NIAC Award: Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries

Small satellites for exploring the Solar System’s boundaries. (Credit: Robert Staehle)

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

Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries
Robert Staehle
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Overview: New Horizons, Voyager 1 & 2, and Pioneer 10 & 11 are the only spacecraft to venture beyond Saturn’s orbit. Each weighed >250 kg (some >>250 kg), cost >FY19$300 M, and required operations teams with 10s of people. All required radioisotope power to operate at Jupiter and beyond. We propose a completely different approach for focused heliospheric science investigations to 125 AU, and potentially farther beyond the heliopause, without need for radioisotopes and their long, expensive launch approval process.

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NEOWISE Celebrates Five Years of Asteroid Data

This artist’s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. In its NEOWISE mission it finds and characterizes asteroids. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission released its fifth year of survey data on April 11, 2019. The five years of NEOWISE data have significantly advanced scientists’ knowledge of asteroids and comets in the solar system, as well as the stars and galaxies beyond.

The data from all five years of the survey are available at:

http://wise2.ipac.caltech.edu/docs/release/neowise/.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Solar Surfing

Solar surfing (Credit: Doug Willard)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Solar Surfing
Doug Willard
NASA Kennedy Space Center

In 2018 the Parker Solar Probe launched, planning to approach the Sun to within 8.5 solar radii of its surface. This is seven times closer than any previous mission, allowing first-time particle, radiation, and magnetic field measurements of the Sun’s corona. The Parker Solar Probe utilizes a solar shield comprising a lightly-coated carbon composite layer on top of four inches of carbon foam. However, the temperature limits of the shield restrict the closest approach distance.

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Europa Clipper High-Gain Antenna Undergoes Testing

A full-scale prototype of the high-gain antenna on NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft is undergoing testing in the Experimental Test Range at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. (Credit: NASA/Langley)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — It probably goes without saying, but this isn’t your everyday satellite dish.

In fact, it’s not a satellite dish at all. It’s a high-gain antenna (HGA), and a future version of it will send and receive signals to and from Earth from a looping orbit around Jupiter.

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NASA’s JPL Seeking Applicants for First Space Accelerator

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first aerospace accelerator program, co-sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will select 10 startup companies to take part in a three-month pilot program to develop new technologies for space. Applications will be accepted through April 7.

Organized by Techstars with support from Starburst Aerospace, the pilot program will enable the selected companies to collaborate with engineers and subject matter experts from JPL and from co-sponsors Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force, Maxar Technologies, SAIC and Israel Aerospace Industries North America.

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NASA is With You When You Fly, Even on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — According to the 1958 law that established NASA, where the first “A” in NASA stands for aeronautics, the agency is charged with solving the problems of flight within the atmosphere.

But the law doesn’t say which planet’s atmosphere.

In that spirit, when the decision was made to add a small helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover mission to the Red Planet, experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California looked to the agency’s finest aeronautical innovators on this planet for help.

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NASA Dumps Instrument From Europa Clipper Due to Cost Overruns

This artist’s rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA has decided to replace the current magnetometer on the upcoming Europa Clipper mission with a less complex instrument. The Europa Clipper mission, launching in the 2020s, will be the first dedicated and detailed study of a probable ocean world beyond Earth. Jupiter’s moon Europa, slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon, may host a liquid water ocean under its frozen shell, making it a tantalizing place to search for signs of life.

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InSight Is the Newest Mars Weather Service

The white east- and west-facing booms — called Temperature and Wind for InSight, or TWINS — on the deck of NASA’s InSight lander belong to its suite of weather sensors. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — No matter how cold your winter has been, it’s probably not as chilly as Mars. Check for yourself: Starting today, the public can get a daily weather report from NASA’s InSight lander.

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Collier Trophy Nominees Include Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, NASA MarsCO Project

The curvature of the Earth from SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON, DC (NAA PR)  – The National Aeronautic Association announced today that 11
aviation and space achievements will compete for the 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy. For 107 years, the Collier Trophy has been the benchmark of aerospace achievement. Awarded annually “… for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America,” it has been bestowed upon some of the most important projects, programs, individuals, and accomplishments in history.

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Taking a Look Back at Opportunity’s Record-Setting Mission

The tracks of Opportunity on Mars. (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

In this image from 2010, Opportunity used its navigation camera for this northward view of tracks the rover left on a drive from one energy-favorable position on a sand ripple to another. The rover team called this strategy “hopping from lily pad to lily pad.”

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.

Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.

The final transmission, sent via the 70-meter Mars Station antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Complex in California, ended a multifaceted, eight-month recovery strategy in an attempt to compel the rover to communicate.

Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its twin rover, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the 103-mile-wide (166-kilometer-wide) Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars. Spirit’s mission ended in 2011.

From the day Opportunity landed, a team of mission engineers, rover drivers and scientists on Earth collaborated to overcome challenges and get the rover from one geologic site on Mars to the next. They plotted workable avenues over rugged terrain so that the 384-pound (174-kilogram) Martian explorer could maneuver around and, at times, over rocks and boulders, climb gravel-strewn slopes as steep as 32-degrees (an off-Earth record), probe crater floors, summit hills and traverse possible dry riverbeds. Its final venture brought it to the western limb of Perseverance Valley.

NASA’s Record-Setting Opportunity Rover Mission on Mars Comes to End

The dramatic image of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s shadow was taken on sol 180 (July 26, 2004) by the rover’s front hazard-avoidance camera as the rover moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust stormblanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.

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InSight’s Seismometer Now Has a Cozy Shelter on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander deployed its Wind and Thermal Shield on Feb. 2 (Sol 66). The shield covers InSight’s seismometer, which was set down onto the Martian surface on Dec. 19. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL_Caltech PR) — For the past several weeks, NASA’s InSight lander has been making adjustments to the seismometer it set on the Martian surface on Dec. 19. Now it’s reached another milestone by placing a domed shield over the seismometer to help the instrument collect accurate data. The seismometer will give scientists their first look at the deep interior of the Red Planet, helping them understand how it and other rocky planets are formed.

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Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars

Opportunity’s panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images for this view from a position outside Endeavor Crater during the span of June 7 to June 19, 2017. Toward the right side of this scene is a broad notch in the crest of the western rim of crater. (Credits: NASA/JPL (Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting.

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Holiday Asteroid Imaged with NASA Radar

These three radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 were obtained on Dec. 15-17, by coordinating observations with NASA’s 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 330-foot (100-meter) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR/NSF/GBO)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The December 2018 close approach by the large, near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 has provided astronomers an outstanding opportunity to obtain detailed radar images of the surface and shape of the object and to improve the understanding of its orbit.

The asteroid will fly safely past Earth on Saturday, Dec. 22, at a distance of about 1.8 million miles (2.9 million kilometers). This will be the asteroid’s closest approach in more than 400 years and the closest until 2070, when the asteroid will safely approach Earth slightly closer.

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