Futuristic Space Technology Concepts Selected by NASA for Initial Study

This illustration shows a conceptual lunar railway system called FLOAT (Flexible Levitation on a Track) that has been selected for an early-stage feasibility study within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Four advanced space concepts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been selected to receive grants for further research and development.

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Lightweight Crane Technology Could Find a Home on the Moon

LSMS is a lightweight, scalable, and versatile long-reach manipulator that combines high structural efficiency and robustness with the enhanced dexterity and multi-functionality of a deployable robotic arm. (Credits: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Like a Swiss Army knife, there’s not a whole lot NASA’s Lightweight Surface Manipulation System (LSMS) technology can’t do.

This lightweight robotic crane is comprised of a structurally efficient truss frame with cable actuation, and mimics the movement of a human arm, but with a much longer reach. It is scalable to fit any sized lander, vehicle, or surface application and can use a toolbox of quick-interchange end-effectors, or tools, that allow it to act as a hoist, forklift, regolith scoop, welder, and more.

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General Atomics Awards Contract to Firefly Aerospace to Launch NASA’s Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols Mission

Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite carrying NASA’s Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) instrument. (Credit: General Atomics)

SAN DIEGO, February 18, 2021 (GA-EMS PR) — General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that it has awarded a contract to Firefly Aerospace Inc. to launch a GA-EMS developed Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite carrying NASA’s Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) instrument. The launch vehicle delivering the satellite to space will be Firefly’s Alpha rocket and is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2022.

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Sensors Prepare to Collect Data as Perseverance Enters Mars’ Atmosphere

MEDLI2 sensors, electronics, and harnessing installed on the inner surface of the Mars 2020 heat shield while it is mounted on the heat shield turn-over fixture. The MEDLI2 harness has a circuitous routing to avoid the wheels of the Perseverance rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Nearly six and a half months and 300 million miles since launch, NASA’s Perseverance rover will land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021, to begin its robotic exploration of the Red Planet. But before Perseverance touches down on the surface of Mars, it has to achieve a successful entry, descent, and landing (EDL).

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Tiny NASA Cameras to Watch Commercial Lander form Craters on Moon

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — This little black camera looks like something out of a spy movie — the kind of device one might use to snap discrete photos of confidential documents.

It’s about half the size of a computer mouse.

But the only spying this camera — four of them, actually — will do is for NASA researchers wondering what happens under a spacecraft as it lands on the Moon.

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Audit Criticizes NASA’s Management of Hazardous Materials

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA needs to do a better job of storing and managing hazardous materials at its field centers to prevent accident and injuries, according to a new audit by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

“We found that hazardous materials are not managed uniformly across the Agency, the Centers we visited did not consistently implement adequate controls, and employees and contractors at times circumvented existing controls to acquire hazardous materials,” the audit said.

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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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NASA Armstrong Collaborates with Rocket Lab, Sensuron to Mature Fiber Optic Technology

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A system originally developed to collect distributed strain and temperature measurements on aircraft has been enhanced to support future NASA space missions. Two companies were selected by NASA through the 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity to further develop and commercialize the technology. 

The Fiber Optic Sensing System (FOSS) developed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, uses sensors that are the size of a human hair to monitor vehicle structural and thermal response. Much of the technology effort to advance FOSS for use on airplanes and rockets was funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Center Innovation Fund.

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NASA Announces Moon Supply Unloading System Design Winners

The first prize selection, NASAGANTRY2020 ALLGO CS used a tripod structure on wheels. (Credits: GrabCad/Christie S.)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five 3D model submissions to the Advanced Lightweight Lunar Gantry for Operations (ALLGO) challenge. The ideas offer potential ways to unload supplies on the Moon, something NASA is considering as it works toward sustainable exploration under the Artemis program.

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NASA to Work with Industry to Mature Green Propulsion, Advanced Materials, Space Robots and More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 17 U.S. companies for 20 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond through the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO).

The selected proposals are relevant to technology topic areas outlined in the solicitation, including cryogenic fluid management and propulsion; advanced propulsion; sustainable power; in-situ propellant and consumable production; intelligent/resilient systems and advanced robotics; advanced materials and structures; entry, descent, and landing; and small spacecraft technologies.

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New NASA Partnerships to Mature Commercial Space Technologies, Capabilities

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected  17 U.S. companies for 20 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond. The NASA and industry teams will design a 3D printing system for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, test a simple method for removing dust from planetary solar arrays, mature a first-stage rocket recovery system for a small satellite launch provider, and more.

Various NASA centers will work with the companies, ranging from small businesses and large aerospace companies to a previous NASA challenge winner, to provide expertise and access to the agency’s unique testing facilities. The partnerships aim to accelerate the development of emerging space capabilities.

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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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NASA Marks Continued Progress on X-59

NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or QueSST, will fly over communities in the United States to demonstrate quiet supersonic. (Credits: Lockheed Martin)

by Matt Kamlet
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

PALMDALE, Calif. — Assembly of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft is continuing during 2020 and making good progress, despite challenges such as those imposed by the unexpected global pandemic.

NASA plans as early as 2024 to fly the X-59 over select communities on missions to gather information about how the public will react to the level of quiet supersonic flight noise the aircraft is designed to produce – if they hear anything at all.

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Technology Developed for Lunar Landings Makes Self-Driving Cars Safer on Earth

Electro-Optics Lead Aram Gragossian (left) and Integration Lead Jake Follman configure the electronics within an NDL engineering test unit for remote software testing while in a lab on center at NASA’s Langley Research Center. (Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA is advancing a laser-based technology designed to help spacecraft land on a proverbial dime for missions to the Moon and Mars. The technology will undergo testing on upcoming suborbital rocket launches with Blue Origin on its New Shepard rocket and ride to the Moon on several commercial landers as part of the Artemis program. Simultaneously, companies are using the technology to help self-driving cars navigate rush hour traffic on this planet.

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NASA Technology Enables Precision Landing Without a Pilot

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

by Margo Pierce
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate

Some of the most interesting places to study in our solar system are found in the most inhospitable environments – but landing on any planetary body is already a risky proposition. With NASA planning robotic and crewed missions to new locations on the Moon and Mars, avoiding landing on the steep slope of a crater or in a boulder field is critical to helping ensure a safe touch down for surface exploration of other worlds. In order to improve landing safety, NASA is developing and testing a suite of precise landing and hazard-avoidance technologies.

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