NASA Looking to Tiny Technology for Big Payoffs

A demonstration flight article is wound with carbon nanotube composites. (Credits: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA is advancing technology that could use large amounts of nanoscale materials to launch lighter rockets and spacecraft than ever before. The Super-lightweight Aerospace Composites (SAC) project seeks to scale up the manufacturing and use of high-strength carbon nanotube composite materials.

Carbon nanotubes consist of carbon atoms chemically bound in the shape of cylinders that are less than 1/80,000 the diameter of human hair. At that scale, carbon nanotubes are about 100 times stronger than steel and about eight times lighter.

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NASA Awards Contract for Continued Development of Carbon Nanotube Technology

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Nanocomp Technologies Inc. of Merrimack, New Hampshire, for the continued development of high strength carbon nanotube (CNT) material.

The firm-fixed-price contract allows for the continued improvement of manufacturing high-strength CNT yarn/tape for use in developing CNT composites with strength properties at least double that of carbon fiber composites in use today. The contract also provides for studying commercialization objectives for CNT material as well as expanding manufacturing capabilities to lower production costs of high strength CNT yarn.

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Life at the Lab: Coming in for Landing

Video Caption: Wishing you had a driverless car or plane? NASA Langley is developing navigational radar sensor technology to use during future space missions. The sensors can also help make autonomous vehicles more efficient on Earth.

NASA Goes to Great Lengths to Get Mars Entry, Descent and Landing Measurements

NASA Langley employees assembly flight cable harnesses for Mars 2020 mission. (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, are hard at work assembling components for the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) which will collect data during the Mars 2020 mission’s entry through the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

These flight cable harnesses are 30-foot-long groups of electrical wires that will transmit signals for some MEDLI2 sensors. It takes about eight weeks to build and test all of the harnesses. Once complete, they will ship to Lockheed Martin for integration onto the Mars 2020 heat shield.

MEDLI2 will measure pressure, temperature, heat flux and radiation on the capsule that encloses the Mars 2020 rover during Mars atmospheric entry. The data collected will extend the groundbreaking entry data collected by the first MEDLI instrument suite flown aboard the Mars Science Laboratory mission in 2012 and will improve designs of entry systems for future robotic and human missions to Mars, Venus, Titan and the gas giants.

MEDLI2 is a Game Changing Development project led by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate with support from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Science Mission Directorate. The project is managed at Langley and implemented in partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL manages the Mars 2020 spacecraft development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

At Langley, Admiration and Gratitude Multiply on Katherine Johnson’s 100th Birthday

Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Reid Conference Center. Honored guests include Katherine G. Johnson and members of her family, Mayor Donnie Tuck, Senator Warner and Governor McAuliffe. Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures,” (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — When Jasmine Byrd started her job at NASA about two years ago, she knew nothing about Katherine Johnson, the mathematician and “human computer” whose achievements helped inspire the book and movie “Hidden Figures.”

At that point, the release of the film was still months away. But excitement was building — particularly at Byrd’s new workplace. She’d arrived at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where Johnson spent her entire, 33-year NACA and NASA career.

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Mars Parachute Test Successfully Launched from Wallops

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — The launch of a Black Brant IX sounding rocket carrying the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment or ASPIRE was successfully conducted at 12:19 p.m. EDT, March 31, 2018, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

ASPIRE was testing a parachute for possible future missions to Mars.

The next ASPIRE test at Wallops is currently scheduled for later this summer.

ASPIRE is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, with support from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is based at Wallops. Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations through the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington manages the sounding rocket program for the agency.

NASA to Launch Parachute Test off Virginia Coast March 27

The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) 2 payload undergoes testing in the sounding rocket payload facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, prior to transport to the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA will test a parachute for possible future missions to Mars from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday, March 27. Live coverage of the test is scheduled to begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT on the Wallops Ustream site.

The launch window for the 58-foot-tall Terrier-Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket is from 6:45 to 10:15 a.m. Backup launch days are March 28 to April 10.

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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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Drop Tests at NASA Langley Help Boeing’s Starliner Prepare to Land Astronauts

https://www.nasa.gov/langley/feature/drop-tests-at-nasa-langley-help-boeing-starliner-prepare-to-land-astronauts

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — At NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, a mock-up of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft has endured a series of land landing qualification tests to simulate what the actual spacecraft and crew members may experience while returning to Earth from space.

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NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid CubeSat Goes Full Sail

When fully deployed, NEA Scout’s solar sail is the length of a school bus. This sail is used to reflect sunlight to use as propulsion for the satellite as it moves through space, minimizing the need for fuel and paving the way for deep-space exploration missions. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.  (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite the size of a shoebox, designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a full-scale solar sail deployment test at ManTech NeXolve’s facility in Huntsville, Alabama, Sept. 13. The test was performed in an indoor clean room to ensure the deployment mechanism’s functionality after recent environmental testing.

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X-plane Preliminary Design Model Tests Quiet Supersonic Technology

Samantha O’Flaherty finalizes the set-up of the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) Preliminary Design Model. (Credit: NASA/Chris Giersch)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Samantha O’Flaherty, Test Engineer for Jacobs Technology Inc., finalizes the set-up of the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) Preliminary Design Model inside the 14- by- 22 Foot Subsonic Tunnel at NASA Langley Research Center. Over the next several weeks, engineers will conduct aerodynamic tests on the 15% scale model and the data collected from the wind tunnel test will be used to predict how the vehicle will perform and fly in low-speed flight.

The QueSST Preliminary Design is the initial design stage of NASA’s planned Low-Boom Flight Demonstration experimental airplane, otherwise known as an X-plane.  This future X-plane is one of a series of X-planes envisioned in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative, which aims to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that depart from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape.

HIAD Heat Shield Material Feels the Burn During Arc Jet Testing

Small cutouts of the Flexible Thermal Protection System for NASA’s Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD, were exposed to temperatures up to approximately 2,700 F during testing at Boeing’s Large Core Arc Tunnel in St. Louis, Missouri. (Credit: Boeing)

ST. LOUIS (NASA PR) — NASA heat shield material that could one day be used on an inflatable aeroshell during atmospheric entry on Mars recently underwent testing at Boeing’s Large Core Arc Tunnel in St. Louis, Missouri.

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Orbital ATK Supports Ground Testing of Robotic Assembly Project at NASA’s Langley

The NINJAR 2.0’s ability to position portions of truss to create a perfect cube for use in manufacturing structures in space was demonstrated at Langley on July 20. (Credit: NASA/LRC)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — The Commercial Infrastructure for Robotic Assembly and Services (CIRAS) project has reached an important milestone in advancing technologies to build large structures in space.

Ground demonstration of the CIRAS component, NASA Intelligent Jigging and Assembly Robot (NINJAR) 2.0, was conducted July 20 in the Structures and Materials Test Laboratory at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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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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Setting the Spaceplane Stage

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Fly frequently, travel safely, land on (most) runways, and operate economically: such are the guiding principles for 21st century spaceplanes, cargo-carrying aerospace workhorses routinely launching to low-Earth orbit for space station resupply and crew transfers. Fans disconsolate after retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet can take heart: The next generation in reusable space vehicles is set to debut.

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