NASA Inflatable Heat Shield Technology Performs Under Pressure

LOFTID pack and deployment testing started with a load test to verify that the heat shield will perform as expected in flight under real-life conditions. (Credits: NASA)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Testing is well underway as NASA’s LOFTID – short for Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator – prepares to catch a ride on an Atlas V rocket launch in 2022.

LOFTID is a cross-cutting technology designed to help deliver heavy cargos to any planet with an atmosphere.

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NASA Releases Draft Solicitation on Supplying Lunar Gateway

The power and propulsion element of NASA’s Gateway is a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft – three times more powerful than current capabilities. (Credits: NASA)

By Laura Aguiar
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In the latest step in sending astronauts to the lunar surface within five years, NASA issued a draft solicitation June 14 to industry seeking comments for a future opportunity for American companies to deliver cargo and other supplies to the Gateway in lunar orbit.

The first logistics service to the orbital outpost is expected to deliver science, cargo and other supplies in support of the agency’s new Artemis lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

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Legislation Aims to Protect Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Site

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin steps down the ladder to the surface of the moon. (Credit: NASA)

Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have introduced legislation aimed at protecting the historic Apollo 11 landing site as the 50th anniversary of the mission approaches next month.

The One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act seeks to protect the Sea of Tranquility site where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked for its historical and archeological value.

“The Apollo 11 landing site and other similar historic landing sites in outer space merit legal protection from inadvertent or intentional interference with such sites or the environment surrounding such sites in order to prevent irremediable loss of archaeological, anthropological, historical, scientific, and engineering significance and value,” the bill states.

“As commercial enterprises and more countries acquire the ability to land on the Moon, it is necessary to ensure the recognition and protection of the Apollo 11 landing site and other historic landing sites together with all the human effort and innovation the sites represent,” the act added.

Organizations conducting operations in space would be required to comply with a set of recommendations issued by NASA in 2011 in order to received an U.S. government license for their missions. Fines are authorized for violations.

The bill contains an exception for activities “determined to have legitimate and significant historical, archeological, anthropological, scientific, or engineering value. The agency granting the license would be required to consult with NASA before granting an exemption.

The measure is being promoted by For All Moonkind, a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of space sites.

“Thank you and for the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act! Everyone – contact your Senators and tell them to vote to protect our history in space,” the group Tweeted.

Orion Launch Abort System Designed to Pull its Weight for Moon Missions

Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test vehicle. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will soar toward the Moon atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as part of the agency’s Artemis program to establish a permanent presence at the Moon and learn the skills needed to send humans to Mars. Crew members will journey aboard Orion with the confidence knowing the spacecraft is specifically designed with a number of features to support humans traveling to deep space, including a highly capable Launch Abort System (LAS). The LAS is a structure on top of the crew module that can fire within milliseconds and, with the crew module attached, outrun the powerful rocket if an emergency arises during launch.

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Mission Control Secures $250k from Canadian Space Agency to Develop Commercial Lunar Mission Software

OTTAWA, Ont. (Mission Control PR) — Mission Control is excited to announce the support of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for their ongoing development of Mission Control Software for the next generation of commercial space exploration missions. Through the Space Technology Development Program, the CSA will contribute $250k [USD $187,441] to the development of this technology which will help position Mission Control to participate in near term robotic missions to the Moon.

“With ongoing programs such as NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Service, a new wave of commercial space exploration is about to break,” said Dr. Michele Faragalli, Chief Technology Officer of Mission Control. “Rovers and other robotic systems will play an essential role in commercial exploration of the Moon.” Current rover technology is expensive and requires continuous management by operators back on Earth. Rover based exploration will be more cost-effective if more tasks can be performed autonomously onboard, and with more flexible options available for the mission operators on earth.

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NASA’s Psyche Mission Has a Metal World in Its Sights

This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Designed to explore a metal asteroid that could be the heart of a planet, the Psyche mission is readying for a 2022 launch. After extensive review, NASA Headquarters in Washington has approved the mission to begin the final design and fabrication phase, otherwise known as Phase C. This is when the Psyche team finalizes the system design, develops detailed plans and procedures for the spacecraft and science mission, and completes both assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its subsystems.

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Starshade Would Take Formation Flying to Extremes

This artist’s concept shows the geometry of a space telescope aligned with a starshade, a technology used to block starlight in order to reveal the presence of planets orbiting that star. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA-JPL-Caltech PR) — Anyone who’s ever seen aircraft engaged in formation flying can appreciate the feat of staying highly synchronized while airborne. In work sponsored by NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP), engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are taking formation flying to a new extreme.

Their work marks an important milestone within a larger program to test the feasibility of a technology called a starshade. Although starshades have never flown in space, they hold the potential to enable groundbreaking observations of planets beyond our solar system, including pictures of planets as small as Earth.

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Five Things to Know About NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA is sending a new technology to space in late June that will change the way we navigate our spacecraft — even how we send astronauts to Mars and beyond. Built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the Deep Space Atomic Clock is a technology demonstration that will help spacecraft navigate autonomously through deep space. No larger than a toaster oven, the instrument will be tested in Earth orbit for one year, with the goal of being ready for future missions to other worlds.

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NASA Prepares to Launch Twin Satellites to Study Signal Disruption From Space

This visualization shows the relative density of certain particles in Earth’s ionosphere. The E-TBEx CubeSats will explore how signals from satellites to Earth can be disrupted as they pass through this region. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s twin E-TBEx CubeSats — short for Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment — are scheduled to launch in June 2019 aboard the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 launch. The launch includes a total of 24 satellites from government and research institutions. They will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Bigelow Space Operations Reserves up to Four Dedicated SpaceX Launches to Space Station

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (BSO PR) — On Friday, June 7, 2019, Bigelow Space Operations (BSO) announced that last September of 2018 BSO paid substantial sums as deposits and reservation fees to secure up to four SpaceX launches to the International Space Station (ISS). These launches are dedicated flights each carrying up to four people for a duration of one to possibly two months on the ISS.

BSO is excited about NASA’s announcements last Friday. BSO has demonstrated its sincerity and commitment to moving forward on NASA’s commercialization plans for the ISS through the execution of last September’s launch contracts. BSO intends to thoroughly digest all of the information that was dispersed last week so that all opportunities and obligations to properly conduct the flights and activities of new astronauts to the ISS can be responsibly performed.

In these early times, the seat cost will be targeted at approximately $52,000,000per person.

The next big question is when is this all going to happen? Once the SpaceX rocket and capsule are certified by NASA to fly people to the ISS, then this program can begin.

As you might imagine, as they say “the devil is in the details”, and there are many. But we are excited and optimistic that all of this can come together successfully, and BSO has skin in the game.

— Robert T. Bigelow President, Bigelow Space Operations

Artemis 1 Flight Control Team Simulates Mission Scenarios

Artemis 1 mission simulation. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In mission control at Johnson Space Center in Houston, flight controllers simulated part of Orion’s uncrewed flight to the Moon for Artemis 1. The team executed an outbound trajectory correction, a maneuver that will be needed to make sure Orion is on the right path after the Space Launch System performs the Trans-Lunar Injection burn that sends the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon. As Orion travels toward the Moon over the course of several days, flight controllers will command Orion from the ground six times to correct its trajectory to ensure the spacecraft can fly by the Moon at the correct time and place. The flight control team is preparing for Artemis missions by refining and practicing procedures they will use on the ground to command and control Orion on its missions to the Moon.

Exploring the Moon Promises Innovation and Benefit at Home

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Walking on another world was science fiction until NASA’s Apollo program made it a reality. Fifty years later, we look back on the benefits of Apollo and imagine how the digital age could transform now that America’s sights are set on returning humans to the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis program.

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Watch NASA Build Its Next Mars Rover

The “Seeing 2020” live video feed allows the public to watch engineers and technicians assemble and test NASA’s next Mars rover in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A newly installed webcam offers the public a live, bird’s-eye view of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover as it takes shape at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. You can watch as JPL engineers and technicians assemble and test the rover before it embarks next year on one of the most technologically challenging interplanetary missions ever designed.

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