Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics Selected for NASA Grant to Develop Radiator-free Engine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Bob Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a radiator-free engine (RFE) that could be used in nuclear electric and solar thermal electric propulsion systems.

“In the RFE, cold water propellant or hydrogen used as the heat rejection dump for a dynamic cycle heated by a nuclear reactor, enabling Carnot efficiencies as high as 0.79 for water or 0.99 for hydrogen,” the proposal’s technical abstract said. “Some of the propellant that is boiled or sublimated off is then sent to an electric propulsion system, which ejects it from the spacecraft at high velocities to produce thrust….

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Nanoracks Selected for NASA Grant to Advance Outpost Work

A rendering showing greenhouses inside a StarLab Outpost. (Credit: Nanoracks/Mack Crawford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Nanoracks for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to outfit its upper stage Outposts to provide data services for other space vehicles.

Nanoracks is developing a modular hardware bus known as a Mission Extension Kit (MEK) that will convert upper stage boosters into Outposts after they have deployed their payloads. The MEK will provide power, pointing, data down/uplink, and maneuvering capabilities to the stage.

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NASA Selects Astrobotic for 2 Small Business Awards to Improve Spacecraft Operations

A rendering of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is shown, with NASA’s three water-detecting payloads (MSolo, NSS, and NIRVSS) highlighted in blue. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to develop technology to help spacecraft improve proximity operations in orbit and avoid hazards when landing on other worlds.

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Firefly Research Receives NASA SBIR Award for Solar Electric Space Unity Vehicle

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected the research arm of Firefly Aerospace for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a solar electric transfer stage capable of taking payloads from the Earth to the moon.

“Firefly Research, LLC (FFR) is pleased to propose to NASA the development of a Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) to a CDR [critical design review] level of fidelity,” the technical abstract said. “This vehicle serves as a solar electric transfer stage, offering enough Delta-V to transfer more than 500 kg of payload from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) after launch on a small lift launch vehicle.

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NASA Invests More than $45 Million in Small Business Projects

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Small businesses are vital to NASA’s mission, helping expand humanity’s presence in space and improve life on Earth. NASA has selected 365 U.S. small business proposals for initial funding from the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, a total investment of more than $45 million.

“At NASA, we recognize that small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “This year, to get funds into the hands of small businesses sooner, we accelerated the release of the 2021 SBIR/STTR Phase I solicitation by two months. We hope the expedited funding helps provide a near-term boost for future success.”

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Innovative Propulsion System Gets Ready to Help Study Moon Orbit for Artemis

CAPSTONE’s propulsion system undergoes environmental testing. Environmental testing ensures that spacecraft systems can operate after being launched into space and in the space environment. (Credits: Stellar Exploration Inc.)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, CubeSat will launch to a never-before-used cislunar orbit near the Moon.

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Commercial CubeRover Test Shows How NASA Investments Mature Space Tech

The Astrobotic CubeRover traverses the terrain in the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Laboratory regolith bin at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 10, 2020. The regolith bin simulates the mechanical properties of the Moon’s surface. NASA and Astrobotic employees put the CubeRover through a series of more than 150 mobility tests over several days to evaluate and improve wheel design. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

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

Researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently put a new, small robotic rover through its paces inside a 120-ton bin of regolith rock and dust that simulates the lunar surface.

The four-wheeled CubeRover rolled over dunes of abrasive dust, turned in place, and then trundled up and down steep trench walls within the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations (GMRO) laboratory as it performed more than 150 mobility tests. The rover’s creators, from Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, worked alongside Kennedy’s Swamp Works team, assessing the robot’s maneuverability and how its sensor, motor, and power systems operated in the dusty environment.

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Aevum Rolls Out Ravn X World’s First Autonomous Launch Vehicle & Largest Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

Ravn-X vehicle (Credit: Aveum)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., December 3rd, 2020 (Aevum PR)— Aevum, Inc., a provider of comprehensive space logistics and autonomous launch services for lightweight payloads, is rolling out its Ravn X Autonomous Launch Vehicle today, the world’s largest Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), by mass, designed to deliver satellites to space as fast as every 180 minutes. Aevum’s customer and mission partner, The United States Space Force, will also take part in the Ravn X unveiling.

Join us at 12 pm ET/9 am PT for the historic public unveiling (virtual for COVID restrictions): More details at www.aevumlaunch.com

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Astrobotic & University of Pittsburgh’s SHREC Partnering for Space Technologies Research

Teams will work together to translate concepts into tangible innovations that will support lunar landings, rover missions, satellite servicing, and more.

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) are pleased to announce a partnership to develop new software and hardware technologies for future space applications.

The SHREC consortium, led by the University of Pittsburgh, is an NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) and will work together with Astrobotic by pairing first-class academic researchers with engineering teams to translate concepts into tangible innovations that will support lunar landings, rover missions, satellite servicing, and more.

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NASA Looks to Advance 3D Printing Construction Systems for the Moon and Mars

ICON illustration of a conceptual lunar base with 3D printed infrastructure, including landing pads and habitats. (Credits: ICON/SEArch+)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — The process of building landing pads, habitats, and roads on the Moon will likely look different than the common construction site on Earth. Excavation robots, for one, will need to be lightweight yet capable of digging in reduced gravity. A large-scale construction system could be autonomous and equipped to work without astronauts’ help.

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NASA Receives First Lunar CubeRover from Astrobotic

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — After three years of intensive engineering work, Astrobotic’s CubeRover is on its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The CubeRover is designed to provide an affordable mobile outlet for scientific instruments and other payloads to operate on the surface of the Moon. This occasion marks the first time Astrobotic’s Planetary Mobility department has delivered rover hardware to an outside entity.

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Orbit Logic Awarded AFRL/AFWERX Space Situational Awareness Planning & Analysis Contract

GREENBELT, MD (Orbit Logic PR) – Orbit Logic, a leading provider of planning and scheduling software, announced today that it has been awarded an AFWERX Direct to Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The award will enhance the Heimdall Fire Space Situational Awareness (SSA) planning solution. Heimdall Fire is an existing software solution consisting of Orbit Logic COTS software products configured for SSA observation planning.

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AFWERX Awards Accion Systems $2.25 Million Phase II SBIR Contract

Air Force Award Will Drive Advanced Development and Commercialization of Multi-Mode In-Space Propulsion System.

BOSTON, Mass., August 11, 2020 (Accion Systems PR — In-space propulsion pioneer Accion Systems announced today that it has been awarded a follow-on Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract through AFWERX, in partnership with Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), and the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN). The award recognizes the successful completion of the Phase I SBIR contact earlier this year and exciting promise for Accion’s TILE ion electrospray propulsion for use in national security missions. 

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Earth Observant Inc. Wins Air Force Contract to Further Development of VLEO Optical Payload

SAN FRANCISCO (Earth Observant PR) — Earth Observant Inc. (EOI) received this award under the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program and is working with AFWERX, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Selected from a competitive line-up of start-up companies, EOI is eager to apply the SBIR award toward advancing its vision for a VLEO satellite imaging platform.

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NASA Selects Altius Space Machines for Small Business Awards

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Altius Space Machines for two small business awards to develop interfaces that can be used by robots for assembly and maintaining structures in space.

The space agency made the awards under the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs. Each phase I award is worth $125,000.

Under the STTR award, Altius will work with Virginia Tech to develop an universal interface that can be used for assembly in space.

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