House to Hold Hearing on In-Space Propulsion

House of Representatives

Space Subcommittee Hearing

In-Space Propulsion: Strategic Choices and Options
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2017 – 10:00am
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing Purpose
NASA is pursuing several in-space propulsion technologies to advance not only human exploration, but also uncrewed spacecraft operations. The hearing will explore NASA’s current portfolio of investments in in-space propulsion technologies, the state of the various technologies, and how they fit into future space architectures.


  • Mr. William Gerstenmaier — Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, NASA
  • Mr. Stephen Jurczyk — Associate Administrator, Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA
  • Dr. Mitchell Walker — Chair, Electric Propulsion Technical Committee, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
  • Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz — Founder and CEO, Ad Astra Rocket Company
  • Mr. Joe Cassady — Executive Director for Space, Washington Operations, Aerojet Rocketdyne
  • Dr. Anthony Pancotti — Director of Propulsion Research, MSNW LLC

NIAC Focus: Magnetoshells for Human & Robotic Exploration

Top- Artist rendering of Magnetoshell Aerocapture concept. Bottom Left - RF injector operating on Argon. Bottom Right - Magnetoshell operating with internal gas feed and intercepting an accelerated neutral and plasma jet. (Credit: D. Kirtley)
Top- Artist rendering of Magnetoshell Aerocapture concept. Bottom Left – RF injector operating on Argon. Bottom Right – Magnetoshell operating with internal gas feed and intercepting an accelerated neutral and plasma jet. (Credit: D. Kirtley)

Magnetoshell Aerocapture for Manned Missions and Planetary Deep Space Orbiters
NASA Innovative Advance Concepts Phase II Award

David Kirtley

It is clear from past mission studies that a manned Mars mission, as well as deep space planetary orbiters will require aerobraking and aerocapture which use aerodynamic drag forces to slow the spacecraft. Aerocapture would enable long term studies of the outer planets and their moons that would not be possible with existing braking technologies. While utilizing planetary atmospheres to slow down and capture spacecraft would dramatically reduce the cost, launch mass, and travel time, current technologies require significant additional spacecraft mass and risk, as the spacecraft must descend deep into a planetary atmosphere that is not well characterized in order to produce significant drag on a relatively small, fixed dimension aeroshell or temperature and structurally sensitive inflatable ballute.


NASA Announces 12 NextSTEP Partnerships

NASA LOGOWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Building on the success of NASA’s partnerships with commercial industry to date, NASA has selected 12 Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) to advance concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites.

Through these public-private partnerships, selected companies will partner with NASA to develop the exploration capabilities necessary to enable commercial endeavors in space and human exploration to deep-space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars.

“Commercial partners were selected for their technical ability to mature key technologies and their commitment to the potential applications both for government and private sector uses,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters. “This work ultimately will inform the strategy to move human presence further into the solar system.”


An In-depth Look at Recent Altius Space Machines Contract Awards

Altius_logo_newBy Jonathan Goff
President and CEO
Altius Space Machines

Part 1 of 2

It has been a while since our last blog post, and those of you have been following the news over the last month may have noticed that Altius has recently been awarded or selected for negotiation on a few significant NASA technology development contracts. These four contracts are:

  • ISS Launched Cubesat Demonstration of Variable-Drag Magnetoshell Aerocapture – an SBIR Select Phase I that MSNW LLC of Redmond, WA is priming with Altius as subcontractor
  • Multi-purpose Interplanetary Deployable Aerocapture System (MIDAS) – an SBIR Select Phase I that Altius is priming with MSNW LLC as subcontractor
  • Kraken Asteroid Boulder Retrieval System – an Asteroid Redirect Mission BAA Phase I that Altius is priming with support from Boston-based Empire Robotics, Dr. Brad Blair of NewSpace Analytics, and the Materials Technology Lab at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, CO
  • Multipurpose SEP Module for ARM and Beyond – an Asteroid Redirect Mission BAA Phase I study where Altius will be supporting an industry team led by ExoTerra Resources of Littleton, CO.


Altius Space Machines Displays MIDAS Touch with Deep Space CubeSats

altiusBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Jon Goff’s Altius Space Machines for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)  grant to develop an aerobraking and aerocapture system using an electromagnetic coil that would allow CubeSats to explore other planets and their moons.

The project, which is being done in cooperation with MSNW LLC of Redmond, Wash., involves technology that can be scaled up for larger robotic and human missions to Mars and other worlds. The electromagnetic systems would allow for significant mass savings in the size of the spacecraft.

Altius’ work focuses on the Multi-Purpose Interplanetary Deployable Aerocapture System (MIDAS), which could be packaged into 6U CubeSats sent to Mars, Venus, or Jupiter’s moon Europa.