AI, Cancer Therapy & Chemical Gardens Aboard SpaceX Dragon ISS Resupply Mission

Mobile Companion artificial intelligence robot inside ISS mockup. (Credit: NASA)

A new batch of science is headed to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon on the company’s 15th mission for commercial resupply services. The spacecraft will deliver science that studies the use of artificial intelligence, plant water use all over the planet, gut health in space, more efficient drug development and the formation of inorganic structures without the influence of Earth’s gravity.

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Parabolic Flights Advance Space Technologies

G-FORCE-ONE
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A recent series of parabolic flights onboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft demonstrated a variety of technologies selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. The flight campaign consisted of two successful flights on March 21, 2018, lifting off from Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida.

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Made in Space Eyes Glass Alloy Production & Modular Science Platforms in Orbit

Made in Space (MIS) will develop systems for the production of glass alloys in microgravity, the assembly and refurbishment of modular platforms in orbit, and the in-space manufacturing of large structures for infrared space interferometry missions with the help of NASA funding.

The three projects were among five Made in Space proposals that NASA selected for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program. Each contract is worth up to $125,000 over 13 months.

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Spinning Science: Multi-use Variable-g Platform Arrives at the Space Station

Seen with its door removed, revealing two carousels, the Techshot Multi-use Variable-g Platform (MVP) is a privately owned and operated research system for the International Space Station. (Credit: Techshot)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Delivered to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX CRS-14, the Multi-use Variable-g Platform (MVP) is a new commercial testbed for centrifuge-based science aboard the orbiting laboratory. Because gravity determines so much of a live organism’s behavior and growth, centrifuge-based experiments have long been a part of biological investigations in space. While the pull of Earth’s gravity makes this type of investigation difficult at home, the space station’s microgravity environment makes it the perfect place for fractional gravity experimentation. MVP greatly expands that testing capability for the space station.

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NASA Seeks Research Proposals for Space Technologies to Flight Test

Carthage College researchers testing their propellant mass gauging experiment in zero gravity. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Flight Opportunities program is seeking research proposals for promising space technologies that benefit future NASA space exploration missions. Selected technologies from industry and academia will be flight-tested on commercial suborbital launch vehicles, reduced gravity aircraft and high-altitude balloon flights.

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NanoRacks Awarded GSA Schedule Contract For In-Space Services

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NanoRacks PR) – NanoRacks is pleased to announce that the Company has been awarded a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Professional Services Schedule (00CORP). As a services provider under this contract, NanoRacks is able to provide its customer-driven in-space services to federal agencies at a pre-negotiated fixed rate.

NanoRacks, the commercial market leader in low-Earth orbit, is offering its flagship services within the GSA schedule, centered around microgravity research and International Space Station and other launch vehicle-based CubeSat and MicroSat deployment opportunities.

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NASA Selects Variable Gravity ISS Centrifuge for Funding

NASA has selected a proposal from Techshot to develop a variable gravity rodent centrifuge for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The two-year Phase II contract is worth up to $750,000.

“The counter-balanced centrifuge is designed to provide a facility to allow rats and mice to live and be observed in simulated gravity between 0-1 g for up to 90 days,” the company said in its proposal. “This streamlined design is more cost efficient and provides up to five cages. Each cage can accommodate at least six 30 gram mice, three 200 gram rats, or two 400 gram rats per cage.”

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ESA & Airbus Sign Bartolomeo Commercial Payload Platform Partnership Agreement

bartolomeo platform on ISS. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (Airbus PR) – The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus have signed a commercial partnership (PPP) agreement for construction, launch and operations of the commercial “Bartolomeo” platform. Airbus’ new external payload hosting facility will be attached to the European Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS) from mid-2019.

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CASIS & Alpha Space Announce Materials Science and Technology Research Funding Opportunity

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (February 1, 2018) The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, LLC (Alpha Space) are partnering to provide the materials research and technology sectors with an opportunity to access and utilize the Alpha Space Materials International Space Station Flight Facility (MISSE).

This Request for Proposals (RFP) will solicit commercial entities, governmental agencies, and academic investigators for flight research projects in the field of materials and technology testing in the extreme environmental conditions of space. Selected project(s) will work with Alpha Space to develop concepts into payloads that will leverage the MISSE platform on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The MISSE Flight Facility is slated to launch to the space station in Spring of 2018.

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Science & Technology Experiments Returned on Dragon

Dragon capsule after recovery. (Credit: SpaceX)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, Jan. 13, west of Baja California, with approximately 4,100 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, California, where some cargo will be removed immediately for return to NASA. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for final processing.

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NASA Audit Says CASIS Under Performing on Key ISS Research Tasks

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The organization NASA hired to manage research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has seriously under performed on the majority of its tasks, a new  audit from space agency’s Inspector General finds.

“Of the nine performance categories we assessed, CASIS met expectations in only two: research pathways and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education,” the report states. “For example, the STEM education performance category required CASIS to increase interest in using the National Lab as a platform for STEM education. CASIS met expectations for this performance category by funding 14 STEM education programs in FY 2016 with more than 325,000 participants.”

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NanoRacks Begins Third ISS External Platform Mission

External platform on ISS (Credit: NanoRacks)

HOUSTON, January 10, 2018 (NanoRacks PR) — This morning, the NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) was reinstalled on the outside of the International Space Station, initiating the commercial platform’s third customer mission. The External Platform, self-funded by NanoRacks, is the leading commercial gateway to the extreme environment of space. Customers can experience the microgravity, atomic oxygen, radiation and other harsh elements native to the space environment. Additionally, customers can observe Earth, test sensors, materials, and electronics, all while having the opportunity to return the payload back to Earth.

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Blue Origin New Shepard Flies Commercial Payloads

New Shepard capsule after landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wa. (Blue Origin PR) — On Dec. 12, 2017, New Shepard flew again for the seventh time. Known as Mission 7 (M7), the flight featured our next-generation booster and the first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0. While our primary objective was to progress testing this new system for human spaceflight, we also achieved an exciting milestone with suborbital research in space by sending 12 commercial, research and education payloads under full FAA license for the first time.

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Italian Space Agency Signs Letter of Intent for SpaceShipTwo Research Flight

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

BROOMFIELD, Colo., December 18 2017 (Virgin Galactic PR) — At the annual Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, Virgin Galactic and the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, ASI) announced that they had signed a Letter of Intent under which ASI would secure a full suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. ASI’s spaceflight mission is planned to take place in 2019 at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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Update on Blue Origin New Shepard Flight

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through Wednesday. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News

Below is an update on Blue Origin’s New Shepard program based on their tweets.

Jeff Ashby
Chief of Mission Assurance
Blue Origin

  • Flawless New Shepard flight test last week
  • First commercial flight under a launch license issued by FAA — allows Blue Origin to collect revenues (unlike previous experimental permit)
  • New vehicle incorporates lessons learned from earlier flight test program that finished in October 2016
  • Roughly one year away from New Shepard human flight tests, 18-24 months from flights with human-tended payloads
  • Waiting until the commercial service version of the system is flying to sell tickets for New Shepard flights
  • Capsule has full environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) and triple redundancy as well as pusher escape system
  • New Shepard flights will have about three minutes of microgravity
  • 5 G’s peak experienced during reentry
  • Proprietary landing system provides a soft landing for capsule and its occupants and experiments
  • One day of training required that will include mission simulation and emergency egress instruction
  • Centrifuge training at NASTAR will not required for New Shepard flights
  • Flight will be conducted early in morning due to calmer winds at that time
  • Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Al Worden have expressed interest in flying
  • System designed to be rapidly reusable
  • Takes about two weeks to turn around New Shepard for relaunch
  • Goal is to reduce turnaround to one week with 20 operational personnel
  • Blue Origin landed a booster from space first (before SpaceX)
  • Watching a rocket land is even cooler than watching them launch
  • Shift from “used” rockets to “flight proven” has been a good thing
  • New Glenn orbital rocket will have 7-meter payload to accommodate larger payloads