NASA Receives 12 Proposals for Solar System Exploration Missions


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has received and is reviewing 12 proposals for future unmanned solar system exploration. The proposed missions of discovery – submitted under NASA’s New Frontiers program – will undergo scientific and technical review over the next seven months. The goal is to select a mission for flight in about two years, with launch in the mid-2020s.

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India Plans Mission to Venus

By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)

After successful missions to the moon and Mars, ISRO is looking to send an orbiter to Venus.

The Indian space agency has issued an announcement of opportunity for proposals to send “novel space based experiments” on the mission.

“The payload capability of the proposed satellite is likely to be 175 kg with 500W of power,” the announcement states. “However these values are to be tuned based on the final configuration. The proposed orbit is expected to be around 500 x 60,000 km around Venus.  This orbit is likely to be reduced gradually, over several months to a lower apoapsis.”

The announcement does not indicate when the mission would be launched.

NIAC Projects Target Mars, Venus & Pluto

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump mission. (Credit: Benjamin Goldman)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An airship for Mars, two spacecraft capable of exploring the hellish environment of Venus, and a fusion-powered orbiter and lander for Pluto are three of the planetary-related research projects recently funded by theNASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

In all, NIAC funded eight advanced projects focused on Mars, Venus and Pluto in its latest annual funding round. The space agency also funded two proposals aimed at identifying and extracting resources on planets, moons and asteroids.
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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for Six Small Business Awards

The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa’s surface. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft (Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/USGS)

Honeybee Robotics will begin developing new technologies that would allow a lander to drill into the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and collect samples for analysis with the help of a pair of NASA small business awards.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Automaton Rover for Extreme Environment

Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (Credit: Jonathan Sauder)

Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE)

Jonathan Sauder
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

Amount: up to $500,000
Length of Study: 2 years

Description

Extreme environments abound in the solar system and include the radiation around Jupiter, high surface temperatures on Mercury and Venus, and hot, high pressure environments occurring deep beneath any active planet’s surface.

Generally, the most environmentally sensitive components of a rover or spacecraft are the electronics, which will fail in heat, stop operating in extreme cold, or experience upsets when bombarded with radiation.

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NIAC Funds Advanced Propulsion Projects

Mach Effects for In Space Propulsion: Interstellar Mission. (Credit: Heidi Fearn)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently funded six proposals focused on futuristic propulsion systems for missions to Pluto, Venus and other solar systems.

There were four Phase I proposals that are worth approximately $125,000 apiece over nine months. NIAC also funded two Phase II proposals that are worth $500,000 each for two-year investigations.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion

Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion (Credit: Ratnakumar Bugga)

Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion (VIP-INSPR)

Ratnakumar Bugga
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

Amount: up to $500,000
Length of Study: 2 years

Description

Venus, despite being our closest neighboring planet, is under-explored due to its hostile environment. The atmosphere is composed primarily of CO2, with a 92 bar pressure and 467°C temperature at the surface. The temperature decreases at higher altitudes, approaching conditions similar to that of Earth’s surface at 65km.

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ISRO Budget to Increase 23 Percent, Venus & Mars Missions Planned

ISRO will be getting a 23 percent increase in its budget and will be aiming for its first mission to Venus and a second one to Mars.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s love affair with space is quite evident. The government, it seems, is rather pleased with the Indian space agency as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave the Department of Space a whopping 23 per cent increase in its budget. Under the space sciences section, the Budget mentions provisions “for Mars Orbiter Mission II and Mission to Venus”.

The second mission to Mars is tentatively slated for the 2021-2022 timeframe and as per existing plans it may well involve putting a robot on the surface of the Red Planet.

While ISRO’s first mission to Mars, undertaken in 2013, was purely an Indian mission, the French space agency wants to collaborate with ISRO in making the Mars rover.

In fact, on a visit to India this month, Michael M Watkins, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, said they would be keen to at least put a telematics module so NASA’s rovers and the Indian satellites are able to talk to each other.

India’s maiden mission to Venus, the second planet of the Solar System named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, is in all probability going to be a modest orbiter mission.

Read the full story.

NASA Selects ISRU Projects for SBIR Awards

NASA LOGONASA has selected eight research projects focused on in-situ resource utilization for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research Phase I program.

The selected projects include:

  • Extraterrestrial Metals Processing — Pioneer Astronautics
  • Robotic ISRU Construction of Planetary Landing and Launch Pad — Honeybee Robotics
  • Extruded Clay-Based Regoliths for Construction on Mars, Phobos and NEAs — Deep Space Industries
  • In-Situ Generation of Polymer Concrete Construction Materials — Luna Innovations
  • ISP3: In-Situ Printing Plastic Production System for Space Additive Manufacturing — Altius Space Machines
  • Compact In-Situ Polyethylene Production from Carbon Dioxide — Opus 12
  • Micro-Channel Reactor for Processing Carbon Dioxide to Ethylene — Reactive Innovations
  • OpenSWIFT-SDR for STRS Polyethylene Production from In-Situ Resources in Microchannel Reactors — TDA Research

Full descriptions of the projects are below.

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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for 2 STTR & 5 SBIR Awards

honeybee_roboticsNASA has selected Honeybee Robotics for two Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) and five Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I awards.

The selected proposals include:

  • STTR: Robotic ISRU Construction of Planetary Landing and Launch Pad (Partnered with Michigan Technological University)
  • STTR: In-Situ Spectroscopic Europa Explorer (Partnered with SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center)
  • SBIR: The Stinger: A Geotechnical Sensing Package for Robotic Scouting on a Small Planetary Rover
  • SBIR: Planetary Vacuum Cleaner for Venus and Mars
  • SBIR: Dust-Tolerant, High Pressure Oxygen Quick Disconnect for Advanced Spacesuit and Airlock Applications
  • SBIR: Strut Attachment System for In-Space Robotic Assembly
  • SBIR: High Temperature Joint Actuator

Descriptions of the research projects follow.
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NIAC Focus: Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments

niac_aree_sauder
Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE). (Credit: NASA JPL)

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently selected 13 proposals for Phase I awards. Below is a proposal submitted by Jonathan Sauder of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE)

Jonathan Sauder
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Venus, with its sulfuric acid clouds, temperatures of over 450′, and surface pressure of 92 bar, is one of the most hostile planetary environments in the solar system. Only a handful of Soviet Venera and Vega landers have successfully reached the surface of Venus. Even these robust probes only survived for 23 to 127 minutes before the electronics failed in the hostile environment.

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NIAC Focus: Venus Atmospheric Probe That Uses In-Situ Resources

By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)
By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently selected 13 proposals for Phase I awards. Below is the description of a Venus probe submitted by Ratnakumar Bugga of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion (VIP-INSPR)

Ratnakumar Bugga
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

We envision a novel architecture for Venus Interior Probes based on in-situ resources for power generation (VIP-INSPR). Proposed Venus probe is based on the generation of hydrogen from electrolysis at high altitudes using solar array, storing it in chemical hydride, utilizing it for altitude control in a balloon system and for power generation in fuel cell at lower altitudes.

It is a challenge to have a durable power source in the low altitude environments, due to low solar intensity and low efficiency of RTG is inefficient. Primary batteries survive only for 1-2 hours. VIP-INSPR will refill hydrogen on one end and provide power on the other side continuously, thus enabling sustained exploration of the Venus atmosphere.

AKATSUKI in Highly Elliptical Orbit Around Venus

By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)
By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully inserted the Venus Climate Orbiter “AKATSUKI” into the orbit circling around Venus.

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AKATSUKI Enters Orbit Around Venus

JAXA's Akatsuki Venus spacecraft. (Image by Akihiro Ikeshita)
JAXA’s Akatsuki Venus spacecraft. (Image by Akihiro Ikeshita)

TOKYO, December 7, 2015 (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) performed the attitude control engine thrust operation of the Venus Climate Orbiter “AKATSUKI” for its Venus orbit insertion from 8:51 a.m. on December 7 (Japan Standard Time).

As a result of analyzing data transmitted from the orbiter, we confirmed that the thrust emission of the attitude control engine was conducted for about 20 minutes as scheduled.

The orbiter is now in good health. We are currently measuring and calculating its orbit after the operation.

It will take a few days to estimate the orbit, thus we will announce the operation result once it is determined.

References:

Venus Climate Orbiter “AKATSUKI” (PLANET-C)
http://global.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/planet_c/

Venus Meteorology AKATSUKI (PLANET-C) (ISAS)
http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/akatsuki/index.shtml

Japanese Spacecraft to Make Second Attempt to Orbit Venus

JAXA's Akatsuki Venus spacecraft. (Image by Akihiro Ikeshita)
JAXA’s Akatsuki Venus spacecraft. (Image by Akihiro Ikeshita)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Venus Climate Orbiter AKATSUKI will try to enter the orbit of Venus on Dec. 7 (Mon.) after five years of operation. We are welcoming support messages.

After AKATSUKI’s failure to enter Venus’ orbit on Dec. 7, 2010, JAXA investigated the cause and considered a second attempt schedule while operating the satellite for a long period. Now, on Dec. 7, 2015, coincidentally the same day on the calendar as the previous attempt, we will perform the injection for the second time.

The AKATSUKI is in a good condition and it will take a few days of confirmation to know the result. Your support for the AKATSUKI and its project team members is very much appreciated.

Messages for Akatsuki