NASA Funds Six Small Spacecraft Technologies for Development

NASA has selected six small satellite technology projects for continued development under phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The selected proposals included: two projects focused on in-space propulsion; two systems for de-orbiting satellites; one project focused on radiation shielding for small spacecraft; and an improved turbo-pump for small satellite launch vehicles.

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NASA Cancels Troubled Sunjammer Solar Sail Project

Sunjammer solar sail
Sunjammer solar sail

Space News reports that NASA has canceled the Sunjammer solar sail mission:

Citing a lack of confidence in its contractor’s ability to deliver, NASA has abandoned plans to fly a solar-sail mission in 2015 after investing four years and more than $21 million on the project.

The Sunjammer mission, including the spacecraft and a deployable 1,200-square-meter solar sail, was being developed by L’Garde Inc. of Tustin, California, under a contract awarded in September 2011. The contract is slated to expire this coming December, and NASA has no plans to continue the work, according to an internal memo circulated at NASA headquarters here the week of Oct. 7.

“NASA is working with L’Garde to de-scope the existing contract to close out the documentation and deliver completed work to the Agency by the end of 2014,” the memo reads….

Nathan Barnes, president of L’Garde, said in an Oct. 17 phone interview that the company’s final delivery to NASA will be a design for a spacecraft module and solar sail that in theory could propel a small spacecraft by harnessing the energy of photon strikes. L’Garde will turn over its design in a Critical Design Audit scheduled for Nov. 7, he said.

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Sunjammer Mission Expands Education Effort

Sunjammer Mission Educatin Director Bryan Weber talks to students about the program. (Credit: Sunjammer Mission)
Sunjammer Mission Education Director Bryan Weber talks to students about the program. (Credit: Sunjammer Mission)

Tustin, Calif. (Sunjammer Mission PR) — Twelve students from Palm Middle School in Moreno Valley, Calif., joined the engineers and scientists at L’Garde, Inc. to present on solar sails and learn about NASA’s Sunjammer mission as part of its new Learning Center initiative, a program to engage students worldwide in the future of space travel.

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Sunjammer Completes Successful Deployment Test

Sunjammer deployment test.
Sunjammer deployment test.

Tustin, CA (Sunjammer Mission PR) — NASA officials, team partners, and local students were on hand to witness a key milestone for the Sunjammer Mission as it successfully deployed a quadrant of its solar sail – a critical design component that will eventually herald an era of propellantless spacecraft. Sunjammer will be the largest solar sail ever flown using photonic pressure (or sunlight) to maneuver in space.

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NASA Sunjammer Solar Sail Set for Launch Next Year

sunjammer
Sunjammer solar sail. (Credit: L’Garde)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The concept of a huge, ultra-thin sail unfurling in space, using the pressure of sunlight to provide propellant-free transport, hovering and exploration capabilities, may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but a NASA research team developing the Technology Demonstration Mission known as Sunjammer (a.k.a., In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail) intend to prove the viability and value of the technology in 2014.

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