NASA Partners With 8 Companies in Spacecraft, Launch Technology

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with eight U.S. companies to advance small spacecraft and launch vehicle technologies that are on the verge of maturation and are likely to benefit both NASA and the commercial space market.

These partnerships are the result of a solicitation released in August 2016 by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), titled Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies. They mark the second round of public-private opportunities that enable industry to develop promising commercial space technologies that also may benefit future NASA missions.

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TRAPPIST-1: A Treasure Trove of Planets Found


Video Caption:
Seven Earth-sized planets have been observed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope around a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Three of these planets are firmly in the habitable zone.

Over 21 days, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope measured the drop in light as each planet passed in front of the star. Spitzer was able to identify a total of seven rocky worlds, including three in the habitable zone, where liquid water might be found.

The video features interviews with Sean Carey, manager of the Spitzer Science Center, Caltech/IPAC; Nikole Lewis, James Webb Space Telescope project scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute; and Michaël Gillon, principal investigator, TRAPPIST, University of Liege, Belgium.

The system has been revealed through observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the ground-based TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) telescope, as well as other ground-based observatories. The system was named for the TRAPPIST telescope.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. For more information about Spitzer, visit http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer and http://spitzer.caltech.edu.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA VR: On the Surface of Planet TRAPPIST-1d


Video Caption:
This 360-degree panorama depicts the surface of a newly detected planet, TRAPPIST-1d, part of a seven planet system some 40 light years away. You can explore this artist’s rendering of an alien world by moving the view using your mouse or your mobile device.

The depiction is based on the latest scientific data about this planetary system, and this world’s sister planets can be seen as bright points of light in a dark sky. Each world is roughly in Earth’s size range, in terms of both mass and diameter. Further observations will be needed to determine whether any or all of these worlds might be habitable.

For more on TRAPPIST 1, visit: http://exoplanets.nasa.gov and https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1

NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have discovered that there are seven Earth-size planets in the system. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

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Progress Resupply Ship Launched to ISS

Launch of Progress 66.

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The unpiloted Russian Progress 66 launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is now orbiting the planet on course for the International Space Station

The vehicle will deliver almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the Expedition 50 crew.

The spacecraft is set to dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 3:34 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24. NASA TV coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin at 2:45 a.m. Progress 66 will remain docked at the station for almost four months before departing in June for its deorbit into Earth’s atmosphere.

This was the first launch of a Progress cargo ship from Baikonur since the Progress 65 supply craft was lost Dec. 1, 2016.

Dragon Rendezvous With Space Station Delayed

Credit: NASA

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft waved off its planned rendezvous with the International Space Station at 3:25 a.m. EST. Onboard computers triggered the abort after recognizing an incorrect value in data about the location of the space station. Per the re-rendezvous plan built into every mission, the spacecraft automatically reset for another rendezvous and docking attempt in 24 hours.

The spacecraft is in excellent shape with no issues, and the crew aboard the space station is safe. The next rendezvous attempt is targeted for Thursday morning. NASA TV coverage will begin at 4 a.m. with grapple expected around 6 a.m. Installation coverage will begin at 8 a.m. Watch live on NASA TV and online at: http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Part III: All Aboard Elon Musk’s Mars Express

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

“The goal of SpaceX is really to build the transport system. It’s like building the Union Pacific Railroad. And once that transport system is built then there’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone who wants to go to Mars and create something new or build the foundations of a new planet.

“When they were building the Union Pacific, a lot of people said that’s a super dumb idea because hardly anybody lives in California. But, now today we’ve got the U.S. epicenter of technology development and entertainment, and it’s the biggest state in the nation.

Elon Musk
SpaceX Founder & CEO

By Douglas Messier
Managing Edtior

The idea of a transcontinental railroad to the West Coast came into the world in 1830 as many dreams do: as a visionary, if seemingly outrageous, plan that few people took seriously. Why build a rail line through a howling wilderness where almost nobody lived? It would be a hideously expensive boondoggle, a road to nowhere.

This same problem has dogged the space movement since Sputnik was launched 60 years ago. While Hartwell Carver and other backers of the transcontinental railroad were able to overcome all the obstacles in their way, human progress in the silent vacuum of space has been slow and halting. It has never lived up the expectations people had at the start of the Space Age.

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Space Tango’s Takes First Step to Commercializing Microgravity Research

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched Space Tango payloads on Commercial Resupply Services – 10 (CRS-10) on February 19th at approximately 9:39 AM EST. Payloads will be installed in the TangoLab Facility on the International Space Station (ISS). CRS-10 is Space Tango’s first commercial opportunity to begin use of the facility hardware for researchers and customers to utilize microgravity for application on Earth.

“Our focus is not necessarily the six people up there,” explained Space Tango CEO Twyman Clements, “but the 7 billion people down here.”

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NASA Authorization Act Calls for Study of Sending Orion to Space Station

NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The Senate-approved NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 would require the space agency to conduct a study of whether the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle would be capable of carrying crews and supplies to the International Space Station.

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ISRO Tests GSLV Mark III Cryogenic Upper Stage

GSLV Mark III upper stage engine test. Credit: ISRO

MAHENDRAGIRI, India (ISRO PR) — The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully tested its indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) for GSLV MkIII on February 17, 2017. The cryogenic stage designated as C25 was tested for a flight duration of 640 seconds at ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) in Mahendragiri. C25 Stage had earlier been tested successfully for 50 seconds on January 25, 2017 to validate all the systems.

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Update on the Railroad Series

Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

For anyone waiting with bated breath for the final installment of my Transcontinental Railroad series — and I know there are at least three or four of you out there — please be informed that I expect to publish it on Tuesday. Like the railroad itself, finishing it is taking a little bit longer than I anticipated. Writing history is one thing; drawing conclusions from it is a bit more complicated.

So, thank you for your patience!

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MOU Signed to Study Campbeltown Spaceport

Credit: Discover Space UK

ARGYLL, Scotland (Discover Space UK PR) — Leading UK Space science and technology firms QinetiQ and Telespazio VEGA UK have agreed Memorandum’s of Understanding (MoU) to work with Discover Space UK on investigating the potential for a horizontal launch spaceport at the Campbeltown site on the West Coast of Scotland.

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Kennedy Space Center Takes Step Toward Multi-Use Spaceport

Credit: NASA

The SpaceX launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39-A is another milestone for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a premier, multi-user spaceport. Lifting off from the historic launch site in the photo on the right, SpaceX CRS-10 is the company’s 10th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.

Pad 39-A now is operated by SpaceX under a property agreement with NASA.

The first ever launch from Kennedy’s Pad 39-A was Apollo 4, in the image on the left. Lifting off on Nov. 9, 1967, it was the first test flight of the Saturn V rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the moon.

The first space shuttle lifted off April 12, 1981 from Pad 39-A for STS-1 — the center picture. NASA astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen flew the shuttle Columbia for two days, landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The SpaceX CRS-10 launch of a Dragon spacecraft is the first from Pad 39-A since the final space shuttle mission on July 8, 2011. The Dragon will deliver about 5,500 pounds of supplies to the space station, such as Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III instrument to further study ozone in the atmosphere.

UK Unveils Spaceport Laws


LONDON (Department of Transport PR) — British scientists will be able to fly to the edge of space to conduct vital medical experiments under new powers unveiled this week.

Laws paving the way for spaceports in the UK will allow ‎experiments to be conducted in zero gravity which could help develop medicines.

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