NASA Selects 5 Solar Sail R&D Projects for Funding

Illustration of NASA’s NEA Scout with the solar sail deployed as it flies by its asteroid destination. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected five research and development projects for funding that are focused on improving the performance of solar sails, which use solar photons (sunlight) to propel themselves.

NASA selected the five projects under the space agency’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, which partners companies with academia. Each Phase I award is worth up to $150,000.

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Blue Canyon Technologies Provides Multiple Spacecraft Aboard Transporter-5 Launch

Falcon 9 launches Transporter-5 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

LAFAYETTE, Colo., May 31, 2022 (Blue Canyon Technologies PR) – Small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies LLC (“BCT” or “Blue Canyon”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, today announced the launch of Agile Microsat and High-Assurance Communications System Satellites, or HACSSAT, 1 & 2, aboard the Transporter-5 mission on May 25, 2022.

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Utah State University Space Dynamics Lab Receives Space R&D Contracts Worth $1.3 Billion

The Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory has been awarded contracts by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) worth a combined $1.31 billion for a range of space research and development work.

The $1 billion AFRL Space & Nuclear Advanced Prototypes, Experiments & Technology (SNAPET) Research & Development (R&D) contract covers “essential engineering support and capability in the areas of sensor and system development, modeling and simulation, experimentation, data analysis and sensor and system validations on space vehicles,” the Department of Defense (DOD) announced.

Work on the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract will be performed in North Logan, Utah and Albuquerque, N.M. The contract runs until Nov. 30, 2026.

Under the $300 million MDA contract, the Space Dynamics Laboratory will perform “research, development, engineering, state of-the-art and proof-of-concept spaced-based sensor systems, and advanced technology research and development,” DOD said.

Work on the cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract will be performed in North Logan, Utah, and Huntsville, Ala. The ordering period is from Nov. 23, 2021, through Nov. 22, 2028.

Hyperspace Challenge Accelerator Announces 24 Finalists to Participate in 2021 Cohort

Finalists Will Present Technologies That Can Solve Problems in Space to Compete for $100k in Cash Prizes at the Fourth Annual Hyperspace Summit on December 2

ALBUQUERQUE, NM, October 5, 2021 (Hyperspace Challenge PR) – Hyperspace Challenge, a business accelerator run by the Air Force Research Laboratory and CNM Ingenuity as part of the new SpaceWERX for the U.S. Space Force, announced today it has selected 13 startups and 11 university teams to participate in its 2021 cohort. Finalists comprising the cohort represent 13 states, as well as one company from Ottawa, Canada.

The new cohort is tasked with the development of technology that can be applied to or solve problems in the space domain. This is the first year the program will include a formal university accelerator track which aims to increase collaboration opportunities between the federal government and university research teams, traditionally siloed from commercial and government innovation.

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Space Dynamics Lab Achieves Critical Milestone for NASA Space Weather Mission

NORTH LOGAN, UTAH, January 6, 2021 (Space Dynamics Laboratory PR) – Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory announced that it has successfully completed the Key Decision Point (KDP) C for NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE). KDP-C provides NASA approval for the project to begin final design and fabrication, known as Phase C, and establishes baselines for its official schedule and budget.

Planned to be ready for launch to the International Space Station in 2022, AWE will study atmospheric gravity waves in Earth’s atmosphere to gain deeper knowledge of the connections caused by climate systems through our atmosphere and between the atmosphere and space. The AWE mission is part of NASA’s Explorers Program under the Goddard Space Flight Center Explorers and Heliophysics Projects Division and is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Michael J. Taylor at Utah State University. The Space Dynamics Laboratory will build the AWE instrument and is also providing project management, systems engineering, safety and mission assurance, and mission operations.

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Image-Based Navigation Could Help Spacecraft Safely Land on The Moon

Nova-C lander on the lunar surface. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

Research demonstrates how a series of lunar images could provide key navigational data

TROY, NY (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute PR) — In order for future lunar exploration missions to be successful and land more precisely, engineers must equip spacecraft with technologies that allow them to “see” where they are and travel to where they need to be. Finding specific locations amid the moon’s complicated topography is not a simple task.

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SDL to Provide SmallSat Constellation for NASA Solar Mission

NORTH LOGAN, Utah, August 21, 2020 — The Space Dynamics Laboratory announced today that it has been awarded a contract by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to build six spacecraft for NASA’s Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment mission, known as SunRISE. The contract value was not disclosed.

SunRISE is led by principal investigator Justin Kasper at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and managed by JPL in Pasadena, California. It is scheduled to launch as a hosted rideshare with a commercial satellite in 2023.

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Kleos Space Awarded Contract on Micro-Satellite Military Utility Project

Kleos Scouting Mission (Credit: Kleos Space)

LUXEMBOURG, 19 May 2020 (Kleos Space PR) — Kleos Space (ASX: KSS, Frankfurt: KS1), a space-powered RF reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company, has been awarded a contract to prepare Kleos data to be accessed by the Micro-Satellite Military Utility (MSMU Project) Project Arrangement (PA) which is an agreement under the Responsive Space Capabilities Memorandum of Understanding involving the Departments and Ministries of Defense of Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom and United States.

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NASA Small Satellite Promises Big Discoveries

Dr. Reyhan Baktur, a co-investigator from Utah State University, poses with a glass component of UF-Radsat’s solar array. (Credit: Utah State University)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Small satellites provide a cheap, responsive alternative to larger, more expensive satellites. As demand grows, engineers must adapt these “nanosatellites” to provide greater data returns. NASA, in collaboration with educational partners, targets 2021 for the launch of an innovative CubeSat that addresses these challenges.

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NASA Funds Additional Smallsat Research Projects

Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)
Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)

With CubeSats and other types of small satellites are being launched in increasing numbers, there’s a race on to develop new technologies to vastly improve their capabilities and extend their range to the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations.

NASA has been at the leading edge of this technology development effort. Last week, the space agency announced its plans to fund four small-satellite research projects. The projects include phase II funding for three Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program proposals and one NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) proposal.

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