Tag: asteroids

A Closer Look at Altius Space Machines Projects — Part II

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Altius_logo_newBy Jonathan Goff
CEO and President
Altius Space Machines

Part 2 of 2

In the last post, I introduced the two SBIR Select Phase 1 contracts that Altius has commenced work on. This blog post will focus on the other two Asteroid Redirect Mission contracts which mentioned there. These have been selected for contract negotiation, but aren’t active contracts yet, so I will try to be a little more high-level in this blog post.

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An In-depth Look at Recent Altius Space Machines Contract Awards

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Altius_logo_newBy Jonathan Goff
President and CEO
Altius Space Machines

Part 1 of 2

It has been a while since our last blog post, and those of you have been following the news over the last month may have noticed that Altius has recently been awarded or selected for negotiation on a few significant NASA technology development contracts. These four contracts are:

  • ISS Launched Cubesat Demonstration of Variable-Drag Magnetoshell Aerocapture – an SBIR Select Phase I that MSNW LLC of Redmond, WA is priming with Altius as subcontractor
  • Multi-purpose Interplanetary Deployable Aerocapture System (MIDAS) – an SBIR Select Phase I that Altius is priming with MSNW LLC as subcontractor
  • Kraken Asteroid Boulder Retrieval System – an Asteroid Redirect Mission BAA Phase I that Altius is priming with support from Boston-based Empire Robotics, Dr. Brad Blair of NewSpace Analytics, and the Materials Technology Lab at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, CO
  • Multipurpose SEP Module for ARM and Beyond – an Asteroid Redirect Mission BAA Phase I study where Altius will be supporting an industry team led by ExoTerra Resources of Littleton, CO.

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ASTEROIDS Act Would Establish Space Property Rights

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Schematic view of asteroid (25143) Itokawa. (Credit: ESO)

Schematic view of asteroid (25143) Itokawa. (Credit: ESO)

Proving that there is some vision in Congress after all, U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced introduced the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014, which “establishes and protects property rights for commercial space exploration and utilization of asteroid resources.”

Now, if they can only get a budget passed by the end of the fiscal year, Congress could demonstrate vision and basic competence at governance, something it hasn’t achieved in many years. (It’s looking like another continuing resolution for NASA.)

But, I digress.

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Video of Masten’s Xombie Flying at Mojave

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Video Caption: Astrobotic Technology’s newly developed autonomous landing system was put to the test recently when it controlled Masten Space Systems’ XA-0.1B Xombie suborbital technology demonstration rocket during a flight test at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Astrobotic’s system designed to avoid terrain hazards while safely landing a spacecraft at a specific location on a asteroid, moon or planet.

The June 20 test funded by the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate saw the vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing Xombie ascend to about 853 feet in 25 seconds. Using cameras and an inertial measurement unit for navigation, the Astrobotic Autolanding System guided the vehicle to a precise landing.

Planetary Resources Wants Public to Help Find Asteroids

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planetary_resources
REDMOND, Washington,  June 24, 2014 (Planetary Resources PR –
Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, and Zooniverse today launched Asteroid Zoo (www.asteroidzoo.org), empowering students, citizen scientists and space enthusiasts to aid in the search for previously undiscovered asteroids. The program allows the public to join the search for Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) of interest to scientists, NASA and asteroid miners, while helping to train computers to better find them in the future.

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NASA Selects 18 Proposals for Asteroid Redirect Mission Studies

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In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 proposals for studies under the Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).  These six-month studies will mature system concepts and key technologies and assess the feasibility of potential commercial partnerships to support the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, a key part of the agency’s stepping stone path to send humans to Mars.

The agency is working on two concepts for the mission. The first concept would fully capture a very small asteroid in free space and the other would retrieve a boulder off of a much larger asteroid. Both concepts would redirect an asteroid mass less than 10 meters in size to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) would rendezvous with the captured asteroid mass in lunar orbit and collect samples for return to Earth.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2015 Budget Prospects

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Capitol BuildingAfter years of flat and declining budgets, it looks like NASA will get a funding boost this year from an unexpected source — Congress.

The FY 2015 budget measures coming out of the Senate and House actually boost the President’s proposed $17.46 billion spending plan by about $400 million. The Senate would spend an even $17.9 billion, while the House spending plan is just slight under that level at $17.896 billion.

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Tethers Unlimited Wins NIAC Contract for Asteroid Wrangler

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An asteroid capture system called WRANGLER. (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)

An asteroid capture system called WRANGLER. (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC) has selected TUI to perform a Phase I effort to evaluate a concept for using a deployable net and a tether deployer to enable a small nano-satellite to capture and de-spin a large rotating asteroid. This WRANGLER system could reduce the complexity, risk, and cost of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). WRANGLER could also provide a means for affordable capture and disposal of space debris.

WRANGLER will accomplish these functions by combining two innovative technologies that have been developed by TUI: the GRASP deployable net capture device, and the SpinCASTER tether deployer/winch mechanism. Successful testing of both technologies in a microgravity environment has established these technology components at mid-TRL maturity.

The leverage offered by using a tether to extract angular momentum from a rotating space object enables a very small nano-satellite system to de-spin a very massive asteroid or large spacecraft. The WRANGLER system is suitable for an incremental development program that will validate the technology through an affordable test flight in which a nano-satellite launched on a rideshare opportunity would capture and de-spin the upper state used to launch it.

NASA Selects 12 NIAC Phase I Projects for Funding

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Titan submarine

Titan submarine

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact through pioneering technology development.

The selected proposals cover a wide range of imaginative concepts, including:

  • a submarine to explore the methane lakes of Titan;
  • using neutrinos to perform measurements for the icy moons of the outer planets; and,
  • a concept to safely capture a tumbling asteroid, space debris, and other applications.

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Astrobotic to Develop Autonomous Landing Capability for Sample Return

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Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

Astrobotic Technology will develop the capability to perform autonomous, controlled landings on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids under the terms of a new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) — Future NASA and commercial missions will increasingly target destinations with challenging topography and limited communication, such as unmapped asteroids, surface rendezvous sites for sample return, and terrain features like polar peaks, crater rims, and skylights on Mars and the Moon. “These are worthy but unexplored destinations,” said William “Red” Whittaker, Astrobotic’s Chairman. “Smaller, less expensive robotic landers will precede human missions to such destinations, but they are less tolerant – even a small hazard such as a rock or slope could be fatal for a small lander. This class of missions demands precise autonomous hazard detection and landing.”

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