How Scientists Are Using the International Space Station to Study Earth’s Climate

Taken by NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, this picture shows Earth’s limb, or horizon, from the International Space Station as it orbits above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — On Earth, we often look toward the sky longing to know what resides in the rest of the universe. Meanwhile, 250 miles above our planet, the  International Space Station is looking back.

Above us, multiple Earth-observing instruments are mounted on the exterior of several of the station’s modules, including a limb full of cameras, boxes, and tools that hangs off the edge of the station’s Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). Earth-observing CubeSats regularly deploy from the station’s airlock. Astronauts take photos of the planet from the orbiting lab’s windows. This outpost even conducts Earth science experiments. All of this work provides insight into the climate of our home and how we might prepare for coming changes.

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Eight Companies Join Catalyst Accelerator’s On-orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing Cohort

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 19, 2021 (Catalyst Accelerator PR) — Eight small businesses will come together virtually from across the country for the Catalyst Accelerator’s cohort focused on On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing.

The Catalyst Accelerator, powered by the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), was developed to promote technology advancement for the warfighter and guide technology transfer for the government to industry and vice versa. The implications for in-space manufacturing are seemingly limitless. Therefore, the US Space Force, in conjunction with AFRL/RV, is seeking bold and disruptive technologies enabling on-orbit servicing and manufacturing.

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NASA Funds Research into a CubeSat Space Flight Test of a Neutrino Detector

Credit: Nickolas Solomey

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase III Award
Amount: $2 million

Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University
Wichita, Kan.

This is a proposal for the development of a Neutrino Detector for a Spacecraft that has a science mission to fly close to the Sun and study the nuclear furnace core and search for and study the neutrino gravitational lens at 20 to 50 AU of the 2nd brightest neutrino source in the sky – the galactic core – and along the way, search for direct interaction of dark matter. The neutrino intensity can dramatically change as the distance from the Sun squared and the solar neutrino flux (a background to dark matter) can be dramatically decreased going away from the Sun.

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Arianespace Offers a Ticket into Space to a Startup or Lab

  • Arianespace is launching a contest for satellite projects by space technology startups, labs or universities, in conjunction with the Viva Technology 2021 (VivaTech) innovation show.
  • The winner will get a free launch of their satellite on an Arianespace rideshare mission.
  • The main selection criterion will be the satellite’s mission, which should improve life on Earth or advance human knowledge.

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace, the European launch services company, is Arianespace, the European launch services company, is organizing a contest in conjunction with the VivaTech international innovation show. First prize will be a spot on a rideshare mission operated by Arianespace, to orbit the winning cubesat-sized satellite.

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NASA Funds Breakthrough Research into Extreme Solar Sailing for Interstellar Missions

Credit: Artur Davoyan

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Artur Davoyan
University of California, Los Angeles

As of date, deep space exploration has been hindered by the limitations of existing propulsion technologies. In contrast, solar sails appear to allow a low cost pathway to high speed and ubiquitous exploration of the outer solar system and interstellar space. By performing a slingshot maneuver in the vicinity of the sun, just ~2-5 solar radii distant from the sun, solar sails can propel light-weight CubeSat class spacecraft to near-relativistic speeds, >0.1% of the speed of light (>300 km/s or >60AU/year characteristic velocities). Such a technology would markedly transform space exploration, enabling fast missions to distant worlds, effectively turning our sun into a launch pad.

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NASA Announces 12th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

ELaNa 31 CubeSats, SPOC and Bobcat-1, deploy from the International Space Station on Nov. 5, 2020. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 small research satellites from nine states – including a first-time selected state, Nebraska – to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching between 2022 and 2025. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in October 2020.

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NASA’s BioSentinel Team Prepares CubeSat For Deep Space Flight

Austin Bowie inspects BioSentinel’s solar array. (Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart)

by Gianine Figliozzi
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — BioSentinel gets a step closer to flight. Having completed assembly and a battery of tests, the BioSentinel team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley is in the final stretch of preparations to ship the spacecraft to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch.

BioSentinel’s deep space flight will go past the Moon and into an orbit around the Sun. It’s one of 13 CubeSats that will launch aboard Artemis I, the first flight of the Artemis program’s Space Launch System. Above, inside an anechoic chamber at Ames, quality assurance engineer Austin Bowie inspects BioSentinel’s solar array after completion of a test to determine the effects of electromagnetic spacecraft emissions on spacecraft systems.

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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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Dawn Aerospace Launches Eighth In-Space Propulsion Unit

CHRISTCHURCH, NZ, 23 March 2021 (Dawn Aerospace PR) – Dawn Aerospace has announced another of the company’s CubeSat propulsion units, designed to manoeuvre small satellites in space, has been successfully launched.

The CubeSat propulsion unit flew on Hiber Three, an Internet-of-Things (IoT) satellite created by European company Hiber. The satellite was launched on 22 March from Baikonur on a Rosocosmos Soyuz-2 rocket.

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Innovative Propulsion System Gets Ready to Help Study Moon Orbit for Artemis

CAPSTONE’s propulsion system undergoes environmental testing. Environmental testing ensures that spacecraft systems can operate after being launched into space and in the space environment. (Credits: Stellar Exploration Inc.)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, CubeSat will launch to a never-before-used cislunar orbit near the Moon.

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Rocket Lab Launches 19th Electron Mission

Photon CAPSTONE spacecraft (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The successful rideshare mission brings the total count of satellites deployed by Rocket Lab to 104.

LONG BEACH, Calif.. 23 March 2022 (Rocket Lab PR)  – Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, has successfully launched its 19th Electron mission and deployed six spacecraft to orbit for a range of government and commercial customers. The mission, named ‘They Go Up So Fast,’ also deployed Rocket Lab’s latest in-house manufactured Photon spacecraft to build flight heritage ahead of the upcoming CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA.

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Soyuz Rocket Launches 38 Satellites into Orbit

Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifts off from Baikonur with 38 satellites. (Credit: Glavkosmos webcast)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — This morning, March 22, 2021, the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with the Fregat upper stage and 38 spacecraft on board was launched from the launch pad No. 31 of the Baikonur cosmodrome. 

After 1 hour and 3 minutes after the launch, the main payload was separated – the South Korean satellite for Earth remote sensing CAS500-1. At the moment, after processing telemetry information, the upper stage has successfully completed all stages of the program for placing the remaining 37 spacecraft into target orbits.

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Spaceflight Inc. Awarded NASA LLITED Launch Contract

Sherpa variants (Credit: Spaceflight Inc.)

SEATTLE (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight Inc., the global launch services provider, announced today it has been awarded a launch service contract for the integration and launch of NASA’s LLITED mission, two 1.5U spacecraft. Spaceflight Inc. will transport the NASA Low-Latitude Ionosphere/Thermosphere Enhancements in Density (LLITED) CubeSats to low Earth orbit on its Sherpa-LTC orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) at the end of the year aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. For this mission, the Sherpa-LTC, which uses chemical propulsion from Benchmark Space Systems, will make its initial spacecraft deployments and then ignite and maneuver to another orbital destination to deploy the NASA CubeSats.

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Soyuz-2 to Launch 38 Spacecraft from 18 Countries on March 20

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On March 20, a launch of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle with the Fregat upper stage is scheduled from the Baikonur Cosmodrome that will deliver 38 spacecraft (SC) from 18 countries into three sun-synchronous orbits:

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How to Explore Uranus Using CubeSats & Beamed Laser Power

Illustration of mothership and probe subsystems in the SCATTER concept. (Credits: Sigrid Close)

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

Exploring Uranus through SCATTER
Sigrid Close
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

SCATTER studies the capability for a parent spacecraft to transmit power and remotely manipulate a small probe spacecraft through a laser transmitter, entitled Sustained CubeSat Activity Through Transmitted Electromagnetic Radiation (SCATTER).

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