NASA Chooses Solar Sail, Laser Communications and Atomic Clock Demo Missions


NASA PR — WASHINGTON —
NASA has selected three proposals as Technology Demonstration Missions to transform space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities. The projects will develop and fly a space solar sail, deep space atomic clock, and space-based optical communications system. The proposals selected for demonstration missions are:

  • Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, David J. Israel, principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
  • Deep Space Atomic Clock, Todd Ely, principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology/NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
  • Beyond the Plum Brook Chamber; An In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail, Nathan Barnes, principal investigator at L’Garde Inc., of Tustin, Calif.

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LightSail Gets a Ride to Orbit

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society

PLANETARY SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE

NASA announced this week that the Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sail mission is on their short list for upcoming launch opportunities. The missions selected are Cubesats destined for piggyback launches as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

“This is great news,” said Louis Friedman, Program Director for LightSail-1. “Our spacecraft will be ready this summer, and we are hoping for the earliest launch possible.”

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NanoSail-D Deploys Solar Sail

NanoSail-D (Credit: NASA)

NASA MISSION UPDATE

Friday, Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. EST, engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite deployed its 100-square-foot polymer sail in low-Earth orbit and is operating as planned. Actual deployment occurred on Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. EST and was confirmed today with beacon packets data received from NanoSail-D and additional ground-based satellite tracking assets. In addition, the NanoSail-D orbital parameter data set shows an appropriate change which is consistent with sail deployment.
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NanoSail-D Satellite Ejects from FASTSAT

NanoSail-D (Credit: NASA)

UPDATE: NanoSail-D has ejected — Beacon data has been received

NASA PROGRAM UPDATE

On Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 11:30 a.m. EST, engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite ejected from Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite, FASTSAT. The ejection event occurred spontaneously and was identified this morning when engineers at the center analyzed onboard FASTSAT telemetry. The ejection of NanoSail-D also has been confirmed by ground-based satellite tracking assets.

Amateur ham operators are asked to listen for the signal to verify NanoSail-D is operating. This information should be sent to the NanoSail-D dashboard at: http://nanosaild.engr.scu.edu/dashboard.htm. The NanoSail-D beacon signal can be found at 437.270 MHz.

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Amid Celebrations Over Dragon’s Success, Gloom Across Three Continents Over Space Failures

NanoSail-D - Lost in space? (Credit: NASA)

As upstart SpaceX was feted this week for the successful flight and recovery of its first Dragon spacecraft, engineers on three continents were puzzling out the reasons behind three high-profile failures in space, demonstrating anew the challenges associated with the difficult field.

In Russia, officials watched as a Proton rocket sent three navigational satellites to the bottom of the Pacific off Hawaii, delaying the nation’s efforts to provide full global coverage for its GLONASS program. Japanese engineers scratched their heads over why their Akatsuki probe ended up in orbit around the sun instead of Venus. And NASA is not quite sure what happened to an experimental solar sail satellite that blasted off into space from Alaska.

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Video: Minotaur IV Launches From Kodiak Island

NASA MISSION UPDATES

On Saturday, Nov. 20, FASTSAT made contact with ground stations at Svalbard, Norway and Kodiak, Alaska, and received commands from and communicated with mission controllers at the small satellite command center located at the Huntsville Operations and Science Control Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The satellite continues to function nominally as the commissioning phase of the mission continues.

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Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 Solar Vehicle Proceeding Toward Launch

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society

As Japan prepares to deploy its IKAROS solar sail spacecraft, the Planetary Society’s Lou Friedman has published an update on the non-profit group’s similar effort, LightSail-1, which is set for launch during the second quarter of 2011. An excerpt:

The LightSail-1 spacecraft development is proceeding well. Our engineering team—led by Jim Cantrell—has completed the preliminary design and made critical decisions to select the hardware and subsystem for the final design—crucial milestones to building the vehicle that will demonstrate the value and potential of using sunlight alone to propel exploratory craft through space.

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Send Your Name into Space Aboard Solar Sail Missions

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society
The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society is offering people the opportunity to send their names and short messages into space aboard two solar sail missions set for launch this year.

The Lightsail spacecraft is a project involving The Planetary Society. The IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun) will be launched by JAXA.

You can sign up on The Planetary Society’s website.

Planetary Society Unveils New Solar Sail Project on Sagan’s Birthday

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society
The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society

PLANETARY SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE

“We’re back!” said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. “With an even more ambitious solar sail program than our last venture.”

The Planetary Society today announced LightSail, a plan to sail a spacecraft on sunlight alone by the end of 2010. The new solar sail project, boosted by a one-million-dollar anonymous donation, was unveiled at an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C on the 75th anniversary of the birth of Planetary Society co-founder Carl Sagan, a long-time advocate of solar sailing.

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Druyan: Solar Sail Could be “Kitty Hawk” Moment

solarsail_msfc

Space.com has an interesting interview with writer-producer Ann Druyan, who is the widow of Carl Sagan. She talks about the Apollo program and her hopes for the future of America’s space program.

S: Do you have any particular space endeavors in mind?

A: I would love to see personally – and have been working as hard as I can on the notion of – solar sailing. This is something that could be tremendously cost-effective, because solar sailing is a way to move through the cosmos at speeds unprecedented. You know Voyager moves at 38,000 miles an hour, which is very impressive and extremely fast to us. But of course the cosmos is so very big that that won’t get you very far. Solar sailing is a way to move ten times faster.

I’ve been working with the Planetary Society for the last decade trying to launch a solar sailing mission precisely because I believe it would be a Kitty Hawk moment for space exploration. It would thrill me to see a very ambitious program of solar sail research, because I think that that would give us an edge, and I think we want that feeling again of being on the cutting edge.

Read the full interview.

Friedman Works to Resurrect Solar Sail Project

Across the Universe
The Atlantic

The Volna rocket had risen out of the water, flown through the sky, and pierced the low-lying clouds. The Volna, a Soviet-era ICBM, had been refitted for peaceful duty, and on this first day of summer, it was lifting Cosmos 1 up from a Russian submarine and toward Earth orbit. If the spacecraft got there, it would deploy eight tissue-thin “blades,” 600 square meters of Mylar that would catch the sun and begin propelling the craft, on nothing but light, through humankind’s first solar-sailing voyage. The ship, beautiful as a flower or firework, would be controlled from the ground by two teams, each so small that Mission Operations Moscow was called MOM and Project Operations Pasadena was POP….

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