NASA Empowers Workforce to Advance Deep Space Technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 10 proposals led by early-career employees across the agency for two-year projects that will support the development of new capabilities for deep space human exploration.

These proposals were selected under Project Polaris, a new initiative to support the NASA workforce in efforts to meet the challenges of sending humans to the Moon and Mars. Project Polaris seeks to fill high-priority capability gaps on deep space missions like those planned under Artemis and introduce new technologies into human exploration flight programs. The project also aims to create opportunities for early-career employees across NASA centers to gain experience building and testing flight hardware while developing technologies and reducing risk for future human exploration missions.

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Gateway Vehicle Systems Management Demonstration Completed

Illustration of NASA’s lunar-orbiting Gateway and a human landing system in orbit around the Moon. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Advanced Exploration Systems’ (AES) Autonomous Systems and Operations (ASO) team, including members from NASA Ames’ Intelligent Systems Division, developed and demonstrated new technologies designed to automate the operation of Gateway, a key element of the Artemis mission. (Gateway will be an outpost orbiting the Moon that provides vital support for a long-term human return to the lunar surface, as well as a staging point for deep space exploration.)

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NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green to Retire in 2022

Jim Green, NASA’s Chief Science Officer—shown here speaking at a public event on Aug. 6, 2013, at NASA Headquarters observing the first anniversary of the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars—will retire in 2022. He has worked at NASA since 1980. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Chief Scientist Jim Green has announced that he will retire in early 2022 after more than 40 years of service at NASA.

“I feel tremendously proud about the activities I’ve done at NASA,” said Green. “In many ways, NASA is not a job. It’s a way of life. We’re always looking for ways to do the impossible. The fact that we continue to succeed and do those things is a tremendous excitement for everyone, and really is important not just for NASA, but for the nation.”

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SSTL Signs Up ESA as Anchor Customer for Lunar Pathfinder Communications Relay Satellite

Lunar Pathfinder satellite (Credit: Surrey Satellite)

LONDON, September 15, 2021 (SSTL PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) for communications services from Lunar Pathfinder, due to launch in 2024.  The Commercial Lunar Mission Support Services contract was signed between ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, Dave Parker, and SSTL’s Managing Director, Phil Brownnett, on 15 September 2021 at The Royal Society in London.  Amanda Solloway, UK Government Science Minister, Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director General, Paul Bate, Director of the UK Space Agency, and SSTL’s Executive Chairman, Sir Martin Sweeting were also in attendance. 

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NASA Enables Commercial Crew, Private Astronaut Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured after undocking from the forward port on the Harmony module beginning its short trip to the space-facing port. (Credit: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When SpaceX launches its Inspiration4 mission with four crew members to space, it will be the company’s first fully private launch with astronauts to orbit. Although not a NASA mission, the flight embodies the agency’s vision and work to foster a strong space economy, with private companies providing commercial transportation to space for people and cargo as well as creating future commercial destinations in space.

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Landsat 9 Launch Pushed Back to Sept. 27

Landsat 9 Operational Land Imager 2 (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

NASA Mission Update

NASA and United Launch Alliance currently are reviewing the launch date for the Landsat 9 spacecraft scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Attaching the spacecraft to the Atlas V rocket has been delayed due to out-of-tolerance high winds for the operation and conflicts with other customers using the Western Range.

The Landsat 9 mission now is expected to launch from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 3 no earlier than Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Landsat 9 is a joint NASA and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) mission that continues the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions, which began with the first Landsat in 1972.

NASA Provides Laser for LISA Mission

The first prototype of a laser sits on a testbed at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), headquartered in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. CSEM will test and characterize the laser, which will be used to conduct gravitational wave experiments in space for the LISA mission. (Credits: European Space Agency/CSEM)

By Karl B. Hille
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. — Finding the biggest collisions in the universe takes time, patience, and super steady lasers.

In May, NASA specialists working with industry partners delivered the first prototype laser for the European Space Agency-led Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, or LISA, mission. This unique laser instrument is designed to detect the telltale ripples in gravitational fields caused by the mergers of neutron stars, black holes, and supermassive black holes in space.

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NASA Selects Five U.S. Companies to Mature Artemis Lander Concepts

Artist concept of the Blue Origin National Team crewed lander on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: Blue Origin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to help the agency enable a steady pace of crewed trips to the lunar surface under the agency’s Artemis program. These companies will make advancements toward sustainable human landing system concepts, conduct risk-reduction activities, and provide feedback on NASA’s requirements to cultivate industry capabilities for crewed lunar landing missions.

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Two Flight Engineers’ Stay on ISS Extended; Biology, Maintenance Work Pick Up

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Two International Space Station crew members have had their stay onboard the orbiting lab extended to nearly a year. Meanwhile, space biology and life support maintenance kept the Expedition 65 crew busy on Tuesday.

With the plans for Russian spaceflight participants to visit the space station as part of the Soyuz MS-19 crew in October 2021, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov will remain aboard the station until March 2022. Upon return to Earth, Vande Hei will hold the record for longest single spaceflight for an American. [Editor’s Note: The Russians are sending an actress and director to shoot a movied named “Challenge.”]

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House Infrastructure Bill Includes $173 Million to Improve Space Weather Forecasting

An artist’s rendering of the Space Weather Follow-on L1 satellite. (Credit: NOAA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Science Committee approved an infrastructure bill that provides an additional $173 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to accelerate the development and launch of the Space Weather Follow-On Lagrange-1 (SWFO-L1) mission. The spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2024, will monitor the solar wind and coronal mass ejections from the Earth-sun L-1 Lagrange point.

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ASI and Qascom to Bring Italy and Galileo Navigation System to the Moon

Photo of Mare Crisium taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credit: NASA)

ROME (ASI PR) — Finding the best route for lunar orbit and easy parking on the Moon is the goal of NEIL (Navigation Early Investigation on Lunar surface) GNSS receiver with Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology. The creation of NEIL, named in honor of Neil Armstrong, the first man to touch the lunar soil, is at the center of an agreement between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and NASA linked to the CLPS 19-D mission (NASA missions with contributions commercial and private of an experimental nature) with which the American space agency has planned to land with a lander in the Mare Crisium basin in 2023. [Editor’s Note: This is Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander mission.]

NEIL, subject of the contract signed between ASI and the company Qascom SRL, is the on-board payload that will be an integral part of the experiment called Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment  (LuGRE), defined in the ASI/NASA agreement, which aims to develop an activity in a lunar and cislunar environment.

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South Korea to Boost Military and Civil Space Spending, Transfer Satellite and Launch Vehicle Technology to Private Sector

Test model of the Nuri (KSLV-II) booster. (Credit: Ministry of Science and ICT)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

South Korea plans to invest more than $14.25 billion over the next decade to improve its military and civil space capabilities. The Republic of Korea will transfer satellite and launch vehicle technology to the private sector to boost the nation’s domestic capabilities and improve its international competitiveness. The nation is also deepening defense and civil space cooperation with the United States.

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Small Satellite, Big Questions: CuPID CubeSat Will Get New Perspective on Sun-Earth Boundary

In April 2021, Connor O’Brien and Emil Atz complete “vibration testing” of CuPID to ensure it can withstand the space environment. (Credits: Brian Walsh)

By Alison Gold
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — When you help build a satellite the size of a shoebox, you learn pretty much everything about it, says Emil Atz, a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. You learn how to write a proposal to fund it, how to place the screws that hold it together, how to test each instrument to ensure it functions properly.

And then you learn how to say goodbye.

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Next Generation of Orion Spacecraft in Production for Future Artemis Missions

Now complete, the crew module pressure vessel for Artemis III will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the team will start integrating the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems. Photo taken August 27, 2021. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — Over the next decade, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts during Artemis missions to the Moon to help prepare for human missions to Mars. Work on the spacecraft for Artemis I is nearly complete, Artemis II is well underway, and NASA is making progress on vehicles for the missions beyond.

The agency recently completed welding on the Artemis III Orion pressure vessel, the underlying frame of the air-tight capsule for astronauts called the crew module. This structure is the first major piece of hardware in Orion’s production phase with lead contractor Lockheed Martin.

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NASA Small Business Partners Advance Lunar Technologies

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. NASA’s Artemis mission will establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Small businesses around the country have played a critical part in NASA technologies that enable our missions. As NASA returns to the Moon via the Artemis program, in an enhanced, sustainable way; the agency has selected five U.S. small businesses to receive a total of nearly $20 million to accelerate the development of novel lunar capabilities. 

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