NASA’s NEOWISE Asteroid-Hunter Spacecraft Releases Fourth Years of Survey Data

NEOWISE (Credit; NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its fourth year of survey data. Since the mission was restarted in December 2013, after a period of hibernation, the asteroid- and comet-hunter has completely scanned the skies nearly eight times and has observed and characterized 29,375 objects in four years of operations. This total includes 788 near-Earth objects and 136 comets since the mission restart.

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NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Astronomy & Astrophysics


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on astronomy and astrophysics.

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms
Dmitry Savransky
Cornell University

Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer
Jordan Wachs
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Nearing the End as Fuel Runs Low

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Trailing Earth’s orbit at 94 million miles away, the Kepler space telescope has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays. At this rate, the hardy spacecraft may reach its finish line in a manner we will consider a wonderful success. With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel. We expect to reach that moment within several months.

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NASA Selects In-Space Propulsion Projects for SBIR Funding

NASA has selected six in-space propulsion projects for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The phase II contracts last for two years and are worth up to $750,000.

The awards include:

e beam, Inc.
Beaverton, OR
Cathode for Electric Space Propulsion Utilizing Iodine as Propellant

Plasma Controls, LLC
Fort Collins, CO
Iodine Hollow Cathode

Quest Thermal Group
Arvada, CO
Multi-Environment MLI: Novel Multi-Functional Insulation for Mars Missions

Streamline Automation, LLC
Huntsville, AL
Hybrid Propulsion Technology for Robotic Science Missions

TDA Research, Inc.
Wheat Ridge, CO
Novel Sorbent to Remove Radioactive Halogens and Noble Gases from NTP Engine Exhaust

WASK Engineering, Inc.
Cameron Park, CA
High Response Control Valve

Summaries of the proposals follow.

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ABB Satellite-based Technologies Help Improve Weather Forecasts, Save Lives

The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft is checked out on Oct. 8, 2015, at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. The Launch Configuration Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) measures the electromagnetic emissions and subjects it to expected electromagnetic radiation that the satellite would experience at the launch site. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

QUEBEC CITY, Jan. 15, 2018 (ABB Canada) – Successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the JPSS-1 satellite is joining the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting satellite in the same orbit to provide meteorologists with data on atmospheric temperature and moisture, clouds, sea-surface temperature, ocean color, sea ice cover, volcanic ash, and fire detection. The data will improve weather forecasting, such as predicting a hurricane’s track, and will help agencies involved with post-storm recovery by visualizing storm damage and the geographic extent of power outages.

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United Launch Alliance Introduces Payload Competition for 10th Anniversary of Student Rocket Launch

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Jan. 9, 2018) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) has issued its request for proposals for the annual ULA and Ball Aerospace Student Rocket Launch. To celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary, K-12 teams can design, build and operate a payload to guide it to a designated ground-based target for a chance to win up to $5,000 for their school or sponsoring nonprofit.

The 2018 Student Rocket Launch, tentatively scheduled for July 2018 in Colorado, is part of a unique program offering hands-on experience working with rockets and payloads to students from kindergarten through graduate school. ULA intern volunteers design, build and refurbish the high-power sport rocket – dubbed “Future Heavy” – while volunteer interns from Ball Aerospace and K-12 students design and build payloads that launch on the rocket.

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A Look at Payloads Launched in 2016

Built by Lockheed Martin, the WorldView-4 satellite will expand DigitalGlobe’s industry-leading constellation of high-accuracy, high-resolution satellites, and double the availability of 30 cm resolution imagery for commercial and government customers around the globe. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

State of the Payload Industry

Space industry companies and organizations worldwide, sometimes the same as launch vehicle manufacturers but also those specifically dedicated to spacecraft manufacturing, produce these spacecraft. Commercially launched payloads are typically used for the following mission types:

  • Commercial communications satellites;
  • Commercial remote sensing or Earth observation satellites;
  • Commercial crew and cargo missions, including on-orbit vehicles and platforms;
  • Technology test and demonstration missions, usually new types of payloads undergoing test or used to test new launch vehicle technology; and
  • Other commercially launched payloads, usually satellites launched for various purposes by governments of countries not having indigenous orbital launch capability.

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World View, Ball Aerospace Demonstrate Persistent Remote Sensing from Stratollite Platform

World View Stratollite module. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

TUCSON, Ariz.(Ball Aerospace PR) — World View and Ball Aerospace successfully completed a Stratollite mission earlier this month, demonstrating early capabilities for remote sensing applications from the stratosphere, nearly 70,000 feet above Earth. This latest mission is a pathfinder for a commercial offering of low-cost, persistent, high-resolution imagery data from the stratosphere and is part of the collaboration between the two companies.

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A Summary of NSRC Day 1

Precise thrust vector control and deep throttling enable pinpoint booster landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)
Precise thrust vector control and deep throttling enable pinpoint booster landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The three-day Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference began today in Colorado. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I have compiled highlights of a very newsworthy day via Twitter posts. (You can follow along with hashtag #nsrc2016.)

Below is a summary of news and updates provided by Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, World View Enterprises, Exos Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Near Space Corporation, and NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

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World View, Ball Aerospace to Explore Stratollite Platform for Remote Sensing

World_View_LogoBROOMFIELD, Colo.,  June 2, 2016 (World View PR)  – World View, pioneers of the stratosphere, are collaborating with Ball Aerospace to explore World View’s Stratollite platform for remote sensing applications. Ball Aerospace and World View are working together to explore the feasibility of a commercial capability to perform persistent remote sensing from the Stratollite platform. The collaboration will culminate with World View performing a long-duration, persistent Stratollite flight to demonstrate remote sensing capabilities for commercial applications.

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NASA Spacecraft to Test ‘Green’ Propellant Passes Major Pre-flight Milestone

A Ball Aerospace engineer adjusts the thermal insulation on NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft bus following integration of the propulsion system. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)
A Ball Aerospace engineer adjusts the thermal insulation on NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft bus following integration of the propulsion system. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Like all rocket engines, the small thrusters that a spacecraft or satellite fires to maintain or change positions need fuel. Currently, many use hydrazine — a toxic and corrosive fuel that requires special handling and equipment.

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NASA Space Technology Achievements in 2015

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) checked off a number of key accomplishments in 2015. These advancements pushed the technological envelope, not only for use near Earth, but also to support future deep-space exploration missions.

“In 2015 we have made significant progress with several of our larger technology demonstration initiatives,” explains Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for STMD.

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Colorado School of Mines Receives $2.5 Million for 3D Metal Printing Consortium

This rocket engine fuel pump has hundreds of parts including a turbine that spins at over 90,000 rpms. This turbopump was made with additive manufacturing and had 45 percent fewer parts than pumps made with traditional manufacturing. It completed testing under flight-like conditions at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/MSFC)
This rocket engine fuel pump has hundreds of parts including a turbine that spins at over 90,000 rpms. This turbopump was made with additive manufacturing and had 45 percent fewer parts than pumps made with traditional manufacturing. It completed testing under flight-like conditions at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/MSFC)

GOLDEN, Colo., Dec. 14, 2015 – Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professors Aaron Stebner and Douglas Van Bossuyt were awarded a $2.5 million Advanced Industries Accelerator grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to establish a 3D metal printing research consortium.

Mines is building out 2200 sq. ft. of dedicated laboratory space in the new Coorstek Center for Applied Science and Engineering for the consortium, while industry members Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace, Fauston Tool and Manufacturer’s Edge, are providing more than $4.5M of initial investment in the program. The combination of funds will help position Colorado as the leader in the advancement of standardization, qualification, and intelligent digitization of 3D metal printing.

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Green Propellant Infusion Mission Progresses

A green propellant propulsion subsystem was recently delivered to Ball Aerospace for integration into the Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft. The subsystem will be one of three experimental payloads on the spacecraft. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)
A green propellant propulsion subsystem was recently delivered to Ball Aerospace for integration into the Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft. The subsystem will be one of three experimental payloads on the spacecraft. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — Space exploration is about to go “greener.”

NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission to develop a high-performance, low-toxicity fuel and propulsion system for spacecraft has passed a major milestone. A green propellant propulsion subsystem, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, has been delivered to the mission’s prime contractor, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado.

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