2021 in Review: Highlights from NASA in Silicon Valley

Ingenuity Mars helicopter flies on the Red Planet. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Join us as we look back at the highlights of 2021 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

1) NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, made great strides this year. The VIPER team successfully completed practice runs of the full-scale assembly of the Artemis program’s lunar rover in VIPER’s new clean room. Two rounds of egress testing let rover drivers practice exiting the lander and rolling onto the rocky surface of the Moon. NASA also announced the landing site selected for the robotic rover, which will be delivered to the Nobile region of the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. NASA also chose eight new VIPER science team members and their proposals to expand and complement VIPER’s already existing science team and planned investigations. This year’s progress contributed to VIPER’s completion of its Critical Design Review, turning the mission’s focus toward construction of the rover beginning in late 2022.


NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.


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


SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Scheduled for this Morning

SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit; Ken Brown)

Word has it that Virgin Galactic has scheduled the fourth glide flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity this morning in Mojave. The test will be the first for Richard Branson’s suborbital space plane in more than two months.

Cell service permitting,  I will be providing coverage of the test at www.twitter.com/spacecom

On the test card for today is deployment of the new spaceship’s redesigned feather system, which re-configures the ship when it returns from space. Unity will be hauled aloft to an altitude of about 50,000 feet by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft Eve.

The premature deployment of the feather system during powered ascent led to the destruction of the first SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during a flight test on Oct. 31, 2014. Scaled Composites pilot Mike Alsbury died in the accident. Virgin Galactic has added a mechanism to the feather system to prevent premature deployment of the feather.

The weather forecast looks good for the flight, with sunny skies and low surface wind speeds.

There’s a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) for the operation of an unmanned aerial system (UAS) at the spaceport from 6 a.m. to noon. It’s not clear who will be operating the system, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Virgin Galactic is aiming to capture video of the flight from the air.

The six-hour period for UAS operations overlaps with the likely window for a SpaceShipTwo flight test. So, it is unlikely that this is a coincidence.


Maryland Sees Space Growth Opportunities From Wallops Island

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in Virginia.  NASA's commercial space partner, Orbital Sciences Corporation, is scheduled to launch Antares on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in Virginia. NASA’s commercial space partner, Orbital Sciences Corporation, is scheduled to launch Antares on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Study assesses opportunities for the space and aerospace industry around NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

Baltimore, MD, February 20, 2014 (Maryland DBED PR) – Governor Martin O’Malley today released the Unmanned Aerial & Space Systems & Launch Industry Feasibility Study, which identifies opportunities for investment and growth in aerospace and space on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore. The study was funded by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) and prepared by LJT & Associates, Columbia, Md., for the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore.

“Space is more than just ‘the final frontier’ for scientific exploration – it is a promising economic frontier for our nation, for our state, and, as this study attests, for our Lower Eastern Shore,” said Governor O’Malley. “With Maryland residents comprising nearly 50 percent of its workforce, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has had a significant impact on the economy of the Lower Shore for more than six decades. This feasibility study outlines the potential for further development of the industry around Wallops, attracting new businesses to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, creating jobs for Marylanders and strengthening the nation’s space science and exploration capabilities.”


Witt: 2014 Going to be a Great Year in Mojave

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air & Space Port New Year’s Greeting
By Stuart O. Witt

Happy New Year!

On January 1, 1914 America entered the commercial air service arena with a flight that lasted just a few minutes and carried one passenger sitting on a wood seat across a short distance in south Florida. Today millions of passengers will board commercial aircraft and statistically all will reach their destination safely, in large part because of the robust industry in which we are a central participant.

Things occurred in the first 100 years of commercial air travel that no one could have predicted 100, 80 or even 70 years ago. If you asked anyone in 1925, “Within the next 70 years will people board a pressurized aircraft powered by jet engines and be fed steak and lobster, watch the latest movies or television while talking via telephone to their home or office?” they would have laughed in your face. But it did happen and the quality of life for all people has grown exponentially with our industry.


Florida’s UAS Effort Suffers Setback With FAA Decision

Florida’s effort to diversify the economy of the Space Coast with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) suffered a setback this week when it was not named as one of six test sites by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, officials said they would continue to press forward in this growing area.

The FAA approved proposal from applicants in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia to serve as sites where UAS will be tested and techniques developed for integrating the vehicles into the national airspace. The agency rejected bids from Space Florida and 18 other bidders.


Mojave Spaceport Opts Not to Become Prime Site for UAS Testing


By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The Mojave Air and Space Port has decided not to bid to become a prime site for the testing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), but it will likely become a team member on separate proposals being submitted by two other California groups.

On Tuesday, the spaceport’s Board of Directors approved moving forward with plans to join proposals that Ventura County and Inyokern Airport will submit to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA will designate six sites around the country for UAS testing later this year.


Will Mojave Become an UAS Research and Test Site?

In a move that could have a major impact on the Mojave Air and Space Port, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has solicited proposals from interested parties for the establishment of six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test sites around the country.

Mojave spaceport officials have said they are seriously considering submitting a proposal for this designation. They have also brought in a NASA Dryden executive, John W. Kelly, to serve a one-year executive internship. One of Kelly’s main focuses will be on the research potential for UAS activity.


Flight Opportunities Program Exec Interns at Mojave Air and Space Port

John W. Kelly

John W. Kelly, program manager for NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, began a one-year executive internship at the Mojave Air and Space Port last week.

Kelly will be focusing on access to space initiatives as well as the research potential of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Kelly also will help to build a closer working relationship between the spaceport and the nearby NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, where he is employed.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) solicited proposals from state and local governments, eligible university and other public entities to develop six UAS research and test sites around the country.

Mojave spaceport officials are considering submitting a proposal for designation as an UAS research and test site. So, Kelly’s expertise would be valuable if the spaceport goes forward with a proposal.

Designation as one of the six UAS sites would bring new companies and many new jobs to the spaceport, which is located in California’s High Desert.

Lockheed, LaserMotive Power UAS Using Laser

Stalker UAS. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

PALMDALE, Calif., August 7, 2012 (Lockheed Martin PR) — Lockheed Martin and LaserMotive, Inc., have completed a series of flight tests of the Stalker Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to further validate the performance of an innovative laser power system. These tests mark the first-ever outdoor flight of a UAS powered by laser.

Stalker is a small, silent UAS used by Special Operations Forces since 2006 to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. In a recent wind tunnel test, the UAS demonstrated 48 hours of continuous flight powered by this innovative laser system.