Advanced Electric Propulsion Thruster for NASA’s Gateway Achieves Full Power Demonstration

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 08, 2019 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA recently demonstrated an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster at full power for the first time, achieving an important program milestone. Aerojet Rocketdyne-developed AEPS thrusters are slated to be used on the Power and Propulsion Element of NASA’s Gateway, the agency’s orbiting lunar outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space.

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Japan to Develop Gateway Habitat, Resupply Vehicles

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

The Ashahi Shimbun reports that Japan has formally signed on to NASA’s lunar Gateway project with specific elements to develop.

Japan’s space agency plans to take charge of development of a habitation module and an unmanned logistics vehicle for the Gateway cislunar space station as part of an international project….

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) hopes to showcase the country’s excellence in technologies with an eye toward having a Japanese astronaut included in the lunar mission.

JAXA plans to work with its European counterpart to develop the habitation module by drawing on technologies it cultivated during the development and operation of the International Space Station’s Kibo experiment module, including one for recycling air and water aboard a spacecraft.

It also plans to take charge of resupplying goods using the HTV-X, a spacecraft under development as a successor to the Kounotori (HTV) unmanned transfer vehicle, seven units of which have been launched successfully.

Controlling Robots Across Oceans and Space

A prototype rover is commanded to drive in and sample a quarry resembling a lunar site. The image shows a virtual reality impression of the test. The rover is a key element of the ESA-led Heracles mission in cooperation with the Canadian Space Agency CSA and Japan’s JAXA space agency. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

PARIS (ESA PR) — This Autumn is seeing a number of experiments controlling robots from afar, with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano directing a robot in The Netherlands and engineers in Germany controlling a rover in Canada.

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Senate Appropriators Boost NASA’s Budget by $1.25 Billion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) – The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, which makes investments to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.

The $70.833 billion measure is $6.715 billion above the FY2019 enacted level and funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and related agencies. 

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Backing Australian Business, Jobs for the US Moon to Mars Mission

NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, second from left, shakes hands with Dr. Megan Clark, Head of the Australian Space Agency, second from right, as they pose for a photo with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, left, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, following the signing of a letter of intent between NASA and the Australian Space Agency, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

CANBERRA (Karen Andrews PR) — The Morrison Government is positioning Australia for lift-off with a $150 million [US $101.5 million] investment into our local businesses and new technologies that will support NASA on its inspirational campaign to return to the Moon and travel to Mars.

The five year investment will see the Australian Space Agency foster the new ideas and hi-tech skilled jobs that will make Australian businesses a partner of choice to fit out NASA missions.

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Australia to Support NASA’s Plan to Return to the Moon and on to Mars

WASHINGTON (Australian Space Agency PR) — The Australian Space Agency and NASA have launched a new partnership on future space cooperation. This includes the opportunity for Australia to join the United States’ Moon to Mars exploration approach, including NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

The Australian Government is investing $150 million [US $101.5 million] over five years for Australian businesses and researchers to join NASA’s endeavour, and deliver key capabilities for the mission. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the investment would benefit all Australians with more jobs, new technologies and more investment in businesses that would grow the economy.

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ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Endorses Lunar Gateway

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Joint Statement

The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) met on August 6, 2019. Its members[1] acknowledged the recent 50th anniversary of the first human steps on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission, praised the ongoing important work of the ISS, and discussed opportunities for the future of human exploration on and around the Moon and forward to Mars.  

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NASA’s Uncertain Path Back to the Moon

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Nothing illustrates the changes wrought by the Trump Administration’s decision to move up the deadline for returning astronauts to the moon from 2028 to 2024 than a pair of contracts NASA awarded for the Lunar Gateway that will serve as a staging point for the landing.

In May, Maxar won a competitively awarded $375 million contract to build the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). NASA released a source selection statement that detailed how officials evaluated the five bids they received and why Maxar’s proposal was superior to the others.

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Robert Bigelow Disappointed with NASA Decision on Lunar Gateway Hab Module

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and President and founder of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert T. Bigelow, announce a planned addition to the International Space Station that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology during a press conference held at Bigelow Aerospace on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 in Las Vegas. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Commentary by Robert Bigelow

We have received many inquires about what is going on with the Gateway program. As many of you have already read it appears that negotiations are already underway between NASA and Northrop Grumman for a modified “mini hab” that is going to be docked to the PPE. What we think we know is that NASA wants to use a modified version of the Cygnus cargo vehicle, which is built by Thales Alenia. The current use of the Cygnus is to haul supplies to the ISS and dispose of trash by burning up in the atmosphere.

What has also been discussed is that the Cygnus would be converted to a structure with multiple docking ports. Our understanding at this time is that this structure would internally not have life support systems that without being attached to another structure wouldn’t keep people alive. We agree that a multi-port docking node is a valuable asset.

We have also been told by NASA that there is some future possibility to expect the emergence of a domestic habitat someday. As always, that is precisely what Bigelow is interested in building. In fact, our habitat is actually a standalone space station. We think the B330 standalone space station would make an excellent low altitude lunar depot.

Someday if NASA were to give us the green light, we would be very excited to be part of the Gateway program, a future low-level lunar depot program or to even land a lunar base on the moon.

Robert T. Bigelow
President and Founder

NASA Awards Contract to Northrop Grumman for Lunar Gateway Habitat Module

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS) a contract of an undisclosed amount to modify its Cygnus space station resupply vehicle to serve as the minimal habitation module (MHM) for the Lunar Gateway.

Northrop Grumman won out over four competitors that had won contracts to develop mockup habitats under the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) program.

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NASA Seeks Input from U.S. Industry on Artemis Lander Development

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In a major step toward returning astronauts to the surface of the Moon under the Artemis lunar exploration program and preparing for future missions to Mars, NASA is seeking comments from American companies interested in providing an integrated human landing system to put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

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Third European Service Module for Orion to Ferry Astronauts to Moon Landing

Orion and European Service Module orbiting the Moon. (Credit NASA/ESA/ATG Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — NASA and ESA have a long term plan for Europe to deliver the European Service Modules for Orion. With NASA’s announcement to bring humans back to the lunar surface before the end of 2024, it was also decided that the third ESA-provided European Service Module will contribute to this mission.

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Angelic Halo Orbit Chosen for Lunar Gateway

PARIS (ESA PR) — Mission planners at NASA and ESA’s Operations Centre (ESOC) have spent months debating the pros and cons of different orbits, and have now decided on the path of the lunar Gateway.

Like the International Space Station, the Gateway will be a permanent and changeable human outpost. Instead of circling our planet however, it will orbit the Moon, acting as a base for astronauts and robots exploring the lunar surface.

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Paragon Selected for 3 NASA Small Business Awards

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA selected three projects from Paragon Space Development Corporation of Tucson, Arizona for funding in its recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards. Each contract is worth a maximum of $125,000 over six months.

Paragon’s Separation Technology of On-Orbit Liquid and Excrement (STOOLE) project is pretty much what it sounds like: an improved system for recycling human waste in space.

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