 1, as well as new solvers who did not participate in the first phase of the challenge, and will award $1 million in cash prizes.

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NASA Selects Two New Space Tech Research Institutes for Smart Habitats

Habitation concept interior. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As exploration missions venture beyond low-Earth orbit and to the Moon — and eventually Mars — NASA must consider automated technologies to keep habitats operational even when they are not occupied by astronauts. To help achieve this, NASA has selected two new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) to advance space habitat designs using resilient and autonomous systems.

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National Space Council to Meet Next Tuesday

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council

Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Saturn V Hall, Davidson Center for Space Exploration, U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Panel 1: “Ready to Fly”

  • Gen. Les Lyles, USAF (ret.), former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • Col. Eileen Collins, USAF (ret.), former Shuttle commander
  • Dr. Sandy Magnus, former Shuttle astronaut

Panel 2: “Ready to Explore”

  • Dan Dumbacher, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Dr. Jack Burns, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Wanda Sigur, independent consultant

SpaceX Hosting Stealth Mars Settlement Workshop

SpaceX BFR (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has convened an invite-only workshop on its plans to establish a colony on Mars at the University of Colorado Boulder today and tomorrow.

However, SpaceX may be getting more serious about preparing for human landings on Mars, both in terms of how to keep people alive as well as to provide them with something meaningful to do. According to private invitations seen by Ars, the company will host a “Mars Workshop” on Tuesday and Wednesday this week at the University of Colorado Boulder. Although the company would not comment directly, a SpaceX official confirmed the event and said the company regularly meets with a variety of experts concerning its missions to Mars.
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A Closer Look at NIAC Phase II Awards for Asteroids & Moons

Graphic depiction of Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object (Credits: Steven Oleson)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at the following three Phase II awards focused on new ways of exploring asteroids and moons.

Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect Soft-bots)
Jay McMahon
University of Colorado, Boulder

Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object
Steven Oleson
NASA Glenn Research Center

NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester
Michael VanWoerkom
ExoTerra Resource

Each award is worth up to $500,000 for a two-year study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Nearing the End as Fuel Runs Low

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Trailing Earth’s orbit at 94 million miles away, the Kepler space telescope has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays. At this rate, the hardy spacecraft may reach its finish line in a manner we will consider a wonderful success. With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel. We expect to reach that moment within several months.

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NASA Announces Ninth Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 11 small research satellites from seven states and Puerto Rico to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The selections are part of the ninth round of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative. CubeSats are a type of spacecraft called nanosatellites, often measuring about four inches on each side and weighing less than three pounds, with a volume of about one quart. CubeSats are built using these standard dimensions as Units or “U”, and are classified as 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in total size.

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Updates From Blue Origin, Space Angels, Exos Aerospace & More

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference was held in Colorado earlier this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks tweeted the sessions:

Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are summaries of a number of talks based on their tweets.  The talks included Erika Wagner of Blue Origin, Dylan Taylor of Space Angels, John Quinn of Exos Aerospace, Tim Lachenmeier of Near Space Corporation, Lewis Groswald of the University of Colorado Boulder, and Alain Berinstain of Moon Express.

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CU Boulder to Partner with UAE on Mars Mission

UAE Mars mission science objectives. (Credit: UAE Space Agency)
UAE Mars mission science objectives. (Credit: UAE Space Agency)

BOULDER, Colo. (CU Boulder PR) — A mission to study dynamic changes in the atmosphere of Mars over days and seasons led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) involves the University of Colorado Boulder as the leading U.S. scientific-academic partner.

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CU-Boulder Antibiotic Experiment to Fly to ISS on Cygnus

Cygnus berthed at ISS. (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus berthed at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

BOULDER, Colo. (CU-Boulder PR) — NASA Television will provide live coverage of the launch of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s commercial Cygnus spacecraft on Tuesday, Jan. 7 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, which will be carrying two University of Colorado Boulder payloads to the International Space Station.

The two CU-Boulder payloads — a biomedical antibiotic experiment and an educational K-12 experiment involving ant behavior in microgravity — are slated to be launched aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket at 11:55 a.m. MST. Both experiments were designed by BioServe Space Technologies, a NASA-funded center in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department.

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ISS Astronaut Remotely Controls Rover on Earth in Preparation for Lunar Exploration

The K10 rover on NASA's Roverscape in California. The robot has just been manipulated by an astronaut in space to roll out an antenna film that CU-Boulder researchers would like to deploy on the far side of the moon. (Credit: Jack Burns)
The K10 rover on NASA’s Roverscape in California. The robot has just been manipulated by an astronaut in space to roll out an antenna film that CU-Boulder researchers would like to deploy on the far side of the moon. (Credit: Jack Burns)

BOULDER, Colo. (UC Boulder PR) — An astronaut orbiting Earth in the International Space Station has remotely directed a NASA rover in California to unfurl an “antenna film” that scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder are developing for use on the unexplored far side of the moon.

When astronaut Chris Cassidy used a Space Station computer to pilot the robot across a mock lunar surface at NASA’s Ames Research Center on June 17, he demonstrated for the first time that an astronaut in an orbiting spacecraft could successfully control a robot in real time on a planetary surface. The technique could have future applications for humans visiting Mars, an asteroid or the moon.

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