NASA Announces Early Stage Innovation Space Technology Research Grants

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 university-led proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high-priority needs of America’s space program.

The universities will work on their proposed research and development projects for up to a three-year period, and will receive as much as $500,000 each in Early Stage Innovations (ESI) grant funding from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program.

“These are critical space exploration technology challenges that NASA needs solutions for,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “We are looking forward to the technology development that comes out of these research grants.”

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NASA Is Sending E. coli to Space for Astronaut Health

EcAMSat (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ever wonder what would happen if you got sick in space? NASA has sent bacteria samples into low-Earth orbit to help find out.

One of the agency’s latest small satellite experiments is the E. coli Anti-Microbial Satellite, or EcAMSat, which will explore the genetic basis for how effectively antibiotics can combat E. coli bacteria in the low gravity of space. This CubeSat – a spacecraft the size of a shoebox built from cube-shaped units – has just been deployed from the space station, and may help us improve how we fight infections, providing safer journeys for astronauts on future voyages, and offer benefits for medicine here on Earth.

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BEAM Work and Vision Checks for Crew Today

BEAM module interior (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — More CubeSats were ejected from the International Space Station today to demonstrate and validate new technologies. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 53 crew continued outfitting an experimental module and studying life science.

Two more tiny satellites were deployed from the Kibo laboratory module into Earth orbit today to research a variety of new technologies and space weather. One of the nanosatellites, known as TechEdSat, seeks to develop and demonstrate spacecraft and payload deorbit techniques. The OSIRIS-3U CubeSat will measure the Earth’s ionosphere in coordination with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Commander Randy Bresnik was back inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) today with Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Joe Acaba. The astronauts are converting the experimental habitat into a cargo platform by replacing old BEAM hardware with new electronics and stowage gear.

Eye exams are on the schedule this week as two cosmonauts and two astronauts took turns playing eye doctor and patient today. Alex Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos started first with the optical coherence tomography hardware using a laptop computer. Next, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took their turn to help doctors on the ground understand the vision changes that take place in space.

Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. (Credit: European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space-the first confirmed object from another star.

Now, new data reveal the interstellar interloper to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a somewhat reddish hue. The asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to one-quarter mile (400 meters) long and highly-elongated-perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide. That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date. While its elongated shape is quite surprising, and unlike asteroids seen in our solar system, it may provide new clues into how other solar systems formed.

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Rubio Still Concerned Over Bridenstine’s Nomination to Run NASA

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) confirmation hearing apparently did nothing to assuage the doubts of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over his suitability to serve as NASA’s next administrator.

“I remain very concerned about the politicization of NASA, not even because he would do it on purpose but just given some of the resistance he’s already engendered,” Rubio said in an interview Friday. “I don’t think NASA at this critical stage of its history can afford that … As of this moment, I can’t assure anyone that I would support his nomination if it came to a vote.”

Rubio’s comments are his strongest yet and suggest that his initial misgivings when President Donald Trump announced Bridenstine’s nomination in early September have only grown.

A broad swath of Democrats from Washington Sen. Patty Murray to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson have already announced their opposition to Bridenstine over a range of his past statements, including ones skeptical of climate science and opposing same-sex marriage.

Bridenstine’s nomination requires approval of the full Senate. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the upper chamber, which means the Congressman cannot afford to lose many GOP votes.

ELaNa XIV CubeSats Launch on JPSS-1 Mission

Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTa) CubeSat (Credit: MIT)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has launched four small research satellites, or CubeSats, developed by four universities as part of a broader mission launching the next generation polar-orbiting satellite to space. These CubeSat missions were selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) as part of the 14th installment of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions.

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NASA CubeSat to Test Miniaturized Weather Satellite Technology

The Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTA) satellite, a 3U CubeSat, is shown with solar panels fully deployed, flanking the body of the spacecraft, which has a circular aperture at the top for the microwave radiometer antenna, used for atmospheric science measurements. There are also two small, thin tape-measure antennas on the top, used for UHF radio communication with the ground station. (Credit: MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (NASA PR) — Behind every weather forecast—from your local, five-day prediction to a late-breaking hurricane track update—are the satellites that make them possible. Government agencies depend on observations from weather satellites to inform forecast models that help us prepare for approaching storms and identify areas that need evacuating or emergency first responders.

Weather satellites have traditionally been large, both in the effort needed to build them and in actual size. They can take several years to build and can be as big as a small school bus. But all of that could change in the future with the help of a shoebox-sized satellite that will start orbiting Earth later this month.

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JPSS-1 to Improve U.S. Weather Forecasting

This illustration depicts the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft designed to provide forecasters with crucial environmental science data to provide a better understanding of changes in the Earth’s weather, oceans and climate. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., November 18, 2017 (NOAA PR) — The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, the first in a new series of four highly advanced NOAA polar-orbiting satellites, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 1:47 a.m. PST this morning. The satellite’s next-generation technology will help improve the timeliness and accuracy of U.S. weather forecasts three to seven days out.

“The value of the new JPSS satellite cannot be understated after this tragic hurricane season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “JPSS offers an unparalleled perspective on our planet’s weather, granting NOAA advanced insights which will be used to guard American lives and communities.”

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Delta II Launches New JPSS-1 Weather Satellite

 

Delta II launches the JPSS-1 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 18, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) for NASA and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-2 on Nov. 18 at 1:47 a.m. PST. The JPSS program provides the nation’s next generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system, delivering key observations for the nation’s essential projects and services, including forecasting weather in advance and assessing environmental hazards.

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NASA Faces Serious Challenges With Aging Facilities

NASA’s aging infrastructure (Credit: NASA OIG)

A recent Inspector General report, NASA’s 2017 Top Management and Performance Challenges, finds the space agency is facing serious challenges in maintaining and upgrading aging buildings and test facilities at its far flung network of centers.  The following excerpt from the report shows the difficulties NASA has had in consolidating or eliminating unnecessary facilities.

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Stratolaunch to Test Rocket Engine Technology at NASA Stennis

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft (Credit: Dylan Schwartz)

Stratolaunch will test rocket engine technology next year at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi under agreements with the space agency.

Paul Allen’s company signed two agreements with NASA: an umbrella Space Act Agreement laying out the terms of cooperation, and an annex under with Stratolaunch will pay $5.1 million to the space agency to use the E1 facility at Stennis for engine tests.

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NASA CubeSat Missions Pushing the Boundaries of Technology

OCSD satellite (Credit: NASA)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program is on the countdown clock to advance communications and proximity maneuvering capabilities for CubeSats with two separate technology demonstration missions.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) mission will showcase the first-ever high-speed data downlink from a CubeSat to a ground station using lasers, in addition to maneuvering the pair of diminutive spacecraft to up-close proximity.

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NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission Performs First Supersonic Parachute Test

A 58-foot-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Oct. 4. This was the first test of the Mars 2020 mission’s parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment, or ASPIRE. (Credit: NASA/Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Landing on Mars is difficult and not always successful. Well-designed advance testing helps. An ambitious NASA Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will rely on a special parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second). Preparations for this mission have provided, for the first time, dramatic video of the parachute opening at supersonic speed.

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Moon Express’ Progress in NASA’s Lunar CATALYST Program

Moon Express is one of three companies NASA has signed agreements with for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) program.

“The purpose of the Lunar CATALYST initiative is for NASA to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering small (30 to 100 kg) and medium (250 to 500 kg) class payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities,” the agreement states.

“This no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) with the Partner enables provision and coordination of NASA in-kind contributions at no cost to the Partner, of NASA civil servant technical expertise, access to NASA test facilities, the loaning of equipment, and software,” the agreement adds.

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Masten Space Systems’ Progress on NASA’s Lunar CATALYST Program

Masten rocket, Xodiac, launches out of Mojave Air and Space Port carrying JHU APL electromagnetic field measurement experiment. (Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich)

Masten Space Systems is one of three companies NASA has signed agreements with for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) program.

“The purpose of the Lunar CATALYST initiative is for NASA to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering small (30 to 100 kg) and medium (250 to 500 kg) class payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities,” the agreement states.

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