Astrobotic MoonRanger Moves into Final Production

MoonRanger (Credit: Astrobotic)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic announced today that MoonRanger, an autonomous rover that will explore the lunar South Pole in 2022, passed NASA’s Key Decision Point (KDP) review and is in the final stage of the payload preparation phase, culminating in flight hardware fabrication.

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Picking up the PACE: Accelerating Development of Deep Space Technologies

Raven Aerostar’s high-altitude balloon is inflated the morning of its March 12, 2021 flight to test NASA’s V-R3x technology in Baltic, SD – an effort made possible by the Agency’s new PACE initiative. (Credits: Raven Aerostar)

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

A spacecraft is the sum of many parts – propulsion systems, radiation protection, communications systems, to name a few – and every mission has different technological needs and challenges. Before a technology innovation makes its way into deep space, however, its effectiveness can be tested a little closer to Earth through suborbital and orbital flights. These flight tests expose a technology to the challenging characteristics of spaceflight that ground testing cannot simulate, such as powerful forces of acceleration and the absence of gravity. While it offers critical benefits, this journey through several iterations of collecting flight data and fine-tuning a technology can sometimes take years and often stretches a research team’s bottom line.

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NASA Funds Research into Creating Kilometer-Scale Space Structures from a Single Launch

A high-expansion-ratio auxetic structure can be stowed inside a single Falcon Heavy fairing and deployed to a final length of one kilometer on orbit as part of a large space station. The station can then be spun at 1-2 RPM to generate 1g artificial gravity at its ends while still maintaining a microgravity environment at its center near the spin axis, providing the crew with the flexibility of living in a 1g environment while performing some work in microgravity. (Credits: Zachary Manchester, graphic by Tzipora Thompson)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I Award
Funding: up to $125,000
Study Period: 9 months

Kilometer-Scale Space Structures from a Single Launch
Zachary Manchester
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Synopsis

Long-duration spaceflight poses serious challenges for the human body, including muscle atrophy, bone loss, eyesight degradation, and immunosuppression. Many of these effects are linked to a lack of gravity. Generating artificial gravity inside rotating space habitats has been a dream of science fiction since the earliest pioneers of astronautics.

However, rotating to produce artificial gravity poses a serious challenge; Humans experience discomfort and motion sickness when exposed to rotation rates greater than a few RPM. To produce artificial gravity near 1g at rotation rates of 1-2 RPM, a kilometer-scale structure is needed. To address this challenge, we will leverage recent advances in mechanical metamaterials to design lightweight deployable structures with unprecedented expansion ratios of 150x or more.

Such a structure could be launched inside a single Falcon Heavy rocket fairing and then be deployed autonomously to a final size of a kilometer or more on orbit without requiring complex on-orbit assembly or fabrication. Our study will analyze a mission concept analogous to the Lunar Gateway, in which a kilometer-scale deployable structure forms the backbone of a large rotating space station.

2021 Phase I Selections

About NIAC

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions with the creation of breakthroughs — radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts — while engaging America’s innovators and entrepreneurs as partners in the journey.

The program seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources and NIAC projects study innovative, technically credible, advanced concepts that could one day “change the possible” in aerospace. If you’re interested in submitting a proposal to NIAC, please see our “Apply to NIAC” link (https://www.nasa.gov/content/apply-to-niac) for information about the status of our current NASA Research Announcement (NRA). For descriptions of current NIAC projects, please refer to our ”NIAC Studies” link (https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/NIAC_funded_studies.html).

To find out more, see nasa.gov/niac or contact us at hq-niac@mail.nasa.gov.

Futuristic Space Technology Concepts Selected by NASA for Initial Study

This illustration shows a conceptual lunar railway system called FLOAT (Flexible Levitation on a Track) that has been selected for an early-stage feasibility study within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Four advanced space concepts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been selected to receive grants for further research and development.

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V-R3x CubeSats to Develop Communications, Navigation

Three small satellites, or CubeSats, used in the V-R3x technology demonstration. (Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart)

Swarming small satellites to develop the next generation of communication and navigation tech

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Learning how to communicate and navigate multiple spacecraft autonomously in space is a technology challenge that will become even more important to solve as NASA continues to operate in low-Earth orbit and beyond.

The V-R3x mission uses a swarm of three small satellites to demonstrate new technologies and techniques for radio networking and navigation. By developing and demonstrating these technologies on a small scale, they can be implemented for future multi-spacecraft missions, enabling NASA to pursue its future science, technology, and exploration goals.

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NASA Selects 14 Early Stage Innovations from US Universities for R&D

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Each year NASA selects and funds a number of university researchers to mature game-changing space technologies. The multi-year research and development projects could help develop super-cold space refrigerators and innovate ways to deal with hazardous lunar dust, among other objectives.

In late 2020, NASA selected 14 university-led research proposals to study early-stage technologies relevant to these topics. Each selection will receive up to $650,000 in grants from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program over up to three years, giving the university teams the time and resources to iterate multiple designs and solutions.

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NASA Receives First Lunar CubeRover from Astrobotic

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — After three years of intensive engineering work, Astrobotic’s CubeRover is on its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The CubeRover is designed to provide an affordable mobile outlet for scientific instruments and other payloads to operate on the surface of the Moon. This occasion marks the first time Astrobotic’s Planetary Mobility department has delivered rover hardware to an outside entity.

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Meet 8 Teams Sending Payloads to the Moon on Masten’s Lander

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten Space Systems PR) — Imagine having the opportunity to send your payload to the lunar surface. Not next decade, but in 2022!

Well, that’s the incredible opportunity that the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project — and Masten Space Systems — has presented for 8 visionary teams and their instruments. Each and every one is cool in their own way and we couldn’t be prouder to be the lunar lander company that will set them down safely on the surface of the Moon. 

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Astrobotic, Carnegie Mellon Selected for NASA Award for Cooperative Rovers

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.(Credit: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for funding to continue development of technologies to enable groups of rovers to cooperatively explore the surface of other worlds.

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NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.(Credit: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University)

Astrobotic, Blue Origin, ExoTerra, Paragon and SpaceX among contract awardees for advanced technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The selections are based on NASA’s fourth competitive Tipping Point solicitation and have a combined total award value of about $43.2 million. This investment in the U.S. space industry, including small businesses across the country, will help bring the technologies to market and ready them for use by NASA.

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NASA Supports ‘Wild’ Ideas to Bring About New Space Tech

Swarm-Probe Enabling ATEG Reactor, or SPEAR, is a nuclear electric propulsion spacecraft concept that proposes a new, lightweight reactor moderator and advanced thermoelectric generators to deliver scientific payloads to anywhere in the solar system. SPEAR was selected in April 2019 as a NIAC Phase I. (Credit: Howe Industries LLC)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has a wild side. In fact, the agency has a program dedicated to nurturing visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions with the creation of breakthroughs—radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts.

For years, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) has supported early-stage research through multiple phases of study, competitively selecting Phase I and follow-on Phase II projects each year.

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Astrobotic Awarded $5.6 Million NASA Contract to Deliver Autonomous Moon Rover

MoonRanger will traverse quickly over long distances using via autonomous surface navigation without communicating directly with Earth–a key breakthrough for short, two-week duration moon missions. (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic will lead development of MoonRanger with Carnegie Mellon University, a lunar rover that will test pioneering autonomy on the Moon

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic was selected today by NASA’s Lunar Surface and Instrumentation and Technology Payload (LSITP) program to develop an autonomous lunar rover with its partner, Carnegie Mellon University. The 13 kilogram autonomous rover known as MoonRanger, is being developed to provide high fidelity 3D maps of the Moon’s surface in areas such as polar regions and lunar pits. It will demonstrate transformational high-speed, long-range, communication-denied autonomous lunar exploration.

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NASA Invests in Tech Concepts Aimed at Exploring Lunar Craters, Mining Asteroids

Illustration of the Skylight mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III. (Credits: William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

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NASA Selects Two New Space Tech Research Institutes for Smart Habitats

Habitation concept interior. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As exploration missions venture beyond low-Earth orbit and to the Moon — and eventually Mars — NASA must consider automated technologies to keep habitats operational even when they are not occupied by astronauts. To help achieve this, NASA has selected two new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) to advance space habitat designs using resilient and autonomous systems.

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