NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.(Credit: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University)

Astrobotic, Blue Origin, ExoTerra, Paragon and SpaceX among contract awardees for advanced technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The selections are based on NASA’s fourth competitive Tipping Point solicitation and have a combined total award value of about $43.2 million. This investment in the U.S. space industry, including small businesses across the country, will help bring the technologies to market and ready them for use by NASA.

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Sierra Nevada Appoints Former Astronaut Janet Kavandi to Run Space Systems

Janet Kavandi (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev., September 16, 2019 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global   aerospace and national security contractor owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, announced that former NASA astronaut and Glenn Research Center director, Janet Kavandi, will join SNC as Senior Vice President for the company’s Space Systems business area.

After 25 years with NASA, Kavandi retired this month as director at Glenn, having led the center’s Moon to Mars work. She is joining SNC in a period of growth for the company’s space initiatives and two years before the first of six missions for SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft to service the International Space Station under contract with NASA.

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NASA and Virgin Orbit 3D Print, Test Rocket Combustion Chamber

Engineers test-fire a 3D-printed rocket engine combustion chamber at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA is partnering with Virgin Orbit of Long Beach, California, to deliver advanced engine hardware that employs cutting-edge NASA and commercial additive manufacturing, or 3D-printing, processes. Researchers will continue to explore advanced 3D-printing solutions, introducing even higher-performing alloys and further refining the printing process. (Credits: NASA/Virgin Orbit)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — At the heart of future rocket engines lifting off to the Moon or Mars could be a 3D printed combustion chamber. Multiple NASA centers partnered with Virgin Orbit to develop and test a uniquely manufactured rocket part.

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Lunar Power System Team Wins President’s Award

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — In preparation of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon by 2028, NASA is developing new technologies that will let astronauts land, live and explore the surface. In this video, Marc Gibson of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland describes Kilopower, a power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces, including the Moon and Mars.

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NIAC Award: Power for Interstellar Fly-by

Power for interstellar fly-bys. (Credit: Geoffrey Landis)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Geoffrey Landis
NASA Glenn Research Center

Launching ultra-miniature probes to fly past an exoplanet a nearby star using a laser-pushed sail is now being seriously discussed as a mission, primarily by the “Breakthrough Starshot” program. An interstellar probe will require power for both observations and communications when it reaches the target exoplanet system… but the proposed mission gives a mass allocation that is milligrams, far less than the mass of any real-world power system. We propose harvesting power from the motion of the spacecraft as it passes through the target system’s ambient environment.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List











Inspector General: NASA Goddard Lags in Tech Transfer

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is lagging behind three other agency centers when it comes to transferring technology to the private sector, according to a new audit by the Office of Inspector General. [Full Report]

“Goddard…is experiencing poor technology transfer performance outcomes when compared to the other three NASA Centers we reviewed, to include a lower percentage of licenses as well as delays in processing of [New Technology Reports] and patent applications,” the audit said.

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Veteran NASA Astronauts Inducted into US Astronaut Hall of Fame

Former NASA astronauts Jim Buchli and Janet Kavandi are inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Class of 2019 during a ceremony on April 6, 2019, inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. They unveiled their plaques, which will be placed in the Hall of Fame at the visitor complex. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Janet Kavandi, director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, and James Buchli are the latest veteran NASA astronauts to join the ranks of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

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NASA Considers Public-Private Partnerships on Space Communications


NASA is considering the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to expand its space communications network.

“The use of PPPs allow NASA and commercial entities to work as partners (as compared to a typical Government-contractor relationship) to develop and introduce new operational capabilities that NASA user missions might use, by shared investment, standards, and risks,” the agency said in a notice published on the federal acquisitions website.

“These new capabilities may help foster the growth of the commercial satellite communications relay services market (from low Earth orbit to the Moon and beyond) and provide benefits to future NASA missions in alignment with NASA envisioned Next Generation Architecture,” the notice said.

NASA Glenn Research Center is seeking proposals for trade studies and conceptual system designs and descriptions. The objectives include:

  • “Commercial service concepts
    • Determine the architecture and service concepts for optical and RF space services and develop the service management and operations aspects for mission users.
  • “Accommodations of the NASA provided optical payload/terminals
    • Determine the factors to incorporate NASA’s optical technology onto commercial spacecraft and the associated commercial space services.
  • “Public-private partnership for providing and receiving communication services
    • Determine costs, benefits, and terms for the Government and commercial partner with balanced risk. Assess market expectations, non-Government customer aspects, timeline, transition, and cost factors.”











TDM Bridge Builder: Daniel Herman, Solar Electric Propulsion System Lead

Among Herman’s first contributions to the space agency was helping to develop the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion engine, seen here in 2009 in a vacuum test facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He served as life demonstration test lead for the NEXT engine. (Credit: NASA/GRC)

Note: Technology Demonstration Missions “Bridge Builders” are team members at NASA centers and partner organizations who help take various groundbreaking, cutting-edge technologies from concept to flight readiness — bridging the gap to help NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the agency and the aerospace community enable rewarding new missions in space.


CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — When it comes to NASA’s Solar Electric Propulsion project, Daniel Herman helps lead the charge.

As an experienced electric propulsion team lead at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, he was a natural choice for the SEP project’s electric propulsion system lead, providing technical oversight for all activities tied to the project — an alternative to using conventional chemical systems to send spacecraft to distant destinations and resupply remote science outposts anywhere in the solar system.

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Demonstration Proves Nuclear Fission System Can Provide Space Exploration Power

Artist’s concept of new fission power system on the lunar surface. (Credits: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.

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A Closer Look at NIAC Phase II Awards for Asteroids & Moons

Graphic depiction of Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object (Credits: Steven Oleson)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at the following three Phase II awards focused on new ways of exploring asteroids and moons.

Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect Soft-bots)
Jay McMahon
University of Colorado, Boulder

Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object
Steven Oleson
NASA Glenn Research Center

NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester
Michael VanWoerkom
ExoTerra Resource

Each award is worth up to $500,000 for a two-year study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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Advanced Robotic Arm Gets a Workout

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — A new robotic arm for assembling spacecraft and exploration platforms in space flexed its muscle in a successful ground demonstration Jan. 19.

The device, called the Tension Actuated in Space MANipulator (TALISMAN) was tested in the Structures and Materials Test Laboratory at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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NASA Experiments with Kilopower Fission Reactor

Kilopower reactor (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — When astronauts someday venture to the Moon, Mars and other destinations, one of the first and most important resources they will need is power. A reliable and efficient power system will be essential for day-to-day necessities, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home.

That’s why NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower, a new power source that could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions.

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