Challenging Ourselves to Create the Next Generation of Lunar Explorers

Moon (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Space exploration brings humanity some of its greatest challenges and opportunities. We faced this hard fact on April 11 when the Beresheet spacecraft developed by Israel’s SpaceIL failed to successfully land on the Moon’s surface. While the Beresheet spacecraft can claim many accomplishments, including being the first privately funded lunar spacecraft, we can learn many things from its failures. These are lessons we, too, must consider as NASA tries to conquer similar challenges as we move forward to the Moon with commercial and international partners.

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NIAC Award: Micro-Probes Propelled & Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity

Creditr: Yu Gu/Kansas National Geographic

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

Micro-Probes Propelled and Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity (MP4AE)
Yu Gu
West Virginia University

Inspired by spiders’ ballooning capabilities, the proposed concept envision the deployment of thousands of micro probes to study planetary atmospheres. Each micro probe, with a total mass of about 50 mg, will have a small payload pod hanging under a 200 m long string loop, which provides both atmospheric drag and electrostatic lifts. Two electric booms each about 2.5 m long will sense the Atmospheric Potential Gradient (APG) and harvest a small amount of electricity for powering the probe.

The payload pod will contain energy storage and conversion devices, an actuator for replenishing and regulating the static electric charge on the string loop, and integrated microprocessor, radio, and sensors. The motions of the micro probes will be uncontrolled along the horizontal directions but can be regulated to a limited degree along the vertical direction.

The onboard control system will allow extending the mission time and increasing the probability of keeping the probe in the desired atmospheric layer. If successful, the proposed micro probes can support several future planetary missions by gaining large spatial-scale atmospheric sensing capabilities.

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

NASA ‘Nose’ Importance of Humans, Robots Exploring Together

The Robotic External Leak Locator flight unit before launch. (Credit: NASA)

By Kathryn Cawdrey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

NASA is sending humans forward to the Moon, this time to stay. Upcoming expeditions to the Moon will require making every moment of astronaut time outside the safety of the Gateway in orbit and lunar lander system on the surface count. Robotics will enable lunar crews to do more while minimizing their risk.

NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division is teaming up with the International Space Station to develop the technologies for this kind of astronaut-robotic collaboration, and tomorrow is launching a Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) aboard Cygnus on Northrop Grumman’s 11th Commercial Resupply Services mission.

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NASA KSC Scientist Leading Team to Combat Lunar Dust

Dr. Carlos Calle, lead scientist in the Electrostatics and Surface Physics Laboratory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, prepares an Electrostatic Dust Shield (EDS) for testing on July 19, 2018. The EDS technology launched to the International Space Station April 17, 2019, as part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)-11 mission. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Dust can be a nuisance — on Earth and the Moon. Astronauts exploring the Moon’s South Pole will need a way to help keep pesky lunar dust out of hard to reach places.

A team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida may have the solution. The technology launched to the space station April 17, 2019, from Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia as part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)-11 mission.

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Launch Team One Step Closer to Certification for EM-1

Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems monitor their consoles during a countdown demonstration event of cryogenic propellant loading April 12, 2019, inside Firing Room 2 in the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Exploration Ground Systems’ launch team at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completed their first formal training simulation that will certify the team for the inaugural launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft next year.

The team, led by Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, performed a countdown simulation of loading the SLS with liquid oxygen and hydrogen — complete with surprise issues the team had to work real-time. The thousands of gallons of liquid propellants that will be loaded on launch day are needed to propel the agency’s powerful rocket to the vicinity of the Moon during Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

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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

Cygnus Cargo Ship Attached to International Space Station

April 19, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are docked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter and Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — After its capture this morning at 5:28 a.m. EDT, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:31 a.m. At the time of installation, Cygnus was flying 255 miles above the Indian Ocean just south of Singapore.

Cygnus will remain at the space station until July 23, when the spacecraft will depart the station, deploy NanoRacks customer CubeSats, then have an extended mission of nine months before it will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

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NASA Demos CubeSat Laser Communications Capability

Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. (Credit: NASA/Ames)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (NASA PR) — Two NASA CubeSats teamed up on an impromptu optical, or laser, communications pointing experiment. The laser beam is seen as a brief flash of light close to the center of the focal plane, to the left of Earth’s horizon.

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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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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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NASA to Launch New Technologies on Next Falcon Heavy Flight

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A new kind of atomic clock, non-toxic propellant system and missions to characterize how space weather interferes with satellites and communication transmissions are one step closer to liftoff. With the second-ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch complete, these NASA technologies await the powerful rocket’s next flight.

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Cygnus Carries Experiments to International Space Station

he Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman’s 11th contracted cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,600 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with about 7,600 pounds of science investigations and cargo after launching at 4:46 p.m. EDT Wednesday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The spacecraft launched on an Antares 230 Rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops and is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory around 5:30 a.m. Friday, April 19. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival will begin at 4 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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NASA, Blue Origin Agreement Signals Rocketing Growth of Commercial Space

Test Stand 4670 (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Officials from NASA and the private space company Blue Origin have signed an agreement that grants the company use of a historic test stand as the agency focuses on returning to the Moon and on to Mars, and America’s commercial space industry continues to grow.

Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to support testing of their BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines. The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket and Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle – both being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.”

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Northrop Grumman Launches Cygnus Resupply Mission to Space Station

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman’s 11th contracted cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,600 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Dulles, Va. – April 17, 2019  (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully launched its AntaresTM rocket carrying a CygnusTM spacecraft today at 4:46 p.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The launch marks Northrop Grumman’s 11th cargo mission carrying supplies to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station for NASA.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector

Solar neutrino spacecraft detector (Credit: Nickolas Solomey)

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

Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

A small scaled-down neutrino detector prototype is proposed to be built and tested in the lab that provides the means to mature the measurement technique and detector technology for an eventual spaceflight probe mission for detecting neutrinos in close orbit of the Sun. The detector will be based upon design studies from the NIAC Phase-I work.

With the intensity of solar neutrinos substantially greater in a close solar orbit than on the Earth only a small 250 kg detector with proper shielding and surrounding veto array is needed to perform equal to a 3,000 ton detector on Earth. In addition, solar neutrino detector will be able to do unique science not obtainable by an Earth based experiment.

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