Exploring Together, NASA and Industry Embrace Laser Communications

Illustration of STPSat-6 with the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload communicating data over infrared links. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Katherine Schauer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Our televisions and computer screens display news, movies, and shows in high-definition, allowing viewers a clear and vibrant experience. Fiber optic connections send laser light densely packed with data through cables to bring these experiences to users.

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NASA Invites Public to Share Launch of Laser Communications Demonstration

Conceptual image of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload transmitting optical signals. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting the public to take part in virtual activities and events ahead of the launch of the agency’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) mission. Launch is scheduled for 4:04 – 6:04 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

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Highly Porous Rocks Responsible for Bennu’s Surprisingly Craggy Surface

During fall 2019, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image, which shows one of asteroid Bennu’s boulders with a bright vein that appears to be made of carbonate. The image within the circle (lower right) shows a focused view of the vein. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — Scientists thought asteroid Bennu’s surface would be like a sandy beach, abundant in fine sand and pebbles, which would have been perfect for collecting samples. Past telescope observations from Earth’s orbit had suggested the presence of ­­large swaths of fine-grain material called fine regolith that’s smaller than a few centimeters.

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NASA Robots Compete in DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge Final

Team CoSTAR, led by NASA’s JPL, will use autonomous robots with diverse methods of movement to compete in the complex underground environments of the SubT Challenge Final. One of the robots, NeBula-Spot, walks on four legs to explore hard-to-access locations. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Led by NASA JPL, Team CoSTAR will participate in the SubT final this week to demonstrate multi-robot autonomy in a series of tests in extreme environments.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Eight teams featuring dozens of robots from more than 30 institutions, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, will converge in a former Kentucky limestone mine from Sept. 21 to 24 to participate in a series of complex underground scenarios. The goal: to demonstrate cutting-edge robotic autonomy capabilities and compete for the chance to win $2 million.

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Baylor Space Health Institute Grants Support Studies on Reducing Astronaut Metabolism for Long Duration Missions

HOUSTON (Baylor College of Medicine PR) — The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine granted nearly $4 million in awards to four outstanding researcher teams in response to its Biomedical Research Advances for Space Health (BRASH) 2101 solicitation. The space health institute sought creative never-before-tried ways to reduce potential damage to humans from the space environment through manipulation of metabolism and the normal state-of-being at the cellular or whole organism level.

As NASA’s Artemis missions return humans to the Moon, TRISH works toward countermeasures to address the human health and performance challenges that come with deep space exploration. Modifying the body’s metabolic and homeostatic processes could help reduce damage from space radiation or reduced gravity, while also minimizing food and medical supply needs for future long-duration crewed missions.

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NASA Laser Communications Satellite to Empower More Data Than Ever Before

Illustration of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) with the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload communicating data over infrared links. (Credit: NASA)

By Katherine Schauer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Launching this summer, NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration  (LCRD) will showcase the dynamic powers of laser communications technologies. With NASA’s ever-increasing human and robotic presence in space, missions can benefit from a new way of “talking” with Earth.

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NASA Announces 12th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

ELaNa 31 CubeSats, SPOC and Bobcat-1, deploy from the International Space Station on Nov. 5, 2020. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 small research satellites from nine states – including a first-time selected state, Nebraska – to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching between 2022 and 2025. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in October 2020.

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Skoltech and MIT Researchers Identify Optimal Human Landing System Architectures to Land on the Moon

Credit: Skoltech

MOSCOW (Skoltech PR) — Researchers from Skoltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have analyzed several dozen options to pick the best one in terms of performance and costs for the ‘last mile’ of a future mission to the Moon – actually delivering astronauts to the lunar surface and back up to the safety of the orbiting lunar station. The paper was published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

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NASA Awards Contract to Astra Space for 3 Launches

Astra’s Rocket 3.2 on the launch pad. (Credit: John Kraus)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Astra Space Inc. to provide a launch service for the agency’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats (TROPICS) mission. The TROPICS mission consists of a constellation of six CubeSats and will increase the scientific community’s understanding of storm processes.

The launch service contract for the TROPICS mission is a firm fixed-price contract valued at $7.95 million. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the launch service.

The CubeSats, each the size of a shoebox, will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements that can be used to determine temperature, pressure, and humidity inside hurricanes as they form and evolve. The TROPICS mission’s high-revisit imaging and sounding observations are enabled by microwave technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. These observations will profoundly improve scientists’ understanding of processes driving high-impact storms.

Astra Space will launch the CubeSats on the company’s Rocket 3 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands with three separate launches over a 120-day period. The TROPICS mission is targeted for launch between Jan. 8 and July 31, 2022, under a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launch license.

For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

Perseverance Experiment to Produce Oxygen on Mars

Video Caption: MOXIE, short for the Mars OXygen In situ resource utilization Experiment, is one of the seven experiments hitching a ride on the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover. It’s a collaboration between MIT AeroAstro, the MIT Haystack Observatory, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Carbon dioxide makes up about 96 percent of the gas in Mars’ atmosphere. MOXIE contains a system that pulls in Martian air and electrochemically splits the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and an onboard sensor will allow us to measure the purity of the oxygen we generate. MOXIE will help us get ready for future missions by demonstrating that we can make our own oxygen on Mars to use for rocket propellant and for the crew to breathe when we get there.

AeroAstro graduate student Eric Hinterman has been working on MOXIE since 2016, when he started modeling the MOXIE software and hardware as part of his Master’s thesis. He has continued his work as a PhD candidate, where he is looking at the design and engineering challenges of scaling up the MOXIE technology to a full-size system that could support human life on a Mars mission in the future.

Produced by MIT Video Productions
Directed by Sara Cody, Communications Officer, MIT AeroAstro
Featuring Eric Hinterman

Additional footage provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech
Music credit: Endless Horizons by Ian Post | Artlist.io

Tech Designed by University Students Could Shine Light on Extreme Lunar Environments

Michigan Technological University’s Tethered-permanently shadowed Region Explorer would extract and use the water ice located in and around the lunar polar regions through the use of super conducting cables to deliver large quantities of power to these extremely hard to access regions. (Credits: Michigan Technological University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — “The dark side of the Moon” is sometimes used to describe mysterious things. Though the far side of the Moon isn’t actually dark, there are some areas on the Moon that haven’t seen the Sun in billions of years. Those are the unexplored areas university students aimed to help NASA reach.

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NASA Selects 14 Early Stage Innovations from US Universities for R&D

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Each year NASA selects and funds a number of university researchers to mature game-changing space technologies. The multi-year research and development projects could help develop super-cold space refrigerators and innovate ways to deal with hazardous lunar dust, among other objectives.

In late 2020, NASA selected 14 university-led research proposals to study early-stage technologies relevant to these topics. Each selection will receive up to $650,000 in grants from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program over up to three years, giving the university teams the time and resources to iterate multiple designs and solutions.

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SpaceX CRS-21 Safely Splashes Down Off the Coast of Florida, Returning Science From the Space Station Back to Earth

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., January 14, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely off the coast of Florida last night, concluding a month-plus stay at the International Space Station (ISS) to bring back thousands of pounds of scientific research and cargo.

With this successful splashdown, SpaceX completed its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting laboratory for NASA. This also marks the first mission of the upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft with double the powered locker capacity of previous capsules, allowing for even more research to travel back to Earth for analysis.

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MIT to Use the ISS to Test Smart, Electronic Textiles for Use in Spacesuits and Spacecraft

STS-134 Mission Specialist (MS-3) Andrew Feustel working to install a new MISSE on the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 2 during the first session of Extravehicular Activity (EVA-1). (Credit: NASA)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CASIS PR) — Space can be a dangerous place for astronauts and spacecraft, with harsh conditions and orbital debris that travels at incredibly high speeds. However, imagine a warning system that could be stitched into the fibers of spacesuits or integrated into the exterior of spacecraft that could detect debris impacts and send an early hazard alert.

This is the goal of a new study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The MIT team will embed sensor fibers into conventional spacesuit materials and expose them to the extreme elements of space outside of the International Space Station (ISS) to evaluate the durability and performance of the fibers.

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