NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Moons & Asteroids

Graphic depiction of MIDEA: Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration of Asteroids (Credit: Sigrid Close)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on the exploration of moons and asteroids.

Shapeshifters from Science Fiction to Science Fact: Globetrotting from Titan’s Rugged Cliffs to its Deep Seafloors
Aliakbar Aghamohammadi
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

SPARROW: Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds
Gareth Meirion-Griffith
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration of Asteroids (MIDEA)
Sigrid Close
Stanford University

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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ISS U.S. National Lab Payloads Prepped for Orbital ATK CRS-8 Launch

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL., November 2, 2017 (CASIS) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle is slated to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than November 11, 2017 from Wallops Flight Facility.

The Cygnus spacecraft will carry ISS National Laboratory payloads to conduct research across a variety of areas aimed at improving life on Earth. In addition to the diverse research launching to the ISS National Lab, multiple payloads focused on enabling future research missions will be part of the CRS-8 manifest. Thus far in 2017, the ISS National Lab has sponsored more than 100 separate experiments that have reached the station.

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DLR, Stanford Work on Method for Communicating With Spacecraft During Reentry

The test device, consisting of a heat shield with a transmitter placed behind it, was exposed to a plasma flow heated to several thousand degrees. (Credit: DLR)
The test device, consisting of a heat shield with a transmitter placed behind it, was exposed to a plasma flow heated to several thousand degrees. (Credit: DLR)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Entering a planetary atmosphere is one of the most critical mission phases for a spacecraft. The enormous amount of heat generated not only places heavy thermal loads on the material of the re-entry vehicle, it also gives rise to an electrically charged plasma that flows around it. This blocks radio signals, with the result that the spacecraft is unable to communicate with its ground stations for several minutes. In a joint project, researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) are working with colleagues at Stanford University in California to find a solution to this problem.

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Hedgehog Robots Hop, Tumble in Microgravity

'Hedgehog' Robots Hop, Tumble in Microgravity While a Mars rover can't operate upside down, the Hedgehog robot can function regardless of which side lands up. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stanford)
While a Mars rover can’t operate upside down, the Hedgehog robot can function regardless of which side lands up. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stanford)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Hopping, tumbling and flipping over are not typical maneuvers you would expect from a spacecraft exploring other worlds. Traditional Mars rovers, for example, roll around on wheels, and they can’t operate upside-down. But on a small body, such as an asteroid or a comet, the low-gravity conditions and rough surfaces make traditional driving all the more hazardous.

Enter Hedgehog: a new concept for a robot that is specifically designed to overcome the challenges of traversing small bodies. The project is being jointly developed by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; Stanford University in Stanford, California; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

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Proposed Spacecraft Would Hop and Roll Over Asteroids, Moons

Spacecraft/rover hybrids (Credit: Marco Pavone)
Spacecraft/rover hybrids (Credit: Marco Pavone)

The NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NASA) program has awarded Marco Pavone of Stanford University a Phase II grant to continue development of small exploration vehicles that would hop and tumble across the surfaces of asteroids, moons and comets.

The spacecraft/rover hybrids would be deployed from a mother ship orbiting the body to be explored. Their movements would be controlled by three internal flywheels.

The award is worth up to $500,000. The earlier Phase I award was worth up to $100,000.

NASA awarded five NIAC Phase II contracts in this round of funding.

Pavone’s summary of the project follows.

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Emerging Space Industry Leaders Workshop Set for May at Stanford

Stanford UniversityKen Davidian of the FAA passed along this notice to me.

Registration for ESIL-06 is Now Open!

The latest in a series of workshops for Emerging Space Industry Leaders (ESIL) focusing on different issues and sectors of the emerging commercial space industry, ESIL-06 will engage its participants by focusing on the commercial remote sensing sector of commercial space.

Here are the details:

WHAT: 2-day workshop including industry panels and working sessions.
WHO: Students and Young Professionals interested in commercial space.
WHERE: Stanford University, Stanford, CA
WHEN: All day Thursday and Friday, May 29-30, 2014
WHY: To Network (meet other emerging leaders from across the space industry), Learn (gain insight into the context of commercial space, strategy formulation, and Game Theory) and Have an Impact (utilize lessons and perspectives gained to contribute to the space industry)

Apply to attend, check out the schedule, and get more details on the web at http://commercialspace.pbworks.com/w/page/77799674/ESIL-06

NASA Selects New Suborbital Technology Payloads, Total Tops 130

NASA LOGOEDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, and a commercial parabolic aircraft. These flights provide cutting-edge technologies with a valuable platform to conduct tests, before they enter use in the harsh environment of space.

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NIAC Conference to be Webcast This Week

NIAC_logoPALO ALTO, Calif. (NASA PR) — Stanford University’s Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center in Palo Alto, Calif., will be the site of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Symposium Feb. 4-6.

NIAC supports early studies of visionary concepts, which may one day enable new missions or transformative advances in future aerospace capabilities.

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House of Wax: Paraffin-Nitrous Oxide Engine Undergoes Tests at NASA Ames

Video Caption: The Peregrine Hybrid Sounding Rocket motor underwent a developmental ground test at NASA Ames Research Center on November 12, 2013. This revolutionary approach uses a paraffin-based fuel and nitrous oxide as the oxidizer, which offers many potential advantages over existing rocket propulsion systems. Stable and highly efficient combustion was achieved. The motor is being developed jointly by NASA Ames, Stanford University and SPG Inc.

Conference to Mark 25th Anniversary of First Arab Astronaut’s Flight

Sultan Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud

KACST celebrating silver jubilee of Prince Sultan’s space trip
Arab News.com

An elaborate program to mark the silver jubilee celebrations of the Kingdom’s participation in the international space program led by Prince Sultan bin Salman has been drawn up by the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) together with NASA. The two-day celebrations are to start on Saturday.

“The celebrations will include a major space and aeronautics technology conference in which Saudi and NASA experts will make presentations and share their views,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel, KACST president.

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