NASA Funds Research into Flying Environmental Sensors for Venus Exploration

Credit; Jeffrey Balcerski

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Jeffrey Balcerski
Ohio Aerospace Institute
Cleveland, Ohio

The LEAVES (Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric VEnus Sensors) architecture is a “swarm” approach to obtaining key, in situ, Venus atmospheric data for exceptionally low cost and risk. This is made possible by an ultra-lightweight, passively-lofted, inexpensive atmospheric sensor package that can be deployed directly from orbit without an aeroshell and is sensitive enough to yield valuable new, transformative information on planetary atmospheres.

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Blue Origin Conducts Astronaut Rehearsal for Future Customer Flights

Blue Origin’s Audrey Powers simulates astronaut ingress on New Shepard Mission NS-15. (Credit: Blue Origin)

VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin successfully completed its 15th consecutive mission to space and back today and conducted a series of simulations to rehearse astronaut movements and operations for future flights with customers on board. This mission marked a verification step prior to flying astronauts.

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MDA Announces Close of Over Allotment Option

BRAMPTON, Ont. (MDA PR) — MDA Ltd. (“MDA” or the “Company”), a leading provider of advanced technology and services to the burgeoning global space industry, today announced that, further to its recently completed initial public offering of common shares (the “Common Shares”) of the Company (the “Offering”), the over-allotment option granted to the Underwriters (as defined below) to purchase up to an additional 4,285,725 Common Shares at a price of $14.00 per Common Share (the “Over-Allotment Option”) was exercised in full, generating additional gross proceeds to the company of approximately $60 million.

Pursuant to the Offering, MDA issued 28,571,500 Common Shares at a price of $14.00 per Common Share for gross proceeds to the Company of approximately $400 million.

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Astranis Raise $250 Million Series C Financing Round

Astranis engineers load their small communications satellite into a thermal-vacuum shroud. (Credit: Astranis)

SAN FRANCISCO (Astranis PR)–Astranis, the company building the next generation of telecommunication satellites, today announced a $250 million Series C financing round, valuing the company at $1.4 billion.

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MBRSC Teams Up with Japan’s ispace on Emirates Lunar Mission

HAKUTO-R lander on the moon. (Credit: ispace)
  • Emirates Lunar Mission’s ‘Rashid’ rover to go to the Moon on ispace’s Mission 1 in 2022
  • ispace to provide payload delivery, and communication and power services for the rover
  • Agreement further strengthens UAE-Japan collaboration in space exploration

Dubai, UAE, 14 April 2021 (ispace PR) — The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has signed a contract with Japan’s ispace, inc. (ispace), under which the latter will provide payload delivery services for the ambitious Emirates Lunar Mission. Under this agreement, ispace becomes a key strategic and implementation partner to MBRSC on the Emirates Lunar Mission, the first of its kind from the Arab world.

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Probing for Life in the Icy Crusts of Ocean Worlds

During 2019 field tests near Greenland’s Summit Station, a high-elevation remote observing station, the WATSON instrument is put through its paces to seek out signs of life, or biosignatures, 360 feet (110 meters) down a borehole. The winch that holds the drill pokes out the top of the drill tent. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A technique for scanning Mars rocks for microscopic fossils of ancient life is also being developed to hunt for microbes in the deep ice of Enceladus, Titan, and Europa.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Long before NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, one of its highest-level mission goals was already established: to seek out signs of ancient life on the Martian surface. In fact, the techniques used by one of the science instruments  aboard the rover could have applications on Saturn’s moons  Enceladus and Titan as well Jupiter’s moon Europa.

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Arianespace Offers a Ticket into Space to a Startup or Lab

  • Arianespace is launching a contest for satellite projects by space technology startups, labs or universities, in conjunction with the Viva Technology 2021 (VivaTech) innovation show.
  • The winner will get a free launch of their satellite on an Arianespace rideshare mission.
  • The main selection criterion will be the satellite’s mission, which should improve life on Earth or advance human knowledge.

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace, the European launch services company, is Arianespace, the European launch services company, is organizing a contest in conjunction with the VivaTech international innovation show. First prize will be a spot on a rideshare mission operated by Arianespace, to orbit the winning cubesat-sized satellite.

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NASA Funds Breakthrough Research into Extreme Solar Sailing for Interstellar Missions

Credit: Artur Davoyan

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Artur Davoyan
University of California, Los Angeles

As of date, deep space exploration has been hindered by the limitations of existing propulsion technologies. In contrast, solar sails appear to allow a low cost pathway to high speed and ubiquitous exploration of the outer solar system and interstellar space. By performing a slingshot maneuver in the vicinity of the sun, just ~2-5 solar radii distant from the sun, solar sails can propel light-weight CubeSat class spacecraft to near-relativistic speeds, >0.1% of the speed of light (>300 km/s or >60AU/year characteristic velocities). Such a technology would markedly transform space exploration, enabling fast missions to distant worlds, effectively turning our sun into a launch pad.

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Stratolaunch Took to Air Two Years Ago

Stratolaunch takes off. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Two years ago today, on April 13, 2019, Stratolaunch’s enormous dual fuselage aircraft with a 385-ft wingspan took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port trailing a cloud of dust. It flew over the Mojave Desert for 2 hours 29 minutes before landing back on runway 12-30.

The plane was the dream child of Scaled Composites’ founder Burt Rutan and funded by the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen. It was designed to air launch satellites using a medium-size rocket.

Allen didn’t live to see the first, and thus far, only flight test of the aircraft. He passed away the previous October from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Stratolaunch flies (Credit: Stratolaunch)

His sister, Jody, was the executor of Allen’s estimated $20 billion estate. She decided to sell the company. The new owners are now preparing to use the aircraft to launch hypersonic test vehicles.

The giant aircraft was out on Runway 12-30 for several days last week. It was likely conducting some taxi tests. It is not clear when it will take to the skies again.

Orbital Sidekick Secures $16 Million Series A to Commercialize Hyperspectral Satellite Monitoring Solutions for Energy and Defense Sectors

SAN FRANCISCO, April 13, 2021 (Orbital Sidekick PR) — Orbital Sidekick (OSK), the first US commercial company to deploy hyperspectral sensors in space, has announced a $16 Million Series A funding round led by Temasek, an investment company headquartered in Singapore, to expand its innovative product offerings, new strategic partnerships, and introduce its advanced monitoring technology to new industries. The round also includes Energy Innovation Capital, existing investors Allied Minds and 11.2 Capital, and Syndicate 708.

“Paired with our recent $16M United States Air Force contract award in October 2020, the close of this Series A round allows us to focus on the deployment of the GHOSt constellation and the commercial release of our monitoring services platform SIGMA™,” Tushar Prabhakar, COO and Co-Founder of Orbital Sidekick, said. “With our growing list of commercial and government partners, OSK is primed to become a global leader in providing targeted solutions for customer pain points.”

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Astrobotic Selects SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket for Griffin-VIPER Moon Mission

Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic announced today its selection of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket in a competitive commercial procurement to launch its Griffin lunar lander to the Moon in late 2023. Griffin will be carrying NASA’s water-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). 

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Engineers Identify Software Solution for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Anomaly

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021, the 44th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Ingenuity team has identified a software solution for the command sequence issue identified on Sol 49 (April 9) during a planned high-speed spin-up test of the helicopter’s rotors. Over the weekend, the team considered and tested multiple potential solutions to this issue, concluding that minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity’s flight control software is the most robust path forward. This software update will modify the process by which the two flight controllers boot up, allowing the hardware and software to safely transition to the flight state. Modifications to the flight software are being independently reviewed and validated today and tomorrow in testbeds at JPL.

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SwRI’s 100-kg Small Satellite Platform Added to NASA’s RDSO Catalog

Credit: SwRI

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (SwRI PR) — NASA has selected Southwest Research Institute’s 100 kg-class small satellite (SmallSat) platform to be listed in the Rapid Spacecraft Development Office (RSDO) IV catalog used by the U.S. government to rapidly contract for flight-proven spacecraft. The Southwest Space Platform-100 (SwSP-100) is now available through the $6 billion, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV contract.

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