Testing Super Foods for Space and More on Blue Origin Suborbital Flight

The microgravity LilyPond growth chamber uses capillary action to provide a stable water surface on which duckweed (and potentially other veggies, like microgreens) can grow. LED panels provide an efficient light source, and a salad spinner-like sieve helps separate the water from the plants when ready to harvest. (Credits: Space Lab Technologies)

Duckweed: it’s what’s for dinner

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

EDWARDS, Calif. — It’s no surprise to most of us that regularly eating fresh produce is a great way to support a healthy diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables benefit astronauts on the International Space Station, too – and soon the Moon and beyond. Scientists are investigating sustainable ways to grow highly nutritious foods in microgravity, to give space explorers a readily available supply of daily greens.

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NASA Tipping Point Partnership with Blue Origin to Test Precision Lunar Landing Technologies

by Clare Skelly
NASA Headquarters

WASHINGTON — From the rim of Shackleton crater to permanently shadowed regions on the Moon, a NASA-developed sensor suite could allow robotic and crewed missions to land precisely on the lunar surface within an area about half the size of a football field.

Technologies to enable exact and soft landings on the Moon and other worlds will fly on Blue Origin’s next New Shepard suborbital rocket launch, currently targeted for 11:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24. The company’s live launch webcast will start at 10:30 a.m. and air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Blue Origin Schedules Next New Shepard Launch for Thursday

The New Shepard (NS) booster lands after this vehicle’s fifth flight during NS-11 on May 2, 2019. (Credits: Blue Origin)

Next New Shepard Launch Will Test Key Technologies with NASA for Returning to the Moon 

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin’s next New Shepard mission (NS-13) is currently targeting liftoff for Thursday, September 24, at 10:00 am CDT / 15:00 UTC. Current weather conditions are favorable. This will be the 13th New Shepard mission and the 7th consecutive flight for this particular vehicle (a record), demonstrating its operational reusability. 

You can watch the launch live at BlueOrigin.com. The pre-show begins at T-30 minutes and will provide mission details, including a special update from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

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Lander Simulation Testing Helps Advance NASA Navigation Spinoff

Xodiac rocket tests technology to enable precision landing on the moon. (Credits: Lauren Hughes)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — A navigation doppler lidar (NDL) technology originally developed by NASA was demonstrated on a flight test on Sept. 10 with support from the Flight Opportunities program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

With roots at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the technology was licensed in 2016 by Psionic for both terrestrial and space applications, and both the company and Langley continue to evolve and advance the innovation for upcoming lunar missions.

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How do we get There from Here? With Suborbital Flight Testing

Image shows Trona Pinnacles near California’s NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center during Jan. 31 Super Blue Blood Moon. Trona Pinnacles is an unusual geological feature of the state’s Desert National Conservation. (Credits: NASA / Lauren Hughes)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Standing here on Earth, on a clear night we can look to the sky and see the destination for NASA’s Artemis program: the Moon. Seemingly close, but still quite far. Yet the space between us and that source of fascination is ripe with possibilities for helping mature the technologies we will need to get there, stay there, and venture beyond to Mars.

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JPL’s Terrain-Relative Navigation Technology Set to Launch on Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

NASA Press Release

The Technology

Terrain-Relative Navigation (TRN) technology from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) enables pin-point landing and large hazard avoidance for crewed and robotic lander vehicles. A camera captures images during vehicle descent, which are subsequently matched to orbital maps stored onboard the lander. Matching images to multiple known terrain features enables automated determination of the lander’s position relative to the terrain.

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NASA to Pay to Fly Employees on New Shepard, SpaceShipTwo

A view from inside the cockpit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — For the first time in the agency’s history, NASA has initiated a new effort to enable NASA personnel to fly on future commercial suborbital spaceflights.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has successfully worked with emerging commercial suborbital transportation systems to fly research payloads to space for short periods of microgravity time. In addition, the Flight Opportunities program recently released a call that allows those non-NASA researchers to propose accompanying their payloads in suborbital space.

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Fiber Optic Sensing System Readied for Space Use

Allen Parker, Fiber Optic Sensing System (FOSS) senior research engineer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, and Jonathan Lopez show how FOSS in aeronautics is used on a wing to determine its shape and stress on its structure. (Credits: NASA/Ken Ulbrich)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will soon test an enhanced system that can take thousands of measurements along a fiber optic wire about the thickness of a human hair for use in space. In the future the technology could monitor spacecraft systems during missions to the Moon and landings on Mars.

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NASA Technology Designed to Turn Space Trash into Treasure

Annie Meier, left, and Jamie Toro assemble the flight hardware for the Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When you think about what astronauts do in space, you probably don’t picture them taking out the trash.

As NASA prepares to return astronauts to the Moon and then venture to Mars, a lot of planning goes into how to keep crews safe and healthy and enable them to do as much science as possible. One of the challenges is how to handle trash. The Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) project, is an avenue to evolve new and innovative technology for dealing with garbage in space.

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NASA Flight Opportunities Program Seeks Additional Flight Providers

Northwestern University researchers gathered data for their foam experiment during parabolic flight. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center has released a solicitation for additional providers to its Flight and Payload Integration Services contract for the Flight Opportunities program. This contract allows companies to fly research and development technology payloads on suborbital vehicles that provide exposure to space and space-relevant environments.

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NASA to Demonstrate First-of-its-Kind In-Space Manufacturing Technique for Telescope Mirrors

A Goddard engineer won a flight opportunity to show that an advanced thin-film manufacturing technique called atomic layer deposition, or ALD, could apply wavelength-specific reflective coatings on a sample — the first time ALD has been tried in space. (Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

By ​Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Large telescopes that could be used for detecting and analyzing Earth-like planets in orbit around other stars or for peering back in time to observe the very early universe may not necessarily have to be built and assembled on the ground. In the future, NASA could construct them in space.

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Flight Opportunities Tech Flights Solicitation Deadlines Extended

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Flight Opportunities program has been closely monitoring the situation with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In response to the evolving situation and impact to businesses and research institutions, we’ve extended the deadlines for NASA’s Tech Flights solicitation.  New deadlines are as follows.

  • Mandatory abstracts due:April 17 at 5 p.m. EDT
  • Full proposals due:May 22 at 5 p.m. EDT

Interested proposers must register with NSPIRES before your abstract can be submitted. NSPIRES is also where your abstract and all other proposal materials must be submitted online.

How To Submit Your Abstract

Your abstract should be completed and submitted using the Notice of Intent (NOI) option in NSPIRES:

1. Log into NSPIRES

2. Navigate to the Tech Flights solicitation page

3. Click on the “Create” button next to the Mandatory Abstracts due date

4. Follow the prompts to complete the requested NSPIRES cover page information and provide the abstract information as the proposal summary. Attachments will not be accepted. 

A Case for Durational Research: Space Plants Co-Investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul

Robert Ferl_and Anna-Lisa Paul (Credit: NASA)

NASA Flight Opportunities Program Q&A

University of Florida-Gainesville co-investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul are no strangers to suborbital research. They’ve been conducting plant research in microgravity since the late 1990s—first on the Space Shuttle and then on the International Space Station (ISS) and parabolic flights, many of which have been facilitated by Flight Opportunities.

More recently, the pair have begun flying their “space plants” (Arabidopsis thaliana) on rockets, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. We spoke with Ferl and Paul about how they have approached their long-duration research to lead to successful, iterative investigations on multiple flights. 

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NASA Seeks Input on New ‘Tech Flights’ Solicitation that Allows for Human-tended Suborbital Payloads

New Shepard capsule descending under parachutes. (Credit: Blue Origin)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Suborbital spaceflight is valuable for testing and fine-tuning innovative technologies for future missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has tested more than 150 different space technologies in relevant environments aboard suborbital rockets, rocket-powered spacecraft, high-altitude balloons and aircraft with reduced-gravity flight profiles.

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