Recently in the Payload Integration Category


Testing Spacecraft to Extremes

When designing a mission for space, engineers work in terms of 'end-of-life' performance how will a material respond to the extreme environment of space across multiple years?

Nanosatellites now have their own mass transit to catch rides to space and perform experiments in microgravity. A new NASA-designed and developed satellite deployer, dubbed the Nano Launch Adapter System (NLAS), is scheduled to demonstrate the capability to launch a flock of satellites into space later this year.

2013 CanSat Campaign Concluded

High school students from 8 different ESA Member States have completed the third European Cansat Launch Campaign, which was held in The Netherlands for the first time. 15 student teams from across Europe participated in the four-day event. Preparations for the flight campaign began soon after the teams arrived at the Delft University of Technology on 10 April, when technical inspections were made to ensure that each of the CanSats could be integrated in the rockets.

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a requirement to launch pico-, nano-, and/or micro-satellites (CubeSats) into earth orbit. A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized space research satellite that typically uses commercial, off-the-shelf electronic components. NASA/ John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for CubeSat deployer hardware and integration services. The requirement includes engineering development support, deployer carrier hardware, CubeSat to deployer and deployer to launch vehicle (LV) integration, and system testing." More

DARPA's SeeMe program aims to give mobile, US warfighters overseas access to on-demand, space-based tactical information in remote and beyond-line-of-sight conditions. If successful, SeeMe will provide timely imagery to warfighters of their immediate surroundings via handheld devices.

"This is a Request for Information (RFI) only and does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)/Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) will take procurement action in this matter. Further, neither NASA nor the Government will be responsible for any cost incurred in furnishing this information. NASA recognizes the interest by educational institutions, science museums, and other appropriate organizations in the Manufacturing of the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer, Manufacturing of the Wallops 6U CubeSat Satellite Structure, Flying the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer, Marketing the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer and 6U CubeSat Satellite Structure, and Investing in Deployer Technologies. NASA intends to enter into multiple agreements for technical transfer." More

"NASA is accepting applications from graduate and undergraduate university students to fly experiments to the edge of space on a scientific balloon next year. The balloon competition is a joint project between NASA and the Louisiana Space Consortium (LaSPACE) in Baton Rouge. NASA is targeting fall 2013 for the next flight opportunity for the High Altitude Student Platform (HASP). HASP is a balloon-borne instrument stack that provides an annual near-space flight opportunity for 12 instruments built by students A panel of experts from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and LaSPACE will review the applications and select the finalists for the next flight opportunity. Flights are launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility's remote site in Fort Sumner, N.M., and typically achieve 15 to 20 hours' duration at an altitude of about 23 miles." More

"NASA Dryden Flight Research Center has released a solicitation entitled "NASA Announcement of Flight Opportunities (AFO) for Payloads Maturing Crosscutting Technologies that Advance Multiple Future Space Missions to Flight Readiness Status. The current solicitation cycle, AFO #6, provides access to flights on parabolic flights, suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles (sRLV), and high-altitude balloons. Applications are due on or before 11:59 PM Eastern Time December 21, 2012, and selections will be announced in February 2013 (target)." More

"NanoRacks (NR) today announced the selection of a winning proposal for their Announcement of Opportunity for off the shelf NanoLabs on the International Space Station. Infinity Aerospace was selected for their proposal to design, develop and market an Arduino based, open-source, 1U NanoLab for use on the NanoRacks space station research platforms, as well as all other platforms including Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. "The community was challenged to create an open source, easy to use NanoLab and Infinity Aerospace's proposal hit the target beautifully, both in the technical design and the spirit of the competition," explained Richard Pournelle, senior vice-president of NanoRacks. Under the terms of the AO, the winning entry receives $2,000 in seed funding from NanoRacks, technical assistance on complying with NASA space station safety requirements, and the ability to have their winning products marketed by NanoRacks' to their educational and research customers." More

"SSEP offers a unique flight opportunity that allows students to experience both the excitement and the challenges inherent in conducting research in a microgravity environment," said Roosevelt Johnson, deputy associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It really is STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] in action, using the International Space Station -- which has America's only orbiting National Laboratory -- to host these students' science experiments. Twenty-three microgravity experiments designed by participants of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) will become part of space history Oct. 7. They will be launched to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon, the first commercially developed and built American spacecraft to fly a resupply cargo resupply mission to the station." More

"Douglas, Isle of Man-based Odyssey Moon Ltd. and Israeli-based NSL Satellites Ltd., in partnership with NanoRacks LLC of the U.S., together will fly a number of educational microgravity experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). The next launch of an experiment is scheduled for October 7th on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. Rick Sanford, CEO of Odyssey Moon, said, "We at Odyssey Moon are so excited about this opportunity to give students around the globe access to the NASA U.S national lab. For a start-up space technology company it is very impressive that we have lined up over three successful commercial space missions in a three year period." The three different experiments will look at how cancer cells develop in microgravity, another will determine the direction of the sprouts/roots growth of radish seeds under microgravity, and there is an experiment to examine the hardening of an epoxy resin sample to test the characteristics of the mix in microgravity conditions. These experiments are being developed by Israeli students in Misgav Middle School and OR High School." More

"NASA successfully launched four university experiments this morning on a Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket from the agency's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Launched at 7:16:30 a.m. EDT, the rocket lofted the experiments to an altitude of 95.4 miles. The experiments have been recovered from the Atlantic Ocean and they will be delivered to the university teams this afternoon at Wallops. The launch was part of the RockSat-X educational project, which is designed to provide students hands-on experience in designing, fabricating, testing and conducting experiments for space flight. The project is a joint effort between NASA and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. The participating schools for this year's RockSat-X launch are from Baylor University in Waco, Texas; University of Colorado at Boulder; the University of Puerto Rico; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg." More.

"Teachers from six NASA Explorer Schools (NES) have been selected to receive the 2012 School Recognition Award for their contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. In April 2013, three teachers from each school will travel to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. There they will have the opportunity to fly aboard the agency's reduced gravity aircraft and conduct experiments designed by their students. The experiments will examine the acceleration and inertia of objects, how fluids with different viscosities behave in microgravity, and how the absence of gravity affects mass and weight." More

European CanSat Competition

"Students in different age groups are being invited by ESA to participate in three educational programmes that will take place during 2013. Each programme is an exciting opportunity to design an experiment and conduct scientific research. ESA is now inviting proposals for the Spin Your Thesis! campaign. This programme enables university students to carry out experiments in hypergravity, using the Large Diameter Centrifuge at the Agency's ESTEC space research and technology centre in the Netherlands. It is open to undergraduate students and those following a Masters or PhD course. Up to four teams will be selected. The deadline for proposal submissions is 10 December. Another call is for the European CanSat competition. The CanSats, similar in volume and shape to a soft-drink can, will be launched on a small rocket from the Netherlands. The primary task of each CanSat will be to measure atmospheric temperature and pressure during the flight." More

"Winners of the YouTube Spacelab competition will get to see their experiments in space on 13 September. ESA astronaut Frank De Winne will participate in the live event, transmitted from the International Space Station to the world via YouTube. Frank De Winne, Head of the European Astronaut Centre, acted as one of Europe's jurors of the international student competition. NASA, YouTube, ESA and Lenovo today announced the culmination of the YouTube SpaceLab competition in which astronauts will reveal the results of the two winning experiments live from the International Space Station and share them online on YouTube. The livestream will connect the Station to YouTube's London studio on Thursday, 13 September beginning at 13:30 GMT (15:30 CEST)." More.

"NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has selected two new technologies to fly on commercial reusable suborbital vehicles. The flights will test the payloads' functionality before full deployment on future missions. One technology will be tested on a suborbital reusable launch vehicle and the other will be tested on a high altitude balloon. NASA's Flight Opportunities Program seeks to provide low-cost access to suborbital space, where researchers can expose technologies to the edge of Earth's atmosphere and brief periods of weightlessness in a reduced gravity environment using commercial space vehicles. NASA is encouraging the growth of this emerging suborbital space industry through frequent flights at the edge of space and beyond to advance technologies that benefit space exploration." More

NanoRacks Announcement of Opportunity-1

"NanoRacks, the leading company in low-earth orbit research and educational utilization, seeks to further stimulate the market for International Space Station usage by offering to designate and promote up to five (5) companies that can offer for retail sale NanoLabs for use in NanoRacks hardware now on the space station and on suborbital platforms. The purpose of this AO is to help create a robust, standardized ecosystem that makes use of the NanoRacks research platforms now permanently onboard the U.S. National Lab on International Space Station as well as for possible use in other environments, such as onboard the Virgin Galactic suborbital SpaceShipTwo research racks. We believe that hardware that can be used on the space station that is low-cost and standardized allows researchers to focus their budget and time on the payload itself. It is our hope that this further lowers the barriers to microgravity utilization." More.

"Centennial Challenges is a program of prize competitions to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest and value to NASA and the nation. In 2010 NASA announced a Nano-Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge to encourage development of safe, low-cost, small-payload delivery systems for frequent access to low Earth orbit (LEO) through innovations in propulsion and other technologies as well as operations and management for broader applications in future launch systems that could result in a commercial capability for dedicated launches of small satellites at a cost comparable to secondary payload launches--a potential new market with Government, commercial, and academic customers. To assist in formulation of the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, NASA is seeking additional information on the nano-satellite market and on approaches to address the market needs. There are currently several existing launch vehicles and new launch vehicle programs that could provide ride-sharing opportunities for nano-satellite. A NASA NSL Challenge could focus on a vehicle dedicated to providing greater payload design flexibility for cubesats and other small payloads, more frequent access to space at costs comparable or less than existing or proposed ride-share launch options." More

Announcement of Flight Opportunities #5

Flight Opportunities for Payloads Maturing Crosscutting Technologies that Advance Multiple Future Space Missions to Flight Readiness Status

"Dear Flight Opportunities community: We are pleased to announce the release of Announcement of Flight Opportunities #5 (AFO5) today. This new call brings back the opportunity to propose to the parabolic flight platform, in addition to our current sRLV and balloon providers. Proposal due date is September 21, with a tentative announcement of selections in November 2012."

NASA Space Tech Program Selects Technologies For Development And Demonstration On Suborbital Flights

"NASA'S Space Technology Program has selected 14 technologies for development and demonstration on commercial reusable suborbital launch vehicles. The selected proposals offer innovative cutting-edge ideas and approaches for technology in areas including active thermal management, advanced avionics, pinpoint landing and advanced in-space propulsion. They also address many of the high-priority technology needs identified in the recent National Research Council's Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities report. These payloads will help NASA advance technology development needed to enable NASA's current and future missions in exploration, science and space operations."

New NanoRacks' Software Platform Speeds Space Customer Payloads to International Space Station

"A new software platform designed to ease the passage of payloads from earth to space was announced today at the AAS Space Station Research and Development Conference by NanoRacks, LLC, the leading company for space utilization. Payload TrackerTM is the first ever user-friendly tool that is specifically designed to allow customers, government officials, launch providers and others to track individual payloads through the myriad NASA safety and procedural requirements involved in launching customer project to the International Space Station."

NASA Rocket Carrying Student Experiments Launched From Wallops Flight Facility

"A NASA rocket carrying seventeen educational experiments was successfully launched at 6:40 a.m. today from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The experiments built by university instructors and students from across the country were developed through programs conducted with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia. The programs are designed to provide participants an introduction in building small experiments that can be launched on sounding rockets."

Conrad Foundation and NanoRacks Team to Fly Student Experiments in Space using American Express Points

"Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, today announced the Foundation has joined forces with NanoRacks LLC, the leading company for low-earth orbit utilization, to launch a new program called DreamUp. The program will assist students in raising money to participate in a unique educational experience - conducting experiments in the microgravity of space. DreamUp is the first program to enable students to use American Express(R) Membership Rewards(R) points to fund student experiments onboard the International Space Station (ISS)."

Dragon Has Student Payloads Aboard

SpaceX Dragon Transports Student Experiments to Space Station

"The SpaceX Dragon capsule, which on Tuesday became the first commercially developed and built spacecraft to launch to the International Space Station, is carrying among its cargo a suite of 15 science experiments designed by students. Known collectively as Aquarius, the experiments will assess the effects of microgravity on physical, chemical and biological systems. The students have been immersed in every facet of research, from definition of the investigation to experiment design, proposal writing and a formal NASA proposal review for selection of flight experiments."

CASIS and NanoRacks Announce Expanded ISS Research Capabilities

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization managing the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, today announced a deal with NanoRacks, LLC, to reserve space on the first commercial platform available for researchers outside the ISS in the extreme environments of space."

CASIS and NanoRacks Close Deal to Use Commercial Research Platform in the Extremes of Space

"In June, CASIS will issue a formal solicitation to the research community and private enterprise for their proposals to use this one-of-a-kind platform for anything from earth observation to materials, and biological sciences."

Commercial Platform Offers Exposure at Space Station< NASA

"The contributions by NanoRacks and Astrium are the most recent example of NASA efforts to expand the station's research capacity through innovative partnerships with commercial companies."

NASA Solicitation: Scientific Payload for Multipoint Space Physics Measurements: Nansoat Cubesat

"NASA/ARC plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a minimum of 14 units, with options for up to 6 additional units, for a maximum of 20, identical flight-qualified payload instrument packages. These packages must be designed to interface with the Government-furnished EtherSat bus for the purpose of demonstrating distributed multipoint space physics measurements hosted by the Ethersat constellation. A provision of 25% spare parts/units (detailed in Delivery section of the draft Statement of Work) is additionally to be provided. One "engineering development unit"(EDU) (for evaluation purposes) is also to be delivered, near mid-term. The period of performance is to be less than 7 months total duration, with delivery required in November 2012 to meet NASA's satellite integration schedule."

NASA Seeks Suborbital Payloads

NASA Seeks Game Changing Technology Payloads for Suborbital Research Flights

"NASA is seeking proposals for small technology payloads that could fly on future NASA-sponsored suborbital flights. These future flights will travel to the edge of space and back, testing the innovative new technologies before they're sent to work in the harsh environment of space."

Using the ISS To Teach

ISS National Lab Education Project Workshop

"The objective of ISS NLEP is to strengthen a link between the unique venue of the space station and science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education. The objective of the workshop is to bring together researchers, academicians and interested parties for discussions on upcoming opportunities."

NASA Solicitation: Payloads Requiring a Near-zero or Reduced Gravity Environment

"NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) seeks to mature towards flight readiness status crosscutting technologies that perform relevant environment testing and advance multiple future space missions. To facilitate this goal, NASA is providing access to certain flight opportunities available to the Agency, on a no-exchange-of funds basis, to entities that have technology payloads meeting specified criteria. They may be exposed to a near-zero or reduced gravity environment on high-altitude balloons, flying on aircraft that provide parabolic flight trajectories and on suborbital reusable launch vehicles (sRLVs) that are potentially capable of flying to altitudes above 100 km."

Another Student Payload on the ISS

American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology Student Experiment to Fly as Nanoracks Payload on the ISS

"The American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB), a U.S. non-profit 501(C)(6) scientific society, announces today an agreement has been signed with Nanoracks (Houston, Texas) to fly a student space >light experiment on-board the NASA International Space Station (ISS). NanoRacks is an industry leader in low-earth orbit space services http://nanoracks.com/. NanoRacks, LLC is working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement for the use of the U.S. National Lab. ASGSB has entered into an agreement with NanoRacks as a result of an industry partnership agreement with the Science and Technology Corporation (STC). STC is a small, high-technology company that has experience in nano-satellite and space instrument development."

DICE Satellites Placed Into Orbit

DICE - Dynamic Ionosphere Cubesat Experiment: DICE will map geomagnetic Storm Enhanced Density (SED) plasma bulge and plume formations in Earth's ionosphere. Two identical spinning spacecraft will measure plasma density and electric fields to determine the how and why of variations in ionospheric plasma density that affect the performance of communications, surveillance, and navigation systems on earth and in space.

Just-launched tiny USU satellites studying solar disturbances, Desert News

"The DICE satellites, known as "nanosatellites," are smaller than a toaster. They were put together by students at Utah State University and launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta rocket that also carried NASA's satellite, known as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System."

Twin USU Built Small Satellites Delivered to California for Launch Prep

"Two Utah State University completed Dynamic Ionosphere Cubesat Experiment (DICE) satellites have been delivered to the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, for final launch readiness. Cal Poly will place the two National Science Foundation funded miniature spacecraft in an ejection canister and verify that the assembly is ready for launch."

Radio Aurora Explorer (RAX): "RAX is a joint venture between the University of Michigan and SRI International. Its primary mission objective is to study large plasma formations in the ionosphere, the highest region of our atmosphere. These plasma instabilities are known to spawn magnetic field-aligned irregularities (FAI), or dense plasma clouds known to disrupt communication between Earth and orbiting spacecraft." Twitter: @RAX_2010 Facebook RAX

Michigan Multipurpose Minisat (M-Cubed): "The objective of MCubed is to obtain a mid resolution image to date of Earth with at least 60% land mass and a maximum of 20% cloud coverage from a single cubesat platform. S3FL is also developing the MCubed bus with the intention of making it a heritage design, thus allowing for future missions to be flown on the same bus." Twitter: @UMCubed Tumblr: M-Cubed

Michigan Exploration Laboratory

M-CUBED and RAX Photos below

MSU's twin satellite to launch Oct. 28 on NASA rocket

"The twin of a Montana State University student-built satellite that was launched in the spring but failed to reach orbit as a result of an anomaly with the TAURUS-XL rocket is scheduled to be launched Friday, Oct. 28, on another NASA rocket. This miniature research satellite - also called Explorer-1 [Prime] in honor of the first successful U.S. satellite - is set to launch between 3:48 and 3:57 a.m. Mountain time on a Delta II rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Maria, Calif. MSU students and faculty members plan to watch from the Air Force base, as well as from MSU's Space Operations Center in Cobleigh Hall, said Dave Klumpar, director of MSU's Space Science and Engineering Laboratory."

NASA Announces Two National Student Science Competitions

"NASA is offering students the opportunity to compete in two microgravity challenges: "Dropping In a Microgravity Environment," or DIME, and "What If No Gravity?" or WING. DIME is a team competition for high school students in the ninth through 12th grades. WING is a competition for student teams from the fifth through eighth grades. Both are project-oriented activities that last throughout the school year for the selected teams."

YouTube SpaceLab Announced

YouTube SpaceLab Lifts Off With Lenovo Aboard

"Six regional finalists will gather in Washington, D.C., in March 2012 to experience a ZERO-G flight and receive other prizes. From them, two global winners, one from each age group, will be announced and later have their experiments performed 250 miles above Earth and live streamed on YouTube. Additionally, the global winners will get to choose a unique space experience as a prize: either a trip to Tanegashima Island, Japan, to watch their experiment blast off in a rocket bound for the ISS, or once they are 18 years old, a one-of-a-kind astronaut training experience in Star City, Russia, the training center for Russian cosmonauts."

Drexel University's experiment, Characterizing the Performance of the CubeSat Deployable Boom in Microgravity has been selected to participate in NASA's 2011 Grant Us Space Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. This flight will take place in Houston. The flight week the team participated in was July 7-16, 2011.

NASA Centennial Challenges 2012 Sample Return Robot Challenge, NASA IPP

"Autonomous robot rovers will seek out samples and return them to a designated point in a set time period. Samples will be randomly placed throughout the roving area. They may be placed close to obstacles, both movable and immovable. Robots will be required to navigate over unknown terrain, around obstacles, and in varied lighting conditions to identify, retrieve, and return these samples. Winners will be determined based on the number of samples returned to the designated collection point as well as the value assigned to the samples."

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Innovative Partnership Program (IPP) and Earth Science Division will be hosting a Commercial Suborbital Vehicles Workshop at the GSFC on September 7, 2011. The purpose of the proposed workshop is to provide information for Earth and Space scientists about these vehicles capabilities, and to examine and discuss science topics that might be conducted from these platforms. Suborbital reusable launch vehicles could enable researchers to directly access the mesosphere, lower thermosphere (MLT) region of the atmosphere (50-140 km altitude), repeatedly, many times per day, at low-cost, and at very low velocities in many different environmental locations around the planet (no hypersonic shock).More

First hackerSPACE Workshop

Kris Kimmel of Kentucky Space is organizing the first hackerSPACE Workshop, which provides an opportunity for makers learn about building spacecraft from space professionals and engineers. The focus of the workshop is on the CubeSat satellite platform. The workshop is November 11-12 in Lexington, Kentucky. The workshop will be led by Bob Twiggs, Emeritus professor and former director of the Space Systems Development Lab at Stanford University, now professor at Morehead State University and also with Kentucky Space. Bob is credited with inventing the CubeSat spacecraft, which is now helping to revolutionize space, putting it within reach of more people than ever. More

NASA has selected four companies to develop concepts for storing and transferring cryogenic propellants in space. These capabilities are important for the agency's future deep space human exploration missions.

The awards total approximately $2.4 million with a maximum individual contract award of $600,000. Each company will provide a final report to help define a mission concept to demonstrate the cryogenic fluid management technologies, capabilities and infrastructure required for sustainable, affordable human presence in space.

NASA is Making Hot, Way Cool

Close-up of pump being tested on a Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket mission from the Wallops Flight Facility in June. Credit: NASA Larger image

The more advanced the electronics, the more power they use. The more power they use, the hotter they get. The hotter they get, the more likely they'll overheat. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what typically happens next: The electronics fry.

NASA has selected 16 payloads for flights on the commercial Zero-G parabolic aircraft and two suborbital reusable launch vehicles as part of the agency's Flight Opportunities Program. The flights provide opportunities for space technologies to be demonstrated and validated in relevant environments. In addition, these flights foster the development of the nation's commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry. The payloads and teams from ten states and the District of Columbia were selected from applications received in response to a NASA call issued last December. Of the payloads, 12 will ride on parabolic aircraft flights; two on suborbital reusable launch vehicle test flights; and two on both platforms.

Airlines can not afford to fly with empty seats very often - and Space Shuttle orbiters can't leave valuable payload capacity "on the ground." Costing hundreds of millions of dollars per flight, NASA filled extra space in the shuttle's cargo bay using the Shuttle Small Payloads Project (SSPP). Hooks and power buses built into the shuttle bays allowed hundreds of small, modular experiments and technology test units to make the best use of missions that didn't need all 50,000 pounds of payload capacity. Between 1982 and 2003, more than 200 of these projects, including Get-Away Special (GAS) Cannisters, Hitchhikers and Spartans, flew in 108 missions.

"There has never been a robot competition like this. ESA is launching the Zero Robotics competition for students, asking them to create rival programs to control miniature satellites. The final tournament is set for the International Space Station! This fight is not about muscles and weapons, but about brains, intelligence and agility. These small, bowling-ball-sized spherical satellites are Spheres - Synchronised Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites. They are already used by NASA inside the Space Station to test sets of instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking." More

Innovate Our World, a Maryland educational nonprofit, has partnered with a leading Google Lunar X prize competitor, Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, PA, to help student teams from two central Maryland high schools design payload concepts suitable for Astrobotic's planned 2013 Tranquility Trek mission to the Apollo 11 landing site. Using information about the lunar environment, previous missions to the Moon, basics of conceptual payload design, and local experts, students from Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City, Maryland and Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Maryland proposed and designed two lunar payloads and will present their concepts to Astrobotic Technology on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 1 p.m.

We're hosting an imromptu webcast for the NASA Make Challenge next Tuesday! Dale Dougherty hosts: The NASA Make Challenge is an invitation for makers to participate in the exploration of space and give students an opportunity to build an experimental kit that can be flown on a future space flight. These experiments will be based on the CubeSat modules. To help makers think about building kits for space flight, we'll bring together some experts who have developed and used the Cubesat program.

Wednesday April 19th, 11am PT/2pm ET

Watch at makezine.com/space or on UStream Please join us in the UStream chat to interact live with the show.

A GEOScan workshop in Annapolis, Md. next month will bring together representatives from the geosciences community to form plans for a potential global Earth-observation network in space, using hosted payloads on Iridium's next-generation satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) will host this event under sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF). This GEOScan program is a grass-roots initiative to host an integrated array of scientific sensor suites as small payloads (up to 4 kilograms), known as "SensorPODs," on Iridium NEXT.

The NASA Make Challenge

Dale Dougherty: "I'm excited to announce the launch of the first NASA Make Challenge: Experimental Science Kits for Space. Last year, I met with Lynn Harper and Daniel Rasky of the Space Portal at NASA Ames to talk about ideas for a DIY space issue of Make, which became Make Volume 24. In that same conversation, we talked about the role that makers could play in space exploration. I recall Lynn saying that we needed "not hundreds of experiments going into space but hundreds of thousands of experiments." There is so much we don't know; so much we could learn, she added, if we simply had more experiments testing what happens in microgravity. The Space Portal team recognized that makers were an untapped resource, ready and willing to take on that kind of challenge. Makers just needed an open door." More

At the commencement of the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) being held in Orlando, Florida, XCOR Aerospace announced its initial team of suborbital payload integration specialists who will begin taking orders and facilitating experiment development and integration for commercial, educational and government suborbital research missions aboard XCOR's Lynx reusable suborbital launch vehicle. Capable of up to four flights per day, the Lynx is expected to provide three to four minutes of micro-gravity and/or exposure to the harsh environment of space and the opportunity to investigate largely unknown regions of our upper atmosphere critical to environmental studies.

NASA is preparing to fly a small satellite about the size of a loaf of bread that could help answer astrobiologys fundamental questions about the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. The nanosatellite, known as Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses, or O/OREOS, is a secondary payload aboard a U.S. Air Force four-stage Minotaur IV rocket planned for launch on Nov. 19, 2010.

SPHERES Update

"NASA ARC has a requirement for engineering support services for the transition of technical and operational material and knowledge from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to NASA ARC for sustaining engineering and operation of the Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) hardware and software systems. NASA desires to transform the SPHERES small satellite systems resident on International Space Station (ISS) in orbit, into a National Laboratory Facility for use by a wide variety of researchers and educators. To do this, NASA HQs has directed NASA ARC to work with the SPHERES systems developer, MIT, to quickly become capable of maintaining, scheduling, and operating the SPHERES flight and ground systems." More

Video from a Google NexusOne smartphone with specially programmed Android apps, installed aboard James Dougherty's Intimidator-5 on a CTI N4100 load. Launch from Black Rock Playa on 24-July-2010 thanks to Maverick Civilian Space Foundation.

NASA has selected nine experiments, designed by students at seven schools, for astronauts to perform on the International Space Station this summer. NASA selected the proposals from among 132 received for the new Kids in Micro-g! Program.

This is the pilot year for the program, a student experiment design challenge geared toward grades five through eight. Its purpose is to give students a hands-on opportunity to design experiments or simple demonstrations for testing both in the classroom and in the station's microgravity environment. The winners were chosen by a team of representatives from NASA's 10 field centers.

According to Intelsat: "As the world's largest commercial fixed satellite services operator, Intelsat typically procures 2 to 3 spacecraft per year and currently has 6 satellites - each designed for an operational life of 15+ years - in various stages of procurement and build. Intelsat's spacecraft have many commercial customers who depend upon the timely delivery of satellite capacity and delaying procurement and/or launches could result in unacceptable contention on existing resources across the global fleet."

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., -- Not much bigger than a child's toy block, two spacecraft designed and built by university students in Kentucky and California will fly in space for a short period this month to gather information that may be applied to future small Earth orbiting space vehicles.

The spacecraft will fly on a NASA suborbital Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket between 6 and 9 a.m.(EST), March 11, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The backup launch days are March 12 and 13.

Image: CU-Boulder Professor Xinlin Li holds a tiny spacecraft that will carry a CU student-built instrument package into space in 2012 to measure the behavior of so-called "killer electrons" in space that can have negative impacts on spacecraft and astronauts. Image courtesy Emilia Reed, CU-Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded $840,000 from the National Science Foundation for students to build a tiny spacecraft to observe energetic particles in space that should give scientists a better understanding of solar flares and their interaction with Earth's atmosphere.

The three-year grant to CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and the aerospace engineering sciences department involves the development of a 5-pound, loaf of bread-sized spacecraft carrying a miniature instrument package to observe energetic particles tied to "space weather" in the near-Earth environment. CU-Boulder graduate students working with CU-Boulder faculty and LASP scientists and engineers will develop, integrate and test the experiment as well as conduct subsequent mission operations and data analysis.