Tech Designed by University Students Could Shine Light on Extreme Lunar Environments

Michigan Technological University’s Tethered-permanently shadowed Region Explorer would extract and use the water ice located in and around the lunar polar regions through the use of super conducting cables to deliver large quantities of power to these extremely hard to access regions. (Credits: Michigan Technological University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — “The dark side of the Moon” is sometimes used to describe mysterious things. Though the far side of the Moon isn’t actually dark, there are some areas on the Moon that haven’t seen the Sun in billions of years. Those are the unexplored areas university students aimed to help NASA reach.

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NASA Looks to Advance 3D Printing Construction Systems for the Moon and Mars

ICON illustration of a conceptual lunar base with 3D printed infrastructure, including landing pads and habitats. (Credits: ICON/SEArch+)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — The process of building landing pads, habitats, and roads on the Moon will likely look different than the common construction site on Earth. Excavation robots, for one, will need to be lightweight yet capable of digging in reduced gravity. A large-scale construction system could be autonomous and equipped to work without astronauts’ help.

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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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NIAC Award: Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies

Thermal mining of ices on cold solar system bodies (Credit: George Sowers)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phae I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies
George Sowers
Colorado School of Mines

Innovation

  • Applying heat directly to frozen volatile bearing materials allows extraction of the volatile without the cost, mass and complexity of excavation.
  • Heat is applied directly to the surface in the form of redirected sunlight or subsurface via conducting rods or heaters emplaced in boreholes.
  • Vapor is captured within a dome-like tent and refrozen in cold traps for processing.

Technical Approach

  • Colorado School of Mines brings its world renowned expertise in terrestrial resource extraction to space.
  • We will explore locations throughout the solar system where Thermal Mining might be applicable.
  • We will develop a detailed mission scenario for the use of Thermal Mining for lunar water extraction.
  • We will test the effectiveness of various Thermal Mining techniques in our cryogenic vacuum chamber.

Potential & Benefits

  • Estimates for extracting water from the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon show Thermal Mining can produce industrial quantities of water (for propellant) for 60% less mass and energy than excavation.
  • Volatiles have many uses for space exploration and space commerce.
  • Propellant from lunar polar ice will lower all transportation costs beyond low Earth orbit by factors from three to seventy.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List











NASA Selects Economic Research Studies to Examine Investments in Space

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five new research proposals to understand the effective drivers of investments in the global space economy, encouraging non-traditional companies, as well as traditional aerospace companies, to look beyond satellites for new opportunities in commercial space development.

“Our space technology work is focused on providing new capabilities for robotic and human exploration of the solar system, but we are also here to help enable new commercial markets or enterprises,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. “The results of these studies provide insights into the potential economic impacts of new space-based capabilities and applications which in turn helps guide our investments in technology development.”

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House Space Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Private Lunar Exploration

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

House Subcommittee on Space Hearing
Private Sector Lunar Exploration

Thursday, September 7, 2017 – 10:00am
2318 Rayburn House Office Building)

Hearing Purpose

NASA is supporting private sector exploration of the Moon through various programs. The private sector is also investing their own funding in the hopes of serving a future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations (including in situ resource utilization). Moon Express plans to launch a mission to the Moon later this year or early next year. Astrobotic recently announced a mission in 2019. Blue Origin disclosed its “Blue Moon” concept last spring. The United Launch Alliance and SpaceX have also indicated plans to operate in cislunar space in the near-future. The Hearing will review these efforts, and NASA’s role, in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they present.

Witnesses:

  • Mr. Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA
  • Mr. Bob Richards, founder and CEO, Moon Express, Inc.
  • Mr. John Thornton, chief executive officer, Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
  • Mr. Bretton Alexander, director of business development and strategy, Blue Origin
  • Dr. George Sowers, professor, space resources, Colorado School of Mines

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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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Colorado and Hawaii Universities to Research Space Settlement

The Colorado School of Mines and the University of Hawaii at Hilo will be teaming up to conduct joint research work on how humans can learn to live on other worlds, the Associated Press reports.

The Colorado School of Mines Center for Space Resources is working with Lockheed Martin on how to produce oxygen from lunar soil. The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems in Hilo focuses on developing new technologies for future space explorers and settlers.

“The number of Hawaii students interested in space exploration is rapidly growing. We welcome the opportunity to be a part of information and education exchanges like this one,” University of Hawaii at Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng said in a statement.