NASA Selects Investigation Teams to Join Geospace Dynamics Mission

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2022 (NASA PR) — NASA has selected three investigation teams to join the agency’s Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) mission science team in studying Earth’s upper atmosphere, as well as five additional investigations that will be under consideration for inclusion in the mission.

GDC is a coordinated group of satellites that will provide the first direct global measurements of the dynamic and complex region of space enveloping Earth – known as the ionosphere and thermosphere (I-T) region. The constellation’s ability to simultaneously study processes operating across a range of temporal and spatial scales will provide an unprecedented level of understanding of this region. GDC will fundamentally advance scientists’ understanding of this interface to Earth’s space environment much like early weather satellites did for global weather systems. The three GDC investigations selected for flight have a combined budget of $149 million to design and deliver their instruments to the mission.

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NASA Extends Exploration for 8 Planetary Science Missions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Following a thorough evaluation, NASA has extended the planetary science missions of eight of its spacecraft due to their scientific productivity and potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.

The missions – Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), InSight lander, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, OSIRIS-REx, and New Horizons – have been selected for continuation, assuming their spacecraft remain healthy. Most of the missions will be extended for three years; however, OSIRIS-REx will be continued for nine years in order to reach a new destination, and InSight will be continued until the end of 2022, unless the spacecraft’s electrical power allows for longer operations.

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Report Identifies Priority Planetary Science Missions, Planetary Defense Efforts, and Strategic Investments for the Next Decade

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) — A new decadal survey from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies scientific priorities and opportunities and makes funding recommendations to maximize the advancement of planetary science, astrobiology, and planetary defense in the next 10 years.

The recommendations by the steering committee for the decadal survey draw on input from the scientific community through the advice of six panels, hundreds of white papers, invited speakers, outreach to advisory groups and professional society conferences, and work with mission-design teams.

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SwRI’s New Space System Integration Facility Supports Smallsat Development

SwRI’s new 74,000-square-foot Space System Integration Facility will allow rapid response to customers needing to design, assemble and test spacecraft, particularly small satellites for emerging “new space” applications, including support for the commercial and U.S. Department of Defense arenas. (Credit: Southwest Research Institute)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, April 4, 2022 (SwRI PR) — Southwest Research Institute has added a new, 74,000-square-foot Space System Integration Facility to its San Antonio headquarters. The SwRI facility can rapidly respond to customers needing to design, assemble and test spacecraft, particularly small satellites for emerging “new space” applications, including support for the commercial and U.S. Department of Defense arenas. The building is scheduled for completion in June 2022.

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NASA’s Juno: Science Results Offer First 3D View of Jupiter Atmosphere

Jupiter’s banded appearance is created by the cloud-forming “weather layer.” This composite image shows views of Jupiter in (left to right) infrared and visible light taken by the Gemini North telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, respectively. [Credits: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/NASA/ESA, M.H. Wong and I. de Pater (UC Berkeley) et al.]

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — New findings from NASA’s Juno probe orbiting Jupiter provide a fuller picture of how the planet’s distinctive and colorful atmospheric features offer clues about the unseen processes below its clouds. The results highlight the inner workings of the belts and zones of clouds encircling Jupiter, as well as its polar cyclones and even the Great Red Spot.

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NASA, ULA Launch Lucy Mission to ‘Fossils’ of Planet Formation

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft aboard is seen in this 2 minute and 30 second exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids. Like the mission’s namesake – the fossilized human ancestor, “Lucy,” whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution – Lucy will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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NASA Sets Coverage, Invites Public to Virtually Join Lucy Launch

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for Lucy, the agency’s first mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. 

Lucy is scheduled to launch no earlier than 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 16, on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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Science of Psyche: Unique Asteroid Holds Clues to Early Solar System

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, engineers integrate a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer into the agency’s Psyche spacecraft. The instrument will help determine the elements that make up its target, an asteroid also named Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Set to launch next year, NASA’s Psyche mission marks the first time the agency has set out to explore an asteroid richer in metal than rock or ice.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — More than 150 years have passed since novelist Jules Verne wrote “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” but reality has yet to catch up with that science fiction adventure. While humans can’t bore a path to our planet’s metallic core, NASA has its sights set on visiting a giant asteroid that may be the frozen remains of the molten core of a bygone world.

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NASA’s Lucy Mission Prepares for Launch to Trojan Asteroids

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has tested the functions of Lucy, the agency’s first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to pack it into a capsule for launch Saturday, Oct. 16.

Named after characters in Greek mythology, these asteroids circle the Sun in two swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit these asteroids. By studying these asteroids up close, scientists hope to hone their theories on how our solar system’s planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they ended up in their current configuration.

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SwRI Tests Liquid Acquisition Device Aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket

New Shepard rocket lands (Credit: Blue Origin)

August 26, 2021 — A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) experiment was performed aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket today, which launched from Van Horn, Texas. Five variations of the tapered liquid acquisition device (LAD), which is designed to safely deliver liquid propellant to a rocket engine from fuel tanks, were aboard the rocket to evaluate their performance in microgravity.

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Virgin Orbit and Southwest Research Institute to Pursue Space Science Missions, Launches and Joint Space Service Offerings

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing a new collaboration with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), an independent, non-profit research and development organization. Under the terms of the agreement, Virgin Orbit and SwRI will explore multiple specialized mission opportunities using the LauncherOne system coupled with SwRI’s deep expertise in space mission development. Additionally, the two organizations will explore potential opportunities for joint manufacturing of SwRI’s space platforms and delivery of space services to Virgin Orbit’s customers. 

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NASA Technologies Slated for Testing on Blue Origin’s New Shepard

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

VAN HORN, Texas — While there won’t be humans on Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission, the fully reusable launch vehicle will carry technologies from NASA, industry, and academia aboard. The agency’s Flight Opportunities program supports six payload flight tests, which are slated for lift off no earlier than Aug. 26 from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas.

For some innovations, this is just one of several tests supported by NASA on different flight vehicles. Iterative flight testing helps quickly ready technologies that could eventually support deep space exploration.

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Blue Origin New Shepard’s 17th Flight to Space Set for August 25

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard’s next mission will fly a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration a second time on the exterior of the booster, 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, 11 of which are NASA-supported, and an art installation on the exterior of the capsule. Liftoff is currently targeted for Wednesday, August 25, at 8:35 am CDT/13:35 UTC from Launch Site One in West Texas. Live launch coverage begins at T-30 minutes on BlueOrigin.com.

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NASA Begins Launch Preparations for First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

NASA’s first spacecraft to explore the Trojan asteroids arrived Friday, July 30, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. It is now in a cleanroom at nearby Astrotech, ready to begin final preparations for its October launch.

The mission has a 23-day launch period beginning on October 16. Lucy will undergo final testing and fueling prior to being moved to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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SwRI Awarded Lunar Lander Investigation Contract

This photograph of a nearly full Moon was taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft at a point above 70 degrees east longitude. Mare Crisium, the circular, dark-colored area near the center, is near the eastern edge of the Moon as viewed from Earth. (Credits: NASA)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 21, 2021 (Southwest Research Institute PR) — To advance understanding of Earth’s nearest neighbor, NASA has selected three new lunar investigations, including a payload suite led by Southwest Research Institute. The Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS) is one of two packages that will land on the far side of the Moon, a first for the agency, as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, initiative.

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