TUCSON, Ariz. — A team of scientists led by Christopher Hamilton of the University of Arizona is gearing up to send drones on exploration missions across a vast lava field in Iceland to test a next-generation Mars exploration concept.
Hamilton is the principal investigator on a project that has been awarded a $3.1 million NASA grant to develop a new concept combining rovers and unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as drones, to explore regions of the red planet that have been previously inaccessible. These new Rover–Aerial Vehicle Exploration Networks will be tested in Iceland to explore volcanic terrains similar to those observed on Mars.
by Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Flight Opportunities program
MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Think your home could use a bit of a sweep? Fret not – your hardwoods are nothing compared to the Moon. Its surface is so notoriously dusty that the desert here on Earth is the environment of choice for testing dust-related technologies bound for lunar missions.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded Intuitive Machines of Houston approximately $47 million to deliver a drill combined with a mass spectrometer to the Moon by December 2022 under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The delivery of the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment known as PRIME-1 will help NASA search for ice at the Moon’s South Pole and, for the first time, harvest ice from below the surface.
by Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program
NASA has selected 31 promising space technologies for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems. By exposing the innovations to many of the rigors and characteristics of spaceflight – without the expense of an orbital flight – NASA can help ensure these technologies work correctly when they are deployed on future missions.
“By supporting suborbital flight testing, our Flight Opportunities program aims to help ensure that these innovations are well-positioned to address challenges and enable NASA to achieve its lunar ambitions, while also contributing to a growing and vibrant commercial space industry,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Flight Opportunities program is part of STMD.
HILO, Hawaii (PISCES PR) — The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) completed a large batch of sintered basalt tiles last month for testing by NASA’s Swamp Works at Kennedy Space Center. Thirty tiles will be assessed as a launch and landing pad material. The testing will be conducted by Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif.
Earlier this year, Masten tested a 12” x 12” x 1” tile made by PISCES, subjecting it to a two-second rocket burst fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid methane. The results of the test caught the interest of Swamp Works, who requested the latest batch of tiles.
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.
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Moon dust is a formidable adversary – the grains are as fine as powder and as sharp as tiny shards of glass. During the Apollo 17 mission to the Moon, the astronauts lamented how the dust found its way into everything, coating their spacesuits and jamming the shoulder joints, getting inside their lunar habitat and even causing symptoms of a temporary “lunar dust hay fever” in astronaut Harrison Schmitt. Those symptoms fortunately went away quickly – but the problem of Moon dust remains for future missions.
CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — An engineering model of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is tested in the Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
About the size of a golf cart, VIPER is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s South Pole looking for water ice in the region and for the first time ever, actually sample the water ice at the same pole where the first woman and next man will land in 2024 under the Artemis program.
The large, adjustable soil bin contains lunar simulant and allows engineers to mimic the Moon’s terrain. Engineers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the rover was designed and built, joined the Glenn team to complete the tests.
Test data will be used to evaluate the traction of the vehicle and wheels, determine the power requirements for a variety of maneuvers and compare methods of traversing steep slopes. Respirators are worn by researchers to protect against the airborne silica that is present during testing.
VIPER is a collaboration within and beyond the agency. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley is managing the project, leading the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations and software.
The rover’s instruments are provided by Ames, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and commercial partner, Honeybee Robotics in California. The spacecraft, lander and launch vehicle that will deliver VIPER to the surface of the Moon will be provided through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, delivering science and technology payloads to and near the Moon.
By using steam rather than fuel, the microwave-size spacecraft prototype can theoretically explore celestial objects “forever.”
By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala University of Central Florida News
Using steam to propel a spacecraft from asteroid to asteroid is now possible, thanks to a collaboration between a private space company and the University of Central Florida.
UCF planetary research scientist Phil Metzger worked with Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, which developed the World Is Not Enough spacecraft prototype that extracts water from asteroids or other planetary bodies to generate steam and propel itself to its next mining target.
The Engineering team at OrbitBeyond is led by Jeff Patton, former Development Program Systems Engineering and Integration Manager at ULA.
OrbitBeyond has engaged TeamIndus for Lander engineering, Honeybee Robotics for payload integration, Advanced Space for mission management, Ceres Robotics for surface operations, and Apollo Fusion for future programs.
OrbitBeyond. Inc, is a cislunar transportation company committed to providing global customers with reliable, repeated and affordable services to the lunar surface. We are developing delivery platforms at a cost and scale that will enable rapid and sustained space exploration.
Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California, flight tested its pneumatic sampler collection system, PlanetVac, on Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac rocket on May 24, launching from Mojave, California, and landing to collect a sample of more than 320 grams of top soil from the surface of the desert floor.
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 10 companies to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect, process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA placed a special emphasis on encouraging the responders to find new applications for existing, terrestrial capabilities that could result in future space exploration capabilities at lower costs.
The practice of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) could increase safety and affordability of future human spaceflight missions by limiting the need to launch supplies, such as oxygen and water from Earth. NASA issued Appendix D of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement on Dec. 4, 2017. With it, the agency sought three areas of work focused on producing propellant and other exploration mission consumables using water from extraterrestrial soils and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere.
The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on the exploration of moons and asteroids.
Shapeshifters from Science Fiction to Science Fact: Globetrotting from Titan’s Rugged Cliffs to its Deep Seafloors Aliakbar Aghamohammadi NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
SPARROW: Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds Gareth Meirion-Griffith NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration of Asteroids (MIDEA) Sigrid Close Stanford University
Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below. (more…)
NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.
From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.
SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)