NASA Funds Six Small Spacecraft Technologies for Development

NASA has selected six small satellite technology projects for continued development under phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The selected proposals included: two projects focused on in-space propulsion; two systems for de-orbiting satellites; one project focused on radiation shielding for small spacecraft; and an improved turbo-pump for small satellite launch vehicles.

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Tethers Unlimited’s Robotic Tool-Change System Selected for More NASA Funding

Rgw androgynous robotic tool-change interface (ARTIE) in action. (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Tethers Unlimited’s androgynous robotic tool-change interface (ARTIE) for continued funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

ARTIE is designed for the hard and soft capture of tools and infrastructure support for robotic assets such as Tethers Unlimited’s KRAKEN robotic manipulator and NASA’s Astrobee.

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Tethers Unlimited’s HyperBus Receives Additional NASA Funding

HyperBus orbital platform (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Tethers Unlimited Inc. (TUI) for additional funding to develop its HyperBus Cargo (HBC) platform, which is designed to move modules around in space to support orbital construction.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) phase II award will provide up to $750,000 to further HBC development. NASA previously funded the program with a smaller phase I award.

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Masten Space Working on Lunar Regolith Models

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Masten Space Systems will continue to work on developing reliable, high-fidelity models of lunar regolith thrown up by landing vehicles with the help of NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The goal is to ensure reliable and safe landings for robotic and crewed spacecraft that will land on the moon under NASA’s Artemis and Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programs.

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Masten Space Working on System to Help Vehicles Survive Frigid Lunar Nights

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — One of the big challenges faced by lunar landers and rovers is the 14-day lunar night. Temperatures can drop to minus 280 Fahrenheit (minus 173 Celsius), causing vehicle components to literally freeze to death before the sun reappears.

Masten Space Systems is working on a solution to the problem of frigid lunar nights with financing from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

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Astrobotic Developing Advanced Visual Space Navigation System

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Astrobotic will continue developing a compact visual space navigation system for use by small satellites, lunar landers and surface rovers with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Pittsburgh-based company for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) phase II award to continue development of its ultra-compact standalone visual relative navigation system, also known as UltraNav.

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NASA Funds Lunar ISRU Technology Development

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected two projects focused on finding and extracting lunar resources for continued funding under phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Radiation Detection Technologies, Inc. of Manhattan, Kan., was selected to continue developing a neutron energy detector capable of locating sub-surface ice deposits.

Physical Sciences, Inc. (PSI), of Andover, Mass., is developing a solar concentrator system that would extract oxygen from lunar regolith.

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Astrobotic Developing Ground Penetrating Radar with NASA Funding

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology for additional funding to continue development of a compact, highly efficient ground penetrating radar (GPR) antenna that will allow rovers to characterize resources under the surface of the moon and other planets.

“The benefits of such technology could enable the characterization of lunar lava tubes, subsurface water-ice, and the location of planetary ore deposits in a manner that is both affordable and simple to integrate with larger systems,” Astrobotic said in its proposal summary.

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NASA Selects Paragon Space Development to Develop Advanced Cryogenic Tank

Paragon Space Development Corp. will continue to develop a new tank designed to better store cryogenic propellants with the help of funding from NASA.

The space agency selected Paragon’s ellipsoidal propellant tank (EPT) for continued funding under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The phase II award is worth up to $750,000 over two years. NASA funded the project under a smaller phase I award.

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LamdaVision Selected for NASA Funding to Produce Retinal Implants on ISS

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

People with failing eye sight could see their vision restored with the help of NASA-funded research aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The space agency has selected LamdaVision for a small business award to continue development of a system to manufacture protein-based retinal implants aboard the space station.

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NASA to Fund Made in Space Project to Develop In-space Laser Welding System

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Made in Space for a small business award to develop a system capable of autonomously welding structures in space.

The Mobile End-Effector Laser Device (MELD) would be capable of welding “aerospace-grade metals to assemble large, stable structures on-orbit or on the lunar or Martian surface. These include trusses, arrays, habitats, and pressure vessels,” according to the proposal summary.

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NASA Makes 139 Small Business Innovation Research Awards

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 139 proposals for follow-on funding though the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The Phase II awards will provide approximately $104 million to 124 small businesses located across 31 states.

NASA annually invests in U.S. small businesses with promising new technologies – companies developing better batteries, virtual assistants, lightweight materials and more. These technologies can benefit space missions, as well as improve life on Earth.

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Launcher to Test Rocket Engine at NASA Stennis

A rendering of Launcher’s engine test stand that will be built at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (Credit: Launcher)

NEW YORK (Launcher PR) — We are honored to announce that Launcher has executed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Stennis Space Center for the location of our full-scale test fire facility.

The first campaign is expected this summer as part of Launcher’s U.S. Air Force SBIR Phase II contract to test-fire Launcher E-2, our 22,000-lbf thrust, 3D printed liquid rocket engine.

We are thankful for the opportunity to test our engines at such a capable and historic liquid rocket engine testing center.

Launcher continues to be headquartered in New York City at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and to operate its sub-scale testing facility on Long Island, NY in Calverton, Riverhead.

Orbit Fab Wins SBIR Award for Satellite Refueling System

Orbit Fab has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award worth $222,713 to help fund the development of a refueling system for smaller satellites.

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) America’s Seed Fund awarded the $222,713 grant to the company, which is based in Cupertino, Calif. Daniel Faber is the principal investigator

“The proposed project will remove the complexity of performing spacecraft proximity operations and docking in order to facilitate commercial refueling through a ‘bolt on’ standardized component with the associated sensors and functions,” according to the proposal abstract.

“The system will be installed during production on the ground. This integrated package of sensors, communications, fueling valves, and docking latches will provide the functionality required for a servicing vehicle and a client satellite to safely approach, securely dock, and exchange fuel between the two vehicles,” the abstract added.

Orbit Fab will use the NSF funding to refine the concept, determine the optimal optical alignment for operations and docking, and identify the suite of sensors required.

Report: NASA Needs to Improve Oversight of Contracts and Grants

NASA finished assembling the main structural components for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure. Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank. (Credit: NASA/Steven Seipel)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Between 2014 and 2017, NASA awarded Boeing a total of $64 million in performance awards for its work on the Space Launch System (SLS) despite significant schedule delays and cost overruns in the program.

It was only after the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) questioned the propriety of the awards that SLS program officials began “providing Boeing award fees that better reflected actual performance,” the space agency’s watchdog said in a new report.

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