NASA Seeks Student Tech Ideas for Suborbital Launch

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is calling on all sixth through 12th-grade educators and students to submit experiments for possible suborbital flights as a way of gaining firsthand experience with the design and testing process used by NASA researchers.

The NASA TechRise Student Challenge invites students to design, build, and launch experiments on suborbital rockets and high-altitude balloons. The challenge aims to inspire a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, space exploration, coding, electronics, and the value of test data.

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Blue Origin New Shepard’s 17th Flight to Space Set for August 25

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard’s next mission will fly a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration a second time on the exterior of the booster, 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, 11 of which are NASA-supported, and an art installation on the exterior of the capsule. Liftoff is currently targeted for Wednesday, August 25, at 8:35 am CDT/13:35 UTC from Launch Site One in West Texas. Live launch coverage begins at T-30 minutes on BlueOrigin.com.

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SpaceWorks to Conduct High-Altitude Drop Test of Space Station Small Payload Return Capsule

Credit: SpaceWorks

ATLANTA, July 22, 2021 (SpaceWorks PR) – SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc (SEI), along with Earthly Dynamics LLC (EDC) and Aerial Delivery Solutions LLC (ADS), will attempt to autonomously land SEI’s RED-4U Capsule within specified range of a target after release from an altitude of 100k ft. This test will be the latest in a steady progression to advance SpaceWorks’ product line of Reentry Device (RED) capsules, including the RED-25 and RED-4U, that provide on-demand downmass capabilities from Earth orbit. The mission, designated Suborbital Test Vehicle 2 (STV-2), is funded through NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

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NASA-Supported Plant Experiment Flew to Suborbital Space with Virgin Galactic

Three Kennedy Space Center Fixation Tubes (KFTs), like the one shown here, contained Arabidopsis thaliana plants during the crewed Unity 22 flight to space. Virgin Galactic’s Sirisha Bandla activated the tubes to release a preservative that captured the plants’ biochemistry at specific points during transitions into and out of microgravity, and co-investigators from the University of Florida will conduct gene expression analyses on the plants in the weeks following the flight. (Credits: University of Florida)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — On Sunday, July 11, Virgin Galactic conducted its first fully crewed spaceflight and the crew had NASA-supported technology with them. 

Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations at Virgin Galactic, operated the experiment on the “Unity 22” flight on behalf of co-investigators Dr. Robert Ferl and Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Bandla activated three plant-filled tubes to release a preservative at critical data-collection stages during the flight: at 1 before the rocket boost, just before entering microgravity, and after the conclusion of microgravity.

While the university researchers have flown similar experiments  supported by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program on suborbital flights, data collected during the Unity 22 flight will provide a first look at human-tended payloads on SpaceShipTwo.

Attention Researchers: Space, Suborbital, and Climate-Focused Technologies Wanted

A research team from the University of Iowa tested their CubeSat Articulated Boom Option Optimization in Microgravity (CABOOM) experiment in spring 2021 on Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE parabolic aircraft with funding from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. (Credits: Zero Gravity Corporation/Steve Boxall)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s 2021 Tech Flights solicitation is now open! Tech Flights offers funding opportunities to researchers from U.S.-based industry, academia, and private research institutions to rapidly test technologies on commercial suborbital vehicles with awards up to $650,000 per awardee.

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New NASA Challenge to Fund and Test Small Spacecraft Technologies

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting commercial businesses, academic institutions, entrepreneurs, and other innovators to compete in a new challenge that will provide payload development funding and access to suborbital flight testing for innovative space technologies. The NASA TechLeap Prize aims to rapidly advance technologies for space exploration and Earth observation.

The current phase of NASA TechLeap Prize, Autonomous Observation Challenge No. 1, is looking for SmallSat observation technologies that can autonomously detect, locate, track, and collect data on transient events – both on Earth and beyond. These technologies could advance optical communications networks, aiding lunar exploration in detecting, tracking, and establishing line-of-sight communications with any lander, rover, or object on the Moon.

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Big Goals, Small Package: Enabling Compact Deliveries from Space

Near Space Corporation launch team completing pre-flight rigging and checks at the Madras Municipal Airport in Madras, Oregon. (Credits: Near Space Corporation)

LEXINGTON, Ken. (NASA PR) — Researchers from the University of Kentucky in Lexington have developed a delivery system designed to carry research samples and other small payloads from astronauts on the International Space Station back to Earth. Such delivery systems could aid NASA’s efforts to gather data and test instruments in support of the agency’s goal of returning to the Moon.

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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, Blue Origin Partner to Bring Lunar Gravity Conditions Closer to Earth

New Shepard (NS-14) lifts off from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas. (Credits: Blue Origin)

By Danielle McCulloch and Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

EDWARDS, Calif. — At one-sixth that of Earth, the unique gravity of the lunar surface is one of the many variable conditions that technologies bound for the Moon will need to perform well in. NASA will soon have more options for testing those innovations in lunar gravity thanks to a collaboration with Blue Origin to bring new testing capabilities to the company’s New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket system.

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Tricky Terrain: Helping to Assure a Safe Rover Landing

Mars 2020’s Perseverance rover is equipped with a lander vision system based on terrain-relative navigation, an advanced method of autonomously comparing real-time images to preloaded maps that determine the rover’s position relative to hazards in the landing area. Divert guidance algorithms and software can then direct the rover around those obstacles if needed. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

How two new technologies will help Perseverance, NASA’s most sophisticated rover yet, touch down onto the surface of Mars this month.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After a nearly seven-month journey to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to land at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater Feb. 18, 2021, a rugged expanse chosen for its scientific research and sample collection possibilities.

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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 Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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Suborbital Space Again, NASA-supported Tech on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

Scientific payloads in SpaceShipTwo cabin (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities program

EDWARDS, Calif. — Successful space and suborbital technology developments require ingenuity, understanding of mission and science needs, and testing. For many technologies matured with support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, the ability to undergo testing multiple times – and often on different types of commercial flight vehicles – adds the necessary rigor and refinement to advance these innovations.

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Window for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Suborbital Flight Opens Dec. 11

SpaceShipTwo fires its engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE), today announced its new flight window since it paused the spaceflight preparations in response to state guidelines from the New Mexico Department of Health to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The new flight window will open on December 11, pending good weather conditions and technical readiness. This flight expects to fulfill a number of objectives, including testing elements of the customer cabin as well as assessing the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during boost. The flight will also carry payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.

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NASA Awards Flight & Integration Services Contracts to Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems

Scientific payloads in SpaceShipTwo cabin (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

EDWARDS, Calif., November 30, 2020 (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Virgin Galactic LLC of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Masten Space Systems Inc. of Mojave, California, to provide flight and integration services for payloads chosen by the agency’s Flight Opportunities program, which is managed at the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The two companies join four others to provide service under commercial indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts with NASA.

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