Robotic Refueling Mission 3 Can’t Perform Cryogenic Fuel Transfer

Edward Cheung, an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, performs a fit check of RRM3’s three external tools. After RRM3 is installed to the outside of International Space Station the Dextre robotic arm will mount the pedestal and tools, pre-assembled by astronauts on the space station. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Gunn)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On April 8, the Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) aboard the International Space Station started experiencing issues powering up its cryogen coolers that maintain the temperature of liquid methane contained within the module. After several troubleshooting attempts, it was determined the coolers could not be powered up. As a result, the temperature of the liquid began to rise. The liquid methane turned into a gas and was safely vented from the payload. There was no impact to other station systems or operations.

While RRM3 can no longer perform a cryogenic fuel transfer, its four months on station taught NASA about the technology needed to store and transfer cryogenic fuel in space. The mission will carry out other planned operations with servicing and inspection tools. Ultimately, RRM3 will still help bring NASA closer to replenishing cryogenic fuel in space so spacecraft can live longer and journey farther into the solar system.

RRM3 launched to the space station in December 2018 and is installed to the outside of station on Express Logistics Carrier-1.

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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Meteoroid Strikes Eject Precious Water From Moon

Artist’s concept of the LADEE spacecraft (left) detecting water vapor from meteoroid impacts on the Moon (right). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab)

by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA

Researchers from NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, report that streams of meteoroids striking the Moon infuse the thin lunar atmosphere with a short-lived water vapor.

The findings will help scientists understand the history of lunar water — a potential resource for sustaining long term operations on the Moon and human exploration of deep space. Models had predicted that meteoroid impacts could release water from the Moon as a vapor, but scientists hadn’t yet observed the phenomenon.

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IG: NASA Needs to Better Document Cost Savings on Services Contracts

NASA needs better methods to track its efforts to minimize costs on the more than $16 billion worth of engineering and technical services the space agency purchases annually, according to a new audit by the Inspector General (IG).

[Full Report — PDF]

“Although NASA has a variety of mechanisms at the Headquarters and Center levels to share lessons learned, many of these are informal, dependent upon personal relationships between Centers, and not focused on sharing information on efficiencies,” the audit said.

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OSIRIS-REx Discovers Particle Plumes Erupting from Bennu’s Surface

This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on January 19 was created by combining two images taken on board NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid’s surface. Bennu also revealed itself to be more rugged than expected, challenging the mission team to alter its flight and sample collection plans, due to the rough terrain.

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A Region of Bennu’s Northern Hemisphere Close Up

Closeups of asteroid Bennu taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

This trio of images acquired by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft shows a wide shot and two close-ups of a region in asteroid Bennu’s northern hemisphere. The wide-angle image (left), obtained by the spacecraft’s MapCam camera, shows a 590-foot (180-meter) wide area with many rocks, including some large boulders, and a “pond” of regolith that is mostly devoid of large rocks.

The two closer images, obtained by the high-resolution PolyCam camera, show details of areas in the MapCam image, specifically a 50-foot (15 meter) boulder (top) and the regolith pond (bottom). The PolyCam frames are 101 feet (31 meters) across and the boulder depicted is approximately the same size as a humpback whale.

The images were taken on February 25 while the spacecraft was in orbit around Bennu, approximately 1.1 miles (1.8 km) from the asteroid’s surface. The observation plan for this day provided for one MapCam and two PolyCam images every 10 minutes, allowing for this combination of context and detail of Bennu’s surface.

“Goldilocks” Stars May Be “Just Right” for Finding Habitable Worlds

This is an artist’s concept of a planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a K star. (Credits: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyle)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Scientists looking for signs of life beyond our solar system face major challenges, one of which is that there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone to consider. To narrow the search, they must figure out: What kinds of stars are most likely to host habitable planets?

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Five Teams Win NASA DALI Awards to Advance Future Lunar Missions

This artist’s rendition shows the LEMS concept, an environmental monitoring station on the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

By Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — When NASA solicits future investigations of the Moon five teams involving scientists and engineers at the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will be ready.

The agency’s Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation, or DALI, program recently awarded 10 teams funding to mature spacecraft-based instruments for use in future lander missions, including those offered by commercial ventures through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract. These instruments are expected to reach a high level of technology readiness by the time funding ends in three years.

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NASA Set to Demonstrate X-ray Communications in Space

This image shows the Modulated X-ray Source, a key component in NASA’s first-ever demonstration of X-ray communication in space. (Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — A new experimental type of deep space communications technology is scheduled to be demonstrated on the International Space Station this spring.

Currently, NASA relies on radio waves to send information between spacecraft and Earth. Emerging laser communications technology offers higher data rates that let spacecraft transmit more data at a time. This demonstration involves X-ray communications, or XCOM, which offers even more advantages.

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NASA to Advance Unique 3D Printed Sensor Technology

Technologist Mahmooda Sultana holds an early iteration of an autonomous multifunctional sensor platform, which could benefit all of NASA’s major scientific disciplines and efforts to send humans to the Moon and Mars. (Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

By Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

A NASA technologist is taking miniaturization to the extreme.

Mahmooda Sultana won funding to advance a potentially revolutionary, nanomaterial-based detector platform. The technology is capable of sensing everything from minute concentrations of gases and vapor, atmospheric pressure and temperature, and then transmitting that data via a wireless antenna — all from the same self-contained platform that measures just two-by-three-inches in size.

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Trump Nominates NASA Goddard Director to Head National Reconnaissance Office

Christopher Scolese

Presidential Nomination

Christopher Scolese of New York, to be the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Mr. Scolese currently serves as the Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Previously, he served as the associate administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and as NASA’s chief engineer.

Mr. Scolese is the recipient of the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive, the NASA Distinguished Leadership Medal, the Goddard Outstanding Leadership Medal, two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) National Capital Section Young Engineer/Scientist of the Year award.

Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Part 1 of 2

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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NASA’s TESS Rounds Up its First Planets, Snares Far-flung Supernovae

Credit: NASA

By Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, in its first three months of observations.

The mission’s sensitive cameras also captured 100 short-lived changes — most of them likely stellar outbursts — in the same region of the sky. They include six supernova explosions whose brightening light was recorded by TESS even before the outbursts were discovered by ground-based telescopes.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Enters Close Orbit Around Bennu, Breaking Record

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

TUCSON (University of Arizona PR) — At 2:43 p.m. EST on December 31, while many on Earth prepared to welcome the New Year, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) away, carried out a single, eight-second burn of its thrusters – and broke a space exploration record. The spacecraft entered into orbit around the asteroid Bennu, and made Bennu the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.

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Apollo 8 and Beyond – The Next Epoch

Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders looked back after leaving Earth orbit for the Moon. This view extends the northern hemisphere to the southern tip of South America. Nearly all of South America is covered by clouds. (Credits: NASA)

By Stephanie Zeller
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Half a century ago, Apollo 8 ushered in a new era of space exploration. The missions that followed in close succession would herald these breakthroughs in science and in engineering prowess with drama and color. They would bring a cornucopia of knowledge about the Moon, the origins of our solar system, the nature of our universe, the history of our Earth and even the history of life. In addition to tangible, scientific assets gained from Apollo, the mission brought some degree of unification to a nation fractured by conflict at home and abroad.

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