NASA Announces Armstrong Flight Research Center Director to Retire

David McBride (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — David McBride, director of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, announced plans to retire on June 30 after 35 years of service to the agency. He began his career at NASA as an intern.

During McBride’s tenure as director, the center completed the flight evaluation of the X-48B/C hybrid wing body experimental aircraft and demonstrated the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system.  

“David’s contributions in aviation, science, and exploration have strengthened our agency’s missions and improved the lives of people throughout our country — and will for generations to come,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Individuals at the beginning of their career at NASA – and members of the Artemis Generation who dream of one day working here – will be inspired by David, knowing their work can also lead to a lifetime of service to this storied agency. I wish him and his family all the best in his retirement.”

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SpinLaunch and NASA Sign Space Act Agreement to Test Innovative Mass Accelerator Launch System

NASA to fly payload with SpinLaunch’s mass accelerator to test launch characteristics of its low cost, high cadence launch system.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (SpinLaunch PR) — SpinLaunch has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASAThrough this partnership, SpinLaunch will develop, integrate, and fly a NASA payload on the company’s Suborbital Accelerator Launch System to provide valuable information to NASA for potential future commercial launch opportunities.

The SpinLaunch and NASA Partnership

The Space Act Agreement is part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which demonstrates promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers. The program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and evaluation of technologies to be tested on commercial flight vehicles.

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NASA Invests in Tech Development From Small Businesses, Researchers

A new round of awards for small business and research partnerships will advance technology development. A partnership between Interstel Technologies, Inc., and University of Hawaii at Manoa will develop a system for guiding swarms of vehicles, such as rovers, illustrated here. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program has awarded $15 million to U.S. small businesses and research institutions to continue developing technologies in areas ranging from aeronautics to science and space exploration.

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Getting Pumped Up for Launch: NASA Inflatable Decelerator Prepared for Flight Test

Successful completion of final test of the LOFTID inflation system means it’s ready for integration with the rest of the re-entry vehicle. (Credits: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — No, we’re not pumping up inner tubes for a pool party, but the successful inflation of this stack of test rings marks the final test of the inflation system for NASA’s LOFTID demonstration which will make a splash when it lands in the Pacific Ocean after launch. 

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Masten’s Reusable Rockets Prepare Spacecraft for Distant Landing on Other Worlds

Technology for spaceflight requires testing on Earth. Masten Space Systems built Xodiac to test terrain-relative navigation and hazard-avoidance systems for landings on Mars, the Moon, and more. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

Rocket-powered vehicle for testing lander navigation systems supports space companies

MOJAVE, Calif. (Mojave PR) — How can a spacecraft land itself on alien terrain? NASA needed a better answer than “very carefully.” To spur innovation towards the first autonomous landings on the Moon, the agency presented the Lunar Lander Challenge. In 2009, a young company called Masten Space Systems earned one of the top prizes.

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NASA Armstrong Accomplished Numerous Milestones in 2021

Joby eVOL acoustic test (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — This year marks 75 years of flight research at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California and 2021 adds to those achievements. 2021 continued to be challenging while working in a mostly virtual environment, but progress was surely made.

NASA’s next supersonic X-plane, the X-59, is taking shape for upcoming flights; NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57, completed ground testing to prepare for flights; several Earth science missions were completed around the globe; and many other goals were met to prepare NASA Armstrong for a successful 2022 and beyond.

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NASA Selects Nine Space Technologies for Commercial Suborbital Flight Tests

Carthage College student Nicolas Welker prepares to start a zero-gravity transfer of propellant simulant during a flight on Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE on Nov. 16, 2021. The flight enabled testing of technology designed to gauge propellant levels during on-orbit refueling and transfer operations. (Credits: Zero Gravity Corporation/Steve Boxall)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine space technologies under the agency’s 2021 TechFlights solicitation for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems.

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Suborbital Testing Puts Moon-Bound Computing System Through its Paces

With a float duration of about four hours, a 2019 high-altitude balloon flight with World View Enterprises enabled the MSU team to evaluate RadPC’s tolerance to radiation over a longer period of time. (Credits: World View Enterprises)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

EDWARDS, Calif. — As you read this article, you don’t need to worry that cosmic radiation might destroy the computer displaying it. That’s because the Earth’s atmosphere provides protection against such radiation. However, for astronauts relying on computing systems in space, cosmic radiation is a real concern. This is why NASA is supporting tests of radiation-tolerant computing systems on suborbital vehicles – and eventually on the Moon.

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Action! Filming a Simulated Lunar Landing From the Dusty Desert Floor

Zandef Deksit’s ExoCam in its metal cage rests on the desert surface of Mojave, California. Masten Space Systems’s Xodiac VTVL vehicle can be seen in the ExoCam’s viewfinder and in the distance. (Credits: Jason Achilles Mezilis/Zandef Deksit, Inc.)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

MOJAVE, Calif. — Video capture during future lunar landings could play an important role in contributing to researchers’ understanding of disturbances in lunar surface materials – called regolith – caused by the lander’s rocket plume. With support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, on Oct. 14, 2021, researchers from Los Angeles-based Zandef Deksit put a high-tech video capture and regolith sensor payload called ExoCam to the test. The desert environment of Mojave, California, provided a stand-in for the surface of the Moon, and the Xodiac vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) platform from Masten Space Systems was the test vehicle.

Simulating the movement of a lunar lander, the VTVL vehicle enabled researchers from Zandef Deksit and co-investigators from Honeybee Robotics to test an ejection mechanism to jettison the ExoCam onto the desert surface at specific altitudes just before landing. Along with calculations to account for lunar gravity, this helped the team understand the limit of how far from a planetary surface they would need to eject the payload in order for it to survive landing and function properly.

Once on the ground, the payload’s camera captured video footage from the unique vantage point of the desert surface. The ExoCam also utilized a regolith sensor developed by co-investigators at Arizona State University to capture data about the quantity of regolith particles picked up by the vehicle’s rocket plume, as well as the speed at which they were propelled as the lander descended onto the surface.

About Flight Opportunities

Flight Opportunities rapidly demonstrates promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers. The program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and evaluation of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.

NASA Selects Three Winners in Inaugural TechLeap Prize Challenge

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA seeks to improve a variety of Earth and space-based capabilities, including detecting and tracking wildfires, identifying plumes of gas venting into Earth’s atmosphere, and precision tracking of small spacecraft positions in orbit. The NASA TechLeap Prize is helping to advance these types of technologies for space exploration and Earth observation.

The agency has named three winners in the first TechLeap Prize competition, Autonomous Observation Challenge No. 1. The proposed solutions will help rapidly advance small spacecraft technologies for autonomous observation of events on Earth and beyond, as well as improve communications and computing power in small spacecraft applications. The winning teams will each receive an initial $200,000 prize they can use to begin building their payloads for a later suborbital flight test.

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SwRI Tests Liquid Acquisition Device Aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket

New Shepard rocket lands (Credit: Blue Origin)

August 26, 2021 — A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) experiment was performed aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket today, which launched from Van Horn, Texas. Five variations of the tapered liquid acquisition device (LAD), which is designed to safely deliver liquid propellant to a rocket engine from fuel tanks, were aboard the rocket to evaluate their performance in microgravity.

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NASA Technologies Slated for Testing on Blue Origin’s New Shepard

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

VAN HORN, Texas — While there won’t be humans on Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission, the fully reusable launch vehicle will carry technologies from NASA, industry, and academia aboard. The agency’s Flight Opportunities program supports six payload flight tests, which are slated for lift off no earlier than Aug. 26 from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas.

For some innovations, this is just one of several tests supported by NASA on different flight vehicles. Iterative flight testing helps quickly ready technologies that could eventually support deep space exploration.

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NASA Seeks Student Tech Ideas for Suborbital Launch

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is calling on all sixth through 12th-grade educators and students to submit experiments for possible suborbital flights as a way of gaining firsthand experience with the design and testing process used by NASA researchers.

The NASA TechRise Student Challenge invites students to design, build, and launch experiments on suborbital rockets and high-altitude balloons. The challenge aims to inspire a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, space exploration, coding, electronics, and the value of test data.

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Blue Origin New Shepard’s 17th Flight to Space Set for August 25

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard’s next mission will fly a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration a second time on the exterior of the booster, 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, 11 of which are NASA-supported, and an art installation on the exterior of the capsule. Liftoff is currently targeted for Wednesday, August 25, at 8:35 am CDT/13:35 UTC from Launch Site One in West Texas. Live launch coverage begins at T-30 minutes on BlueOrigin.com.

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Inflatable Heat Shield One Step Closer to 2022 Demonstration

The flexible thermal protection system contains two outer surface layers made of ceramic fiber fabric, several layers of insulator, and then a gas barrier that prevents hot gases from getting to directly to the inflatable structure. The inflatable structure is a high temperature capable, flexible structure that is inflated to provide the cone shape that the FTPS drapes over. (Credits: NASA/Greg Swanson)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — A NASA technology that could one day help land humans on Mars is about to head into final integration and testing before a sub-orbital flight test next year.

Two key components of the Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) are complete and recently arrived at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. At Langley, engineers will test the complete system to ensure LOFTID is flight ready.

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