NASA Awards Contracts for Deep Space Gateway Power Studies

Boeing Deep Space Gateway (Credit: Boeing)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to conduct four-month studies for a power and propulsion element that could be used as part of the deep space gateway concept.

The agency is studying the gateway concept with U.S. industry and space station partners for potential future collaborations. These latest studies will help provide data on commercial capabilities as NASA defines objectives and requirements as well as help reduce risk for a new powerful and efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology in deep space.

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Thruster for Mars Mission Breaks Records

A side shot of the X3 firing at 50 kilowatts. (Credit: NASA)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (University of Michigan PR) — An advanced space engine in the running to propel humans to Mars has broken the records for operating current, power and thrust for a device of its kind, known as a Hall thruster.

The development of the thruster was led by Alec Gallimore, University of Michigan professor of aerospace engineering and the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering.

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NASA Glenn Tests Thruster Bound for Metal World

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — As NASA looks to explore deeper into our solar system, one of the key areas of interest is studying worlds that can help researchers better understand our solar system and the universe around us. One of the next destinations in this knowledge-gathering campaign is a rare world located in the asteroid belt called Psyche.

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NASA’s Space Act Agreements with SpaceX, Boeing, ULA & Sierra Nevada


NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.

From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with SpaceX, Boeing, United Launch Alliance and Sierra Nevada Corporation. The four companies have been involved with NASA’s Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply Services programs.

SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)
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Work on SHIVER Tank for Deep Space Propellant Storage Advances

SHIIVER, a cryogenic test tank developed to evaluate heat intercept concepts, arrived at Marshall on Aug. 10. The tank will receive heat sensors and spray-on foam insulation at Marshall before making its way to Plum Brook Station for further insulation and testing. (Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — A technical challenge that NASA is working to solve is how to maintain very cold liquid propellants to be used as fuel for deep space missions. Heat intercept concepts such as advanced insulation blankets, foam insulation and vapor-based cooling will be evaluated with the Structural Heat Intercept Insulation Vibration Evaluation Rig or SHIIVER, which arrived Aug. 10 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for application of its first round of insulation.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Tests Advanced Electric Propulsion System

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 06, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), successfully conducted a series of hot-fire tests on a Power Processing Unit (PPU) for an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) designed to advance the nation’s commercial space capabilities as well as support NASA’s plans for deep space exploration. The tests were conducted at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

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From 2D to 3D, Space Station Microscope Gets an Upgrade

NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, conducts a session with the Preliminary Advanced Colloids Experiment at the Light Microscopy Module in the Fluids Integrated Rack aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — In science, it’s best to have a clean, sharp picture of what you’re studying. Microscopes afford us the opportunity to look at particles that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye, but these particles can sometimes be masked by gravity. That’s right, the same force that keeps your feet firmly planted to the ground also interferes with getting a good look at how things move and interact at the microscopic level.

The Light Microscopy Module (LMM) microscope aboard the International Space Station is an advanced microscope that gives researchers a look at what is happening on a fundamental level without the interference of gravity. NASA will be sending an upgrade to the LMM on the upcoming SpaceX cargo resupply mission that will enable 3D imaging of complex fluid structures and allow for modeling the movement of individual particles at the micron level.

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Cygnus Leaves Station, Begins Week-long Secondary Mission

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

DULLES, Va., 4 June 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that its Cygnus™ spacecraft  successfully unberthed from the International Space Station, beginning the next phase of its mission before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere. The “S.S. John Glenn” will now conduct three secondary payload missions including the Saffire-III fire experiment, deployment of four CubeSats and an experiment to further study spacecraft conditions upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Scientists to Study How Fire Burns in Space

Saffire I experiment inside Cygnus. (Credit: NASA)

COLUMBIA, Md., June 2, 2017 (USRA PR) — Shortly after the Cygnus cargo vehicle (which launched in March 2017) undocks from the International Space Station on June 4, 2017, a team of researchers from NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) will conduct the Spacecraft Fire Experiment-III (SAFFIRE III).

SAFFIRE III is the third in a series of six flight experiments to better understand how flames spread in microgravity and increase understanding of how an accidental fire might behave in space. “The SAFFIRE portfolio of experiments is providing the best data yet on how large fires behave in the microgravity environment of space,” said Christopher Pestak, Director of USRA operations at NASA GRC.

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SpaceX Dragon to Carry More Than 40 National Laboratory-Sponsored Experiments to ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (CASIS PR) The SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle is slated to launch its 11thcargo resupply mission (CRS-11) to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than June 1, 2017 from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A. Onboard the Falcon 9 launch vehicle is the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which will carry more than 40 ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored experiments.

This mission will showcase the breadth of research possible through the ISS National Laboratory, as experiments range from the life and physical sciences, Earth observation and remote sensing, and a variety of student-led investigations.

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Nanotechnology Flight Test: Material Impact on the Future

A Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket with the SubTec-7 payload launches frm NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on May 16, 2017. (Credit: NASA Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Mastering the intricacies of controlling matter at the nanoscale level is part of a revolutionary quest to apply nanotechnology to benefit industrial processes. A key element of that technology is the use of carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are small hollow tubes with diameters of 0.7 to 50 nanometers and lengths generally in the tens of microns. While ultra-small, carbon nanotubes offer big-time attributes.

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NASA Explores 4 Technologies for Improved Oxygen Recovery

Spacecraft Oxygen Recovery (SCOR) test facility. (Credit: NASA)
Spacecraft Oxygen Recovery (SCOR) test facility. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — On long duration deep space missions, providing crew-members with a steady supply of oxygen is a real challenge. Because resupply is not an option and taking huge tanks of oxygen on exploration spacecraft is not practical, oxygen must be recovered from what is produced during normal metabolism.

Astronauts breathe in oxygen and most is turned into carbon dioxide and water vapor. Getting the oxygen from the water is pretty straightforward and can be done with electrolysis alone. The real trick is efficiently getting oxygen from the carbon dioxide.

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Smallsat 2016: NASA Program & Mission Updates

Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)
Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)

NASA officials have been providing updates this week on agency programs and missions during the 2016 Small Satellite Conference and the CubeSat Workshop that preceded it. I have pulled together summaries of their presentations drawn from Twitter.  Information has come from the following Tweeters:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • Hanna Steplewska ‏@spacesurfingirl
  • Augie Allen ‏@AugieAllen
  • RITSpaceExploration ‏@RITSPEX

Enjoy!
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NASA Glenn Successfully Ignites Largest Fire Experiment in Space

Saffire I experiment inside Cygnus. (Credit: NASA)
Saffire I experiment inside Cygnus. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — Engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio and Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia successfully conducted the first remote Spacecraft Fire Experiment, or Saffire I, carried inside an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo vehicle that departed the International Space Station on Tuesday, June 14.  The experiment’s purpose is to learn how a fire might behave in a spacecraft after leaving Earth’s atmosphere. Understanding how fire spreads in a microgravity environment is critical to the safety of astronauts who live and work in space as NASA prepares for long duration missions on the journey to Mars.

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NASA Working on Advance Solar Array Technology

Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology undergoes testing (Credits: Deployable Space Systems, Inc.)
Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology undergoes testing (Credits: Deployable Space Systems, Inc.)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) worked with two private firms to develop advanced structures for high power solar arrays that are stronger, lighter, and package more compactly for launch. This technology investment furthers the agency’s deep space exploration goals and aids the commercial communications satellite industry, the provider of direct-to-home television, satellite radio, broadband internet and a multitude of other services.

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