CubeSats Readied for NASA’s First Venture Class Launch

Technicians examine at CubeSat at Rocket Lab USA’s facility in California. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (NASA PR) — A host of CubeSats, or small satellites, are undergoing the final stages of processing at Rocket Lab USA’s facility in Huntington Beach, California, for NASA’s first mission dedicated solely to spacecraft of their size. This will be the first launch under the agency’s new Venture Class Launch Services.

Scientists, including those from NASA and various universities, began arriving at the facility in early April with spacecraft small enough to be a carry-on to be prepared for launch.

A team from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, completed final checkouts of a CubeSat called the Compact Radiation Belt Explorer (CeREs), before placing the satellite into a dispenser to hold the spacecraft during launch inside the payload fairing. Among its missions, the satellite will examine the radiation belt and how electrons are energized and lost, particularly during events called microbursts — when sudden swarms of electrons stream into the atmosphere.

This facility is the final stop for designers and builders of the CubeSats, but the journey will continue for the spacecraft. Rocket Lab will soon ship the satellites to New Zealand for launch aboard the company’s Electron orbital rocket on the Mahia Peninsula this summer.

The CubeSats will be flown on an Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission to space through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. CeREs is one of the 10 ELaNa CubeSats scheduled to be a part of this mission.

NASA Prepares to Launch Next Mission to Search Sky for New Worlds

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is undergoing final preparations in Florida for its April 16 launch to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars, providing targets where future studies will assess their capacity to harbor life.

(more…)

NASA, ATLAS to Mature Portable Space Communications Technology

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Portable ground antenna stations could transform NASA’s space communications capabilities. With access to undeveloped regions, the mobile systems could bolster the return of spacecraft science, instrument health and other data to Earth.

NASA and ATLAS Space Operations, based in Traverse City, Michigan, are collaborating to test and develop this technology. The company’s compact, internet-managed antenna system called ATLAS LINKS will undergo testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to determine its compatibility with NASA’s ground-based communications network, the Near Earth Network.

(more…)

NOAA’s GOES-S to Boost Weather Forecast Accuracy for Western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

The GOES-S satellite being lowered into a thermal vacuum chamber. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

More detailed observations will improve marine, aviation forecasts and wildfire detection

WASHINGTON, DC. (NOAA PR) — NOAA is three days away from launching GOES-S, its newest geostationary weather satellite that will begin providing faster, more accurate data to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, dense fog, and other hazards that threaten the western U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska.

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”

(more…)

On Second Thought, the Moon’s Water May Be Widespread and Immobile

If the Moon has enough water, and if it’s reasonably convenient to access, future explorers might be able to use it as a resource. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — A new analysis of data from two lunar missions finds evidence that the Moon’s water is widely distributed across the surface and is not confined to a particular region or type of terrain. The water appears to be present day and night, though it’s not necessarily easily accessible.

(more…)

NASA’s Next Exoplanet Satellite Arrives at NASA Kennedy

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final preparations for launch. (Credits: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s next planet-hunting mission has arrived in Florida to begin preparations for launch. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station nearby NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than April 16, pending range approval.

(more…)

Self-Driving Servicer Now Baselined for NASA’s Restore-L Satellite-Servicing Demonstration

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

CAPTION:

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — One test changed the fortunes of an advanced 3-D imaging lidar system now baselined for NASA’s Restore-L project that will demonstrate an autonomous satellite-servicing capability.

Officials with NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division, or SSPD, have officially baselined the Kodiak system — formerly known as the Goddard Reconfigurable Solid-state Scanning Lidar, or GRSSLi — to provide real-time images and distance-ranging information during Restore-L. This project will demonstrate how a specially equipped robotic servicer spacecraft can extend a satellite’s lifespan — even one not originally designed for on-orbit servicing.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Secondary Payloads Increasingly Take Center Stage

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On most launches, the small secondary satellites that ride along with the primary payloads garner little attention.

That has begun to change in recent years as CubeSats have become increasingly capable. The importance of these small satellites could be seen in the recent launch of an Indian PSLV rocket, which carried a CartoSat Earth observation satellite and 30 secondary spacecraft from India, Canada, Finland, France, Republic of Korea, UK and the United States.

(more…)

NASA Team First to Demonstrate X-ray Navigation in Space

This illustration shows the NICER mission at work aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In a technology first, a team of NASA engineers has demonstrated fully autonomous X-ray navigation in space — a capability that could revolutionize NASA’s ability in the future to pilot robotic spacecraft to the far reaches of the solar system and beyond.

(more…)

Restore-L Satellite Servicing Mission Passes PDR

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

PALO ALTO, Calif. – December 20, 2017 – SSL, a business unit of Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR) and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that the Restore-L mission to provide satellite servicing in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) has completed an extensive NASA review called the Mission Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and is on track to meet its next development milestone, called Key Decision Point C (KDP-C).

The on-schedule progress and successful reviews for this mission, which will develop and demonstrate key technologies essential to future NASA missions and commercial activities, are tangible evidence of SSL leadership, experience, and commitment to space innovation.

(more…)

NASA Begins Checkout of Dellingr Spacecraft Designed to Improve Robustness of CubeSat Platforms

This is the Dellingr spacecraft right before its release. NASA specifically developed this spacecraft to provide high-quality science data on a small platform. (Credit: Nanoracks)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA ground controllers have begun checking out and commissioning a shoebox-sized spacecraft that the agency purposely built to show that CubeSat platforms could be cost-effective, reliable, and capable of gathering highly robust science.

The Dellingr spacecraft will begin science operations once ground controllers complete checkout, which began a few hours after the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer aboard the International Space Station released the CubeSat into its low-Earth orbit Nov. 20.

(more…)

NASA Small Satellite Promises Big Discoveries

Dr. Reyhan Baktur, a co-investigator from Utah State University, poses with a glass component of UF-Radsat’s solar array. (Credit: Utah State University)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Small satellites provide a cheap, responsive alternative to larger, more expensive satellites. As demand grows, engineers must adapt these “nanosatellites” to provide greater data returns. NASA, in collaboration with educational partners, targets 2021 for the launch of an innovative CubeSat that addresses these challenges.

(more…)

ATLAS Space Operations & NASA Partner to Advance Commercial Space Technology

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (ATLAS Space Operations PR) — ATLAS Space Operations, Inc. announced today that it has entered a collaborative partnership with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This partnership, as a part of the Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity (ACO), will work to support the development of advanced commercial space telecommunications capabilities, industry wide.

ATLAS is revolutionizing space-to-ground communications with their proprietary data management platform – ATLAS Freedom and a scalable satellite ground station technology, ATLAS LINKS Electronically Steered Array.

(more…)

NASA’s Asteroid-Bound Spacecraft to Slingshot Past Earth

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth.
(Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer), will pass about 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above Earth just before 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22. Using Earth as a slingshot, the spacecraft will receive an assist to complete its journey to the asteroid Bennu.

(more…)