NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems to Land Astronauts on Moon

Astronaut John Young salutes the flag on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA announced plans on Dec. 13 to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028.

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ESA Council Welcomes Bridenstine, Reviews Ongoing Programs

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — The ESA Council held its 277th meeting at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt on 12 and 13 December 2018.The Council welcomed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who presented NASA’s vision for future space exploration. Mr Bridenstine praised the long-standing cooperation between ESA and NASA over the past 40 years through more than 260 major agreements including the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

He strongly advocated international cooperation with ESA regarding space science, Earth science, the extension of the International Space Station operations and recognised the leading role of ESA on space safety and protection of space assets.

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NanoRacks Delivers Educational Research, CubeSats, and Novel Medical Science to the Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (NanoRacks PR) – Last weekend, Dragon, the spacecraft from the sixteenth SpaceX contracted resupply mission, berthed with the International Space Station carrying educational experiments, CubeSats, and industry science research from NanoRacks’ customers into orbit. Within this mission, the NanoRacks team delivered payloads for four of the Company’s commercial platforms on Space Station.

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10 CubeSats Ready for NASA’s First Venture Class Launch

Electron It’s Business Time lift-off (Credits: Kieran Fanning & Sam Toms)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — RNASA will enable the launch of 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) for launch on Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA. The CubeSats were built by three NASA centers, seven universities, and a middle school as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite XIX (ELaNa-19) mission.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. This mission will be the first launch under NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contracts, which aims to provide a dedicated launch capability for smaller payloads such as CubeSats on smaller rockets.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch Dec. 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
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Static Test Qualifies Orion Launch Abort Motor for Flight in Cold Conditions

Today’s test firing of the Northrop Grumman-manufactured launch abort motor in Promontory, Utah, confirmed the motor can activate within milliseconds and will perform as designed under cold temperatures. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

PROMONTORY, Utah, December 13, 2018 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) along with NASA and Lockheed Martin successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Promontory, Utah. The abort motor is a major part of the LAS, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The completion of this milestone brings Orion one step closer to its first flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

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NASA’s InSight Takes Its First Selfie

This is NASA InSight’s first selfie on Mars. It displays the lander’s solar panels and deck. On top of the deck are its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna. The selfie was taken on Dec. 6, 2018 (Sol 10). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander isn’t camera-shy. The spacecraft used a camera on its robotic arm to take its first selfie — a mosaic made up of 11 images. This is the same imaging process used by NASA’s Curiosity rover mission, in which many overlapping pictures are taken and later stitched together. Visible in the selfie are the lander’s solar panel and its entire deck, including its science instruments.

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NASA Looks to the Future, Seeks Next Level Visionary Aerospace Concepts

NASA is looking for trailblazing ideas that could one day change what’s possible in space. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is seeking Phase II proposals for the continuation of Phase I research studies.

NIAC helps NASA look to the future by funding far reaching, early stage space technology concepts with the potential of transforming exploration and science missions. This research may one day enable new capabilities or significantly alter approaches for operating, building and landing structures in space.

“NIAC studies are exciting, and in the initial phase we see a lot of brand-new ideas,” said NIAC Program Executive Jason Derleth. “Phase II is where our fellows can dig into the engineering details of their creative ideas, utilizing more time and resources. We can’t wait to see how the next round of selected proposals progress.”

NIAC Phase II awards can be up to $500,000 for two years, allowing researchers to further develop Phase I concepts. NASA will accept NIAC Phase II proposals of no more than 15 pages in length through Feb. 14, 2019 (a notice of interest is due by Dec. 17, 2018). The solicitation is only open to current or previously awarded NIAC Phase I fellows who have successfully completed a Phase I study but have not yet been awarded a Phase II study. NIAC Phase I final reports must be received before submitting to Phase II.

For the full solicitation and guidelines for proposal submission, visit the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) website:

https://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/summary!init.do?solId={DB5722D5-CB87-C65D-E726-25141D34A27A}&path=open

NIAC partners with forward-thinking scientists, engineers and citizen inventors from across the nation to help maintain America’s leadership in air and space. NIAC is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the new cross-cutting technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

For more information about the NIAC program, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/niac

Aerospace, JPL Develop Concept to View Distant Planets

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Nov. 19, 2018 – In a new development in the search for potentially habitable planets far beyond our solar system, JPL and Aerospace are conducting a study to further develop an innovative deep-space concept that relies on a solar gravity lens (SGL) to enable enhanced viewing of exoplanets.

The SGL would provide 100-billion optical magnification, allowing it to show details as small as 10 kilometers across – similar to being able to spot something the size of New York City on an exoplanet.

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Send a Message to New Horizons


After a stellar flyby on Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons is set to make the first flyby of Kuiper belt object on New Year’s Eve as it zips past Ultima Thule. Now you can beam a greeting to the plucky probe that’s four billion miles from home at this website. Don’t delay. It’s a limited-time offer.

Voyager 2 Enters Interstellar Space

This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, outside of the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars. NASA’s Voyager 2 probe now has exited the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.

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NASA’s Newly Arrived OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Already Discovers Water on Asteroid

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Recently analyzed data from NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has revealed water locked inside the clays that make up its scientific target, the asteroid Bennu.

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NASA InSight Lander Hears Martian Winds

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander, which touched down on Mars just 10 days ago, has provided the first ever “sounds” of Martian winds on the Red Planet.

InSight sensors captured a haunting low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind, estimated to be blowing between 10 to 15 mph (5 to 7 meters a second) on Dec. 1, from northwest to southeast. The winds were consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit.

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Report: SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Contaminating Space Station

Dragon on the end of Candarm2. (Credit: NASA)

Wired has a fascinating story that details how SpaceX’s cargo Dragon spacecraft have been contaminating the International Space Station during their stays there – and how NASA has tried to hide the fact.

The contamination was discovered by the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III Earth observing instrument, which was launched to the station aboard SpaceX’s CRS-10 resupply mission in February 2017. The instrument has crystals in it capable of detecting contamination at the space station.

The results are preliminary, but Dragon may have deposited, according to this presentation, up to 21 times the allowed amount of contamination on one sensor. The crystals also significantly changed in frequency when the next Dragon docked, and the report estimates that this mission may have left behind up to 32 times the rule-abiding amount of extra matter on one sensor….

During this thirteenth mission, one sensor may have been sprayed with up to 73 times more than what’s allowed during a sojourn. And for the month or so that Dragon was docked at the Station, two of the sensors individually detected more contamination than is allowed—total, from everything on the Station—in a whole year.

Among the space assets at risk from the capsule’s outgassing is the U.S. Laboratory Science Window, a porthole through which astronauts and instruments can gaze out on Earth. On the more scientific side, there’s CATS, an instrument that measures smoke, pollution, dust, and other particles in the planet’s atmosphere. In total, seven sensitive areas or instruments on the ISS, including SAGE, could be contaminated beyond the limit.

“NASA has communicated with the Station payload community its findings, and payload developers have responded either that their instruments have experienced no impact or they have taken precautions to mitigate impacts to their science,” says Space Environments in a statement. The SAGE III team closes the instrument’s “contamination door,” as a standard operating procedure, when any spacecraft visit to protect its optical instrument, although the resulting measurements aren’t as sensitive .

SpaceX said it is working with suppliers to develop low outgassing materials for use in future Dragon spacecraft. It said NASA pre-approved the materials used in the resupply ships. (The story, however, says that it’s possible materials such as paint are not being applied and cured properly.)

The information came from a presentation marked unclassified and unlimited public distribution that was posted on the NASA Technical Reports Server in September. A day after the Wired writer requested an interview about it with NASA officials, the document disappeared from the server. A NASA official said the report is “under review” and told Wired to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for it.