Franco-American SuperCam on Way to Mars Aboard Perseverance Rover

A close-up of the head of Mars Perseverance’s remote sensing mast. The mast head contains the SuperCam instrument (its lens is in the large circular opening). In the gray boxes beneath mast head are the two Mastcam-Z imagers. On the exterior sides of those imagers are the rover’s two navigation cameras. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Thursday 30 July, the Mars 2020 mission successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop an Atlas V launcher. For the Perseverance rover carrying the French-U.S. SuperCam instrument, the long voyage to the red planet has begun. The mission is scheduled to land on Mars on 18 February 2021.

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NASA is Part of COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium

WASHINGTON (Trump Administration PR) — The White House announced the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide with access to the world’s most powerful high performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus.

“America is coming together to fight COVID-19, and that means unleashing the full capacity of our world-class supercomputers to rapidly advance scientific research for treatments and a vaccine. We thank the private sector and academic leaders who are joining the federal government as part of the Trump Administration’s whole-of-America response,” said Michael Kratsios, U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

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DARPA Launch Challenge Nears End with Modified Rules, One Competitor

The DARPA Launch Challenge is nearing its end with modified rules and only one of three finalists left standing to win $12 million in prize money.

Astra Space will attempt to conduct two launches within days of each other from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island. The launches will take place from different pads at the spaceport and place satellites into different sun-synchronous trajectories.

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Collaboratory Formed to Promote New Mexico’s Spaceport America During Closed Door Meeting

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Officials from New Mexico, the federal government and Virgin Galactic met last week behind closed doors for the state’s first Space Valley Summit to form a “collaboratory” to promote Spaceport America and the state’s aerospace economy.

The one group not invited: taxpayers who have forked over about $250 million to build the spaceport where Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant. As the Las Cruces Sun News dryly noted

Minutes after [Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham] exhorted the summit to “make sure every New Mexican … knows exactly what is happening here,” all reporters were asked to leave. 

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Derek Tournear Named Director of DOD’s Space Development Agency

Derek Tournear

WASHINGTON (DoD PR) — The Department of Defense (DoD) today announced the selection of Dr. Derek Tournear as the first permanent director of the Space Development Agency. 

Established in March, the Space Development Agency is responsible for unifying and integrating the Department’s space development efforts, monitoring the Department’s threat-driven future space architecture, and accelerating fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantages in space. To achieve this mission, SDA is defining the National Defense Space Architecture—an integrated, coherent architecture capable of addressing the eight critical, yet unmet, priorities of the DoD Space Vision.

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Demonstration Proves Nuclear Fission System Can Provide Space Exploration Power

Artist’s concept of new fission power system on the lunar surface. (Credits: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.

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NASA Experiments with Kilopower Fission Reactor

Kilopower reactor (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — When astronauts someday venture to the Moon, Mars and other destinations, one of the first and most important resources they will need is power. A reliable and efficient power system will be essential for day-to-day necessities, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home.

That’s why NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower, a new power source that could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions.

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Descartes Labs Raises $30 Million Series B Round

Descartes Labs has raised a Series B round of funding to develop its “data refinery” that pulls together satellite data into usable products.

Today, we’re excited to announce Descartes Labs $30M Series B round of financing led by March Capital, an LA-based venture capital fund. Our seed round was led by Crosslink Capital and our Series A was led by Cultivian Sandbox. Both Crosslink and Cultivian participated in the Series B along with a few other investors, including one of our customers, Cargill.

Less than three years ago, Descartes Labs was born as a spin-out from Los Alamos National Laboratory with the goal of using satellite imagery to model complex, global systems. In the course of tackling this audacious goal, we built what we believe to be the critical and missing component that unlocks the value of satellite imagery: a data refinery….

A data refinery is a system that pulls in raw data, cleans it up, fuses data from disparate sources, and adds tools on top of it for easier analysis.

One of the hallmarks of a data refinery is data cleanup. The team at Descartes Labs spends an inordinate amount of time on the remote sensing science that enables complex models to be accurate. We’ve been working on coregistration of pixels (making sure every pixel is in the proper place), global surface reflectance (correcting for the effects of the atmosphere) and advanced cloud detection (ensure models only incorporate the best pixels).

But, even more important than data cleanup is data fusion. Every data set has unique qualities: finer spatial resolution, pictures with greater frequency, seeing through clouds, and even listening to radio frequency signals or measuring heat. In working on customer problems, one of the things we’ve uncovered is that it’s rarely a single satellite or dataset alone that will solve the problem. Only by turning different datasets into a fused sensor, a super-sensor, are we able to solve the problem.

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Los Alamos Tests New Rocket Technology

Rocket flight test at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center launch sitE near Socorro, NM. (Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)
Rocket flight test at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center launch sitE near Socorro, NM. (Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Oct. 23, 2014 (LANL PR) — Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists recently flight tested a new rocket design that includes a high-energy fuel and a motor design that also delivers a high degree of safety.

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DOE, NASA Test Fission Reactor Prototype

John Bounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Advanced Nuclear Technology Division makes final adjustments on the DUFF experiment, a demonstration of a simple, robust fission reactor prototype that could be used as a power system for space travel. DUFF is the first demonstration of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity in the United States since 1965.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Nov. 26, 2012—A team of researchers, including engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has demonstrated a new concept for a reliable nuclear reactor that could be used on space flights.

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