Tricky Terrain: Helping to Assure a Safe Rover Landing

Mars 2020’s Perseverance rover is equipped with a lander vision system based on terrain-relative navigation, an advanced method of autonomously comparing real-time images to preloaded maps that determine the rover’s position relative to hazards in the landing area. Divert guidance algorithms and software can then direct the rover around those obstacles if needed. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

How two new technologies will help Perseverance, NASA’s most sophisticated rover yet, touch down onto the surface of Mars this month.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After a nearly seven-month journey to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to land at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater Feb. 18, 2021, a rugged expanse chosen for its scientific research and sample collection possibilities.

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An Overview of NASA’s Technology Educational Satellites

NASA’s Technology Educational Satellite 8, or TechEdSat-8, deploying from the International Space Station Jan. 31, 2019. (Credits: NASA)

NASA’s TechEdSat series of technology demonstrations aims to bring small payloads back to Earth or to the surface of Mars – while pushing the state of the art in a variety of CubeSat technologies and experiments.

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — TechEdSat is a series of collaborative projects and missions that pairs college and university students with NASA researchers to evaluate new technologies for use in small satellites, or CubeSats. Students do the hands-on work – designing, building, and testing CubeSat spacecraft systems and analyzing the results – for each flight mission, under mentorship of engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

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V-R3x CubeSats to Develop Communications, Navigation

Three small satellites, or CubeSats, used in the V-R3x technology demonstration. (Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart)

Swarming small satellites to develop the next generation of communication and navigation tech

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Learning how to communicate and navigate multiple spacecraft autonomously in space is a technology challenge that will become even more important to solve as NASA continues to operate in low-Earth orbit and beyond.

The V-R3x mission uses a swarm of three small satellites to demonstrate new technologies and techniques for radio networking and navigation. By developing and demonstrating these technologies on a small scale, they can be implemented for future multi-spacecraft missions, enabling NASA to pursue its future science, technology, and exploration goals.

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NASA CubeSat to Demonstrate Water-Fueled Moves in Space

Illustration of Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator-1 spacecraft, demonstrating a water-based propulsion system in low-Earth orbit. (Credits: NASA)

Gianine Figliozzi
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — A NASA CubeSat will launch into low-Earth orbit to demonstrate a new type of propulsion system. Carrying a pint of liquid water as fuel, the system will split the water into hydrogen and oxygen in space and burn them in a tiny rocket engine for thrust.

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NASA’s Costly Toxic Legacy: Space Agency Faces at Least $1.9 Billion in Environmental Liabilities

Santa Susana Field Laboratory in California.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA faces at least $1.9 billion in environmental clean up and restoration costs at its far-flung network of centers, an amount that has increased $724 million, or 61 percent, since 2014, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

While five of 14 centers where chemical contamination exists have decreased their cleanup liability, other centers such as Kennedy Space Center, Ames Research Center and the White Sands Test Facilities have seen increased costs from 2014 to 2019.

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Senior NASA Scientist Pleads Guilty To Making False Statements Related To Chinese Thousand Talents Program Participation And Professorship

NEW YORK (Department of Justice PR) — Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (“USAO”), William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Mark J. Zielinski, Special Agent in Charge of the Eastern Field Office, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Inspector General (“NASA OIG”), announced that MEYYA MEYYAPPAN, a senior NASA scientist, pled guilty today to making false statements to the FBI, NASA OIG, and the USAO.  MEYYAPPAN pled guilty in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Meyya Meyyappan held a trusted position at NASA, with access to valuable intellectual property.  In violation of the terms of his employment and relevant laws and regulations, Meyyappan failed to disclose participation in a Chinese government recruitment program, and subsequently lied about it to NASA investigators, FBI agents, and our Office.  Now, having admitted his crime, Meyyappan awaits sentencing.”

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Astrobotic Completes Successful Testing with NASA’s Water Detecting Payloads

A rendering of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is shown, with NASA’s three water-detecting payloads (MSolo, NSS, and NIRVSS) highlighted in blue. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Three of NASA’s payloads set to fly aboard Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander in 2021 have successfully completed preliminary interface simulation testing between Astrobotic, NASA’s Ames Research Center, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center payload teams.

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NASA Armstrong Collaborates with Rocket Lab, Sensuron to Mature Fiber Optic Technology

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A system originally developed to collect distributed strain and temperature measurements on aircraft has been enhanced to support future NASA space missions. Two companies were selected by NASA through the 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity to further develop and commercialize the technology. 

The Fiber Optic Sensing System (FOSS) developed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, uses sensors that are the size of a human hair to monitor vehicle structural and thermal response. Much of the technology effort to advance FOSS for use on airplanes and rockets was funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Center Innovation Fund.

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NASA’s ELaNa 20 Mission First to Fly on Virgin Orbit Launch

Virgin Orbit teammates complete a dry run of the payload encapsulation process in Aug. 2020 inside their “Nebula” payload processing facility ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. (Credits: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson)

By Danielle Sempsrott 
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

MOJAVE, Calif. — Ten NASA-sponsored CubeSats are preparing to fly on the agency’s next Educational Launch of Nanosatellites  (ELaNa) mission, making this the first payload carried by Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket.

With the small satellites safely secured inside the payload fairing, and the fairing mated to the rocket, Virgin Orbit is gearing up for ELaNa 20, the Launch Demo 2 flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

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Rocket Lab Readies Photon Spacecraft for NASA Moon Mission

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

The CAPSTONE mission will see Rocket Lab extend its reach far beyond Earth orbit for the first time to deploy an in-house designed and built Photon spacecraft to the Moon.

Long Beach, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab has reached a key milestone ahead of the company’s first launch to the Moon, with spacecraft qualification underway for the Photon spacecraft that will transport a NASA satellite into a unique lunar orbit that no other spacecraft has explored before.

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Suborbital Space Again, NASA-supported Tech on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

Scientific payloads in SpaceShipTwo cabin (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities program

EDWARDS, Calif. — Successful space and suborbital technology developments require ingenuity, understanding of mission and science needs, and testing. For many technologies matured with support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, the ability to undergo testing multiple times – and often on different types of commercial flight vehicles – adds the necessary rigor and refinement to advance these innovations.

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Mitochondrial Changes Key to Health Problems in Space

Astronaut Scott Kelly is working with the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox during a Rodent Research session with Bone Densitometer. (Credit: NASA)

by Frank Tavares
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — Living in space isn’t easy. There are notable impacts on the biology of living things in the harsh environment of space. A team of scientists has now identified a possible underlying driver of these impacts: the powerhouse of the cell, called mitochondria, experiences changes in activity during spaceflight.

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NASA to Work with Industry to Mature Green Propulsion, Advanced Materials, Space Robots and More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 17 U.S. companies for 20 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond through the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO).

The selected proposals are relevant to technology topic areas outlined in the solicitation, including cryogenic fluid management and propulsion; advanced propulsion; sustainable power; in-situ propellant and consumable production; intelligent/resilient systems and advanced robotics; advanced materials and structures; entry, descent, and landing; and small spacecraft technologies.

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New NASA Partnerships to Mature Commercial Space Technologies, Capabilities

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected  17 U.S. companies for 20 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond. The NASA and industry teams will design a 3D printing system for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, test a simple method for removing dust from planetary solar arrays, mature a first-stage rocket recovery system for a small satellite launch provider, and more.

Various NASA centers will work with the companies, ranging from small businesses and large aerospace companies to a previous NASA challenge winner, to provide expertise and access to the agency’s unique testing facilities. The partnerships aim to accelerate the development of emerging space capabilities.

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VIPER Rover Will Get Driving Headlights

Using a special lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center designed to mimic lunar terrain as it would appear in different areas at the Moon’s poles, the VIPER team tests out lighting systems for the rover with a very low-angle illumination simulating the Sun. (Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart)

MOFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — As it journeys into some of the darkest and coldest spots in the solar system, NASA’s new water-hunting Moon rover, VIPER, will need some very robust headlights to light the way.

In the extremes of light and dark found on the Moon, shadowed and lit areas are in such high contrast that any contours in the landscape are effectively invisible in the darkness. To navigate this world, VIPER’s rover drivers will rely on a system of rover-mounted lights and cameras to steer clear of boulders, descend steep declines into craters and avoid other potentially mission-fatal dangers.

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