NASA Announces New Partnerships to Develop Space Exploration Technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 “tipping point” technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including lunar lander and deep space rocket engine technologies.

Selections are based on the agency’s third competitive Tipping Point solicitation, and have a combined total award value of approximately $44 million – a significant investment in the U.S. space industry.

A technology is considered at a “tipping point” if investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improving the company’s ability to bring it to market.

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Astrocast, D-Orbit Sign Deal to Launch 10 Satellites on Vega

LOGAN, Utah, Aug. 7, 2018 (Astrocast PR) — Astrocast and D-Orbit today announced an InOrbit NOW DPOD agreement for the launch and deployment of ten Astrocast nanosatellites.

Signed today by company officials at the SmallSat Conference in Logan, Utah, the agreement calls for the Astrocast nanosatellites to be launched onboard an Arianspace VEGA or Vega C vehicle from Kourou, French Guiana between late 2019 and early 2020. VEGA C, the last generation of launcher is a European vehicle realized by AVIO SpA in the Colleferro Headquarters, in Italy.

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Planetary Resources to Auction off Equipment

Well, this doesn’t sound good.

In a fresh sign of the financial straits facing Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company will be auctioning off hundreds of items from its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., ranging from industrial-strength CNC machine tools and 3-D printers to laptops and folding chairs.

The online auction will be conducted by James G. Murphy & Co. from Aug. 21 to 28, with a preview scheduled on Aug. 27 at Planetary Resources’ machine shop, lab and offices at 6742 185th Ave. NE in Redmond.

“We are preparing to sell some equipment that we’ve identified as not currently needed and easily replaceable,” Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources’ president, CEO and chief asteroid miner, told GeekWire in an email. “This is a result of reducing overhead as we go forward with our smaller team.”

Word is the company is down to a handful of employees. Asteroid mining is a long-term venture; Planetary Resources hasn’t found a revenue model that can get it from here to there.

NASA’s Laser Communications Small Satellite Mission Demonstrates Technology First

OCSD satellite (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — For the first time, a free-flying CubeSat has successfully completed space-to-ground optical communications. The Optical Communication and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) mission, designed and built by The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, sent a laser signal from low-Earth orbit to a ground station at the company’s facilities.

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Astrobotic Announces Selection of Two New NASA Research Contracts

Pittsburgh, Pa. (Astrobotic PR)  Astrobotic Technology Inc., announces $250,000 in new contract awards through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

These two contracts, which were awarded to the company’s Future Missions and Technology (FM&T) department, will help the company develop novel technologies and strategies for the exploration of space and planetary surfaces.

Through an SBIR contract, “Software Defined Reliability for Low Cost Digital Signal Processors on Small Spacecraft” FM&T will address the needs of the growing space computing market for the next wave of robotic spaceflight customers with Astrobotic’s proprietary “Software Defined Reliability” (ASDR) technology.

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Deep Space Technology Gaps Loom With End of Space Station in Sight

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)

Human missions to the moon and Mars will require more robust technologies than those used on the International Space Station (ISS). Life support and other systems will have to be more efficient and robust to ensure the safety of astronauts when these flights begin in the 2020’s.

NASA has been using the space station to test and improve key systems. However, the Trump Administration’s desire to end direct federal support for ISS in 2024 to free up funding for lunar flights could heave a number of key technologies untested, according to a recent NASA Inspector General audit.

Below is an excerpt from the report that discusses the technology demonstrations being conducted on the space station and the risks involved of ending station support in 2024.
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Loft Orbital Announces inSpace Mission Partner Program to Standardize Access to Space

A Loft Orbital-owned and -operated microsatellite, flying multiple customer payloads onboard as a service. (Credit: Loft Orbital Solutions Inc.)

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 6, 2018 (Loft Orbital Solutions PR) — Loft Orbital Solutions, a provider of Space Infrastructure as a Service, announced this week that it has signed agreements with over 20 companies to join its inSpace Mission Partner Program as inaugural members.

inSpace partners are companies across the space value chain with whom Loft Orbital will collaborate for its end-to-end space mission offering. These partners span Satellite Bus, Launch Services, Ground Segment Services, Payload and Data Analytics. Each partner’s product has been validated for compatibility with Loft Orbital’s technology.

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Rocket Lab Signs Deal for 10 Dedicated Electron Launches

Eelectron rocket on the launch pad. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LOGAN, Utah,  August 7, 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has signed an agreement with Circle Aerospace for ten dedicated Electron launches, with the first launch scheduled to lift off in Q4 2019.

Headquartered in Dubai, Circle Aerospace is a new turnkey launch brokerage and satellite development company serving to catalyze the growth of a commercial space and small satellite industry across the United Arab Emirates and wider Gulf Cooperation Council nations (GCC). Circle Aerospace offers full-spectrum, bespoke orbital solutions, including the design, build, and launch of payloads for customers worldwide.

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NASA Announces Initiative to Boost Small Science Satellite Efforts

Artist illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space. A new study finds daily U.S. economic cost from solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could be in the tens of billions of dollars. (Credit: NASA)

LOGAN, Utah — The head of NASA’s science programs unveiled an $100 million per year initiative on Monday focused on the use of small scuebce satellites that includes data buys from three spacecraft constellation operators.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said the funding would go to targeted space science, technology and educational projects. He made the announcement during a keynote address at the annual Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

A key element of the initiative is the purchase of Earth science data from companies with satellite constellations in Earth orbit. Zurbuchen announced that the first purchases will be made from DigitalGlobe, Planet and Spire. He did not disclose the amounts of the awards.

Zurbuchen said NASA’s goal is to work with the growing small-satellite industry, not to compete with it. The space agency will invest in early-stage research and development to advance and test new technologies.

Zurbuchen also announced a new opportunity for small-satellite technology demonstrations focused on heliophysics that will be funded at up to $65 million.

“This opportunity will ultimately help deploy #SmallSat technologies to better understand @NASASun science and protect Americans by protecting US technological infrastructure on Earth and in space from the perils of space weather,” he tweeted.

Zurbuchen said NASA plans to provide more launch and rideshare opportunities for small satellites built by government, commercial and international partners.

Ecliptic Enterprises to Launch Hosted Payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron Rockets

Electron launch (Credit: Rocket Lab)

PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 7, 2018 (Ecliptic PR) – Rocket Lab USA and Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation have entered into an agreement to support Rocket Lab launch of Ecliptic-managed hosted payloads on the kick stage of Rocket Lab’s Electron rockets.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the two California-based firms was signed on August 1 and announced on August 7 at the 32nd annual Conference on Small Satellites, held at Utah State University in Logan, Utah August 4-9.

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ULA Delta IV Heavy to Launch Parker Solar Probe on Saturday

In the Astrotech processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, technicians and engineers perform light bar testing on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. (Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 7, 2018 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket is in final preparations to launch NASA’s Parker Solar Probe from Space Launch Complex-37 on Aug. 11.

NASA selected ULA’s Delta IV Heavy for its unique ability to deliver the necessary energy to begin the Parker Solar Probe’s journey to the sun. After launch, the spacecraft will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere – the corona – closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone.

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SpaceX Launches Indonesian Communications Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX) — On Tuesday, August 7th at 1:18 a.m. EDT, Falcon 9 successfully lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida carrying the Merah Putih mission for PT Telkom Indonesia. The satellite was deployed approximately 32 minutes after liftoff into its targeted Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage, which previously flew on the first Block 5 mission in May 2018, successfully landed on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
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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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NASA to Announce New Public-Private Space Tech Partnerships

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 8, to announce new public-private partnerships that will develop commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA exploration missions.

The selected U.S. companies are developing 10 “tipping point” technologies. For this solicitation, a technology is considered at a “tipping point” if an investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improves the company’s ability to bring it to market. The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) must also be at four or greater at the time of proposal submission.

Selections are based on the agency’s third competitive Tipping Point solicitation. The most recent solicitation targeted three Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) strategic technology focus areas, including: Expand Utilization of Space, Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space, and Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces.

Jim Reuter, STMD’s acting associate administrator, will participate in the media teleconference and will be available for questions following the announcement.

Media and the public can listen to the audio live by visiting:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering technologies and capabilities needed to achieve NASA missions. Projects resulting from the Tipping Point solicitation will enable public-private partnerships managed by programs within STMD.

For more information about the Tipping Point solicitation, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/opportunities-to-foster-commercial-space-technologies

For more information about the NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/about_us/index.html

Human Health Gaps Loom with End of Space Station in Sight

After 168 days of living and working in low-Earth orbit, three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew – NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – return to Earth Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Credit: NASA Television)

Long exposure to microgravity conditions does some bad things to the human body. The heart shrinks, bones become weaker and cells are exposed to damaging radiation.

The impacts will become more acute as NASA launches astronauts to the moon and Mars, which lie outside of the protection of the Earth’s Van Allen belt. The space agency has been conducting research aboard the International Space Station to find ways of addressing these risks before flights begin in the 2020’s.

The Trump Administration wants to end direct federal support for the station in 2024 to free up funding for human lunar missions. However, a recent NASA Inspector General audit indicates doing so could leave some vital human health research being left uncompleted, resulting in greater risks to astronauts on deep-space missions.

Below is an excerpt from the audit that discusses the human health research being conducted on the space station and the risks involved of ending station support in 2024.
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