Recently in the Spacecraft Category

"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

Rock on - A charitable foundation is to launch the first private, scientific space mission, Economist

"Budget cuts have hit NASA's science missions hard. NEOCam is not certain to fly, and the foundation worries that, although NASA has already catalogued most of the biggest, civilisation-ending asteroids, thousands of smaller rocks, of similar dimensions to the one that exploded over Siberia, remain undetected. If one were to hit the wrong part of the planet it would cause a catastrophe. Hence the shift in focus from deflection to discovery. Sentinel's mission will be broadly similar to NEOCam's. Both telescopes will have 50cm mirrors. Both will scan the sky in the infra-red spectrum, where dark but comparatively warm asteroids should show up brightly against the cold of deep space. Both will inhabit orbits between Earth and the sun, in order to get the best possible vantage point. The foundation's ambition is to produce an asteroid map that records 90% of near-Earth objects that are more than 140 metres across, and half of those bigger than 50 metres. Armed with data on their orbits and velocities, astronomers should be able to calculate which pose a threat over the coming century or so."

B612 Foundation Announces First Privately Funded Deep Space Mission

Donate to B612 Foundation

Spacecraft Powered by Bacteria

Navy Researchers Investigate Small-Scale Autonomous Planetary Explorers

"Robotic exploration to remote regions, to include distant planetary bodies, is often limited by energy requirements to perform, in repetition, even the simplest tasks. With this in mind, researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are looking into a novel approach that could some day aid scientific space and planetary research without the need for power-intense options often used today. Integrating the NRL developed technologies in microrobotics, microbial fuel cells, and low power electronics, space robotics scientist Dr. Gregory P. Scott at NRL's Spacecraft Engineering Department inspires a novel autonomous microrover, weighing in at nearly one-kilogram and powered by an advanced microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology."

Fixing Broken Satellites In Space

NASA Solicitation: Development of an On-Orbit Robotic Servicing Capability for Spacecraft

"Maintaining existing and growing commercial, governmental, and national security orbital assets indicates a need for extending the development and dissemination of on-orbit robotic servicing capabilities for existing and future spacecraft. NASA acknowledges that the commercial satellite industry has the proven capability to finance, design, develop, integrate, operate and own complex satellite systems. NASA is also aware that some in the industry are interested in providing satellite servicing as a commercial service. NASA seeks suggestions on methods for the agency to energize/stimulate/enable the development of a domestic and commercial capability in robotic satellite servicing."

Technoarchaeology: Waking Up Propsero

"Prospero was the first UK satellite to be launched on a UK launch vehicle; it would also be the last. Ministers had cancelled the rocket project in the run up to the flight. However, as the Black Arrow was ready, the programme team decided to go-ahead anyway. Prospero was blasted into orbit from the remote Woomera base in the Australian desert. It turns out, the satellite is still up there. Carrying a series of experiments to investigate the effects of the space environment, the satellite operated successfully until 1973 and was contacted annually until 1996. Now, a team led by PhD student Roger Duthie from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey is hoping to re-establish communications in time for the satellite's 40th anniversary. "First, we have to re-engineer the ground segment from knowledge lost, then test the communications to see if it's still alive," Duthie told the Space Boffins podcast." More at the BBC

According to Wikipedia "As of 2006, radio transmissions from Prospero could still be heard on 137.560 MHz,[4] although it had officially been deactivated in 1996, when the UK's Defence Research Establishment decommissioned their satellite tracking station at Lasham, Hampshire. It is in a low Earth orbit, and is not expected to decay for about 100 years."

Eyes on the Solar System

NASA is giving the public the power to journey through the solar system using a new interactive Web-based tool. The "Eyes on the Solar System" interface combines video game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft and explore the cosmos. Screen graphics and information such as planet locations and spacecraft maneuvers use actual space mission data. Point of view can be switched from faraway to close-up to right "on board" spacecraft. Location, motion and appearance are based on predicted and reconstructed mission data. Dozens of controls on a series of pop-up menus allow users to fully customize what they see, and video and audio tutorials explain how to use the tool's many options. Users may choose from 2-D or 3-D modes, with the latter simply requiring a pair of red-cyan glasses to see. "Eyes on the Solar System" and an introduction video are available at:

DARPA is seeking ideas for an organization, business model and approach appropriate for a self-sustaining investment vehicle in support of the 100 Year StarshipTM Study. The 100 Year StarshipTM Study is a project seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider "why not" and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight. DARPA contends that the useful, unanticipated consequences of such research will have benefit to the Department of Defense and to NASA, and well as the private and commercial sector.

Register for NASA's GRAIL MoonKAM

In fall 2011, NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission is scheduled to launch twin spacecraft in tandem low-altitude orbits around the moon. The spacecraft will measure the moon's gravity in unprecedented detail. The mission will answer key questions about the moon's internal structure and give scientists a better understanding of how our solar system formed.

The satellites will carry special cameras, dubbed MoonKam, which stands for Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students. During the science phase of the mission, students will send in requests for the cameras to take photos of specific areas on the lunar surface. The images will be posted on the Internet, and students can refer to them as they study highlands, maria and other features of the moon's topography.

Register at the GRAIL MoonKam website to receive information and resources about this unique opportunity and stay up-to-date with GRAIL MoonKAM news and events.

NASA Seeks Cubesat Proposals

ROSES-11 Amendment 9: New proposal opportunities for Earth and space science experiments using short duration orbital platforms including CubeSats.

Short duration orbital platforms, such as CubeSats, may offer new capabilities for the conduct of NASA scientific research, education, and technology advancement. NASA has commenced a CubeSat Launch Initiative and begun regularly providing launch opportunities for CubeSats as secondary payloads on NASA launch vehicles.

Two satellites designed and constructed by students at the Cockrell School of Engineering successfully separated in space March 22, completing the most crucial goal of the mission since its Nov. 19 launch and making them the first student-developed mission in the world in which satellites orbit and communicate with each other in real-time.

"To enable Voyager 1's Low Energy Charged Particle instrument to gather these data, the spacecraft performed a maneuver on March 7 that it hadn't done for 21 years, except in a preparatory test last month. Voyager engineers performed a test roll and hold on Feb. 2 for two hours, 15 minutes. When data from Voyager 1 were received on Earth some 16 hours later, the mission team verified the test was successful and the spacecraft had no problem in reorienting itself and locking back onto its guide star, Alpha Centauri." More

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

NASA has selected 20 small satellites to fly as auxiliary cargo aboard rockets planned to launch in 2011 and 2012. The proposed CubeSats come from a high school in Virginia, universities across the country, NASA field centers and Department of Defense organizations. CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart and weigh 2.2 pounds or less.

RSC Energia: "In the scope of operations for prelaunch processing of cargo transport vehicle (CTV) Progress M-09M under the International Space Station program small spacecraft - satellite Kedr was accommodated in the vehicle cargo compartment on January 18. The satellite is designed to carry out space experiment RadioSkaf: development, preparation and launch of supersmall spacecraft during extravehicular activity (EVA). The experiment investigator is S.P. Korolev RSC Energia. The launch of CTV Progress M-09M is scheduled to be performed on January 28 at 04:31 Moscow Time."

NanoSail-D Deploys Solar Sail

Friday, Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. EST, engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite deployed its 100-square-foot polymer sail in low-Earth orbit and is operating as planned. Actual deployment occurred on Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. EST and was confirmed today with beacon packets data received from NanoSail-D and additional ground-based satellite tracking assets. In addition, the NanoSail-D orbital parameter data set shows an appropriate change which is consistent with sail deployment.

Giving New Life to Old Satellites

U.S. Space LLC, a U.S.-based creator of dedicated space solutions for government and commercial clients, and ATK [NYSE: ATK], an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company, today announced the creation of ViviSat, a new satellite life extension venture. ViviSat provides geosynchronous satellite operators with flexible, scalable, capital-efficient, and low-risk in-orbit mission extension and protection services that can add several years to the revenue-producing life of a satellite.

NASA is seeking proposals from researchers interested in testing new technologies during suborbital flights. The agency also is requesting information from commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle providers and commercial payload integrators about carrying the technology payloads.

Novel Missions at NASA Ames

NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) is seeking partners interested in developing competitive proposals in response to NASA Announcements of Opportunity (AOs) or other agency proposal calls. ARC is interested in partners that can perform science investigations and research activities. Information is also sought on potential partners that, in addition to performing substantial research, can provide hardware, equipment or instrumentation necessary to implement that proposed science investigation or research activity. Full solicitation.

NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) Small Spacecraft Division has a requirement for mission operations and ground support services and associated research and development of technologies and processes critical to support flight missions. This requirement includes development of documentation such as Mission Operations Plan and Procedures, Test and Verification Reports, Space to Ground Segment Interface Control Documents, and Mission Review presentations, support to project development and management, and advanced payload and aerospace technology development. The anticipated period of performance is approximately 21 months (through September 15, 2012).

On Dec. 6 at 1:31 a.m. EST, NASA for the first time successfully ejected a nanosatellite from a free-flying microsatellite. NanoSail-D ejected from the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, FASTSAT, demonstrating the capability to deploy a small cubesat payload from an autonomous microsatellite in space.

Nanosatellites or cubesats are typically launched and deployed from a mechanism called a Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) mounted directly on a launch vehicle. This is the first time NASA has mounted a P-POD on a microsatellite to eject a cubesat.

NASA's Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, launched at 7:25 p.m. CST Friday aboard a Minotaur IV rocket from Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska. FASTSAT is a unique platform that can carry multiple small payloads to low-Earth orbit creating opportunities for researchers to conduct low-cost scientific and technology research on an autonomous satellite in space.

Launching Smallsats From Old Jets

Turning Retired Military Jets into Next-Gen Nano-Satellite Launchers, Popular Science

"The idea is to make space launches affordable to commercial and academic ventures that can't afford the high costs associated with piggybacking on a NASA mission or launching a single-use rocket. With small satellites constructed by universities or other institutions expected to increase dramatically over the next decade, the need exists for a service that can get them into space for less than $10,000 (the average cost associated with building and launching a CubeSat has ranged from $50,000 to $150,000 in the past)."

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 10:30 a.m. PST on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010 to discuss the Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses, O/OREOS and Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT -- scheduled to launch Nov. 19, 2010 on a Minotaur IV launch vehicle from the Alaska Aerospace Corporations Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

The goal of the O/OREOS mission is to demonstrate the capability to conduct low-cost astrobiology science experiments on autonomous nanosatellites in space. Scientists will apply the knowledge they gain from O/OREOS to plan future experiments in the space environment to study how exposure to space changes organic molecules and biology. These experiments will help answer astrobiologys fundamental questions about the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe.

MAKE blasts into orbit and beyond with our DIY SPACE issue. Put your own satellite in orbit, launch a stratosphere balloon probe, and analyze galaxies for $20 with an easy spectrograph! We talk to the rocket mavericks reinventing the space industry, and renegade NASA hackers making smartphone robots and Lego satellites. Of course, as usual, we've got a full payload of other cool DIY projects, from a helium-balloon camera that's better than Google Earth, to an electromagnetic levitator that shoots aluminum rings, to a simple stroboscope that takes the most amazing freeze-frame photos.

Plus: party-pleasing automated photo booth that prints out photo strips, MythBusters' Adam Savage teaches you hard-shell moldmaking, and much more. MAKE Volume 24, on sale October 26.

Short listing of articles:

- Making Your Own Satellites by Chris Boshuizen - Build and launch your own sat for as little at $8,000
- Rocket Men by Charles Platt - Mavericks of the Private Space Industry
- Listening to Satellites by Diana Eng - Tune in to space with a homemade yagi antenna
- Weather Balloon Space Probes by John Baichtal - Sense, signal and snap photos in the stratosphere.
- High Resolution Spectrograph b Simon Quellen Field - Lab-worthy spectrum analysis for cheap
- Five Cool Participatory Space Projects by Ariel Waldman
- Cash Prizes for Space Scientists by John Baichtal - A summary of student and professional challenges
- Space Science Gadgets You Can Make for NASA - by Matthew F. Reyes
- Open Sourcing Space by Dale Dougherty

NASA has announced the award of the Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers, or P-POD, service contract to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif. This new contract is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity award for five years with a maximum cumulative potential value of $5 million. The award will provide a broad range of P-POD services for NASA's CubeSat program.

CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart and weigh less than 2.2 pounds.

ESA's Rosetta comet-chaser goes LEGO

What does a scientist do to visualise a space journey? Build a model, of course. A model of Europe's Rosetta comet-chaser made out of LEGO(R) blocks started out in this small way and has grown into a high-fidelity Rosetta Lander Education Kit. Engineering and art students of the University of Rome gathered yesterday to test the prototype of the Rosetta Lander Education Kit. Not only did they build the LEGO MINDSTORMS comet lander, they also learnt why ESA's mission is travelling all the way to Jupiter's orbit to rendezvous with comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. More.

Teams to Design Software for Small Satellites on the International Space Station

WASHINGTON -- NASA is challenging high school teams to design software to program small satellites aboard the International Space Station. The competition centers on the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES.

SPHERES are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites used to test maneuvers for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. Three of these satellites fly inside the station's cabin. Each is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment.

The Zero-Robotics investigation, run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., is designed to inspire future scientists and engineers. The teams are asked to address challenges of satellite docking, assembly and flight formation. The 2010 Zero-Robotics Challenge expands on a limited pilot program performed in fall 2009. This expanded pilot, called HelioSPHERES, will involve high schools from across the country during the 2010 - 2011 academic year. This new education program builds critical engineering skills for students, such as problem solving, design thought process, operations training, teamwork and presentation skills.

Danish inventors produce first amateur rocket designed to send humans into space (and one of them is going to test it out himself), Daily Mail

"It might not look much. In fact, it looks practically suicidal. But two Danish inventors hope to launch the world's first amateur-built rocket for human space travel. The homemade rocket is the brainchild of Danish firm Copenhagen Suborbitals, headed by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen."

Copenhagen Suborbitals

"Welcome to Copenhagen Suborbitals Our mission is very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space. This is a non-profit suborbital space endeavor lead by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, based entirely on sponsors and volunteers."

NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to purchase specific data resulting from industry efforts to test and verify vehicle capabilities through demonstrations of small robotic landers. The purpose is to inform the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles. The Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) BAA will result in multiple small firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value up to $30.1 million through 2012. Multiple awards are possible with a minimum government purchase of $10,000 for each selected contractor. A minimum order will be funded using FY10 dollars. Orders above the minimum would be competed among the successful offerors dependent on future budget availability. The deadline for submitting proposals is Sept. 8.


Extreme Hobbyists Put Satellites Into Orbit With $8,000 Kits, Wired

"The hexadecagon-shaped personal satellite, called TubeSat, weighs about 1.65 pounds and is a little larger than a rectangular Kleenex box. TubeSats will be placed in self-decaying orbits 192 miles above the earth's surface. Once deployed, they can put out enough power to be picked up on the ground by a hand-held amateur radio receiver. After operating for a few months, TubeSat will re-enter the atmosphere and burn up. "It is a pico satellite that can be a very low-cost space-based platform for experimentation or equipment testing," says Randa Milliron, CEO and founder of Interorbital Systems. About 20 kits have been sold and 14 more are in the process of being handed over to customers, says Milliron."

Student RockSat Prepares For Launch

University students and professors from across the country and Puerto Rico will converge on NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia this month to learn how to build small experiments that can be launched on sounding rockets. This is part of a week-long workshop, known as RockOn!, that begins June 19.

The 80 workshop participants will build standardized experiments that will fly on a NASA Terrier-Orion suborbital sounding rocket set to launch between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. EDT on June 24. The 35-foot-tall rocket is expected to fly to an altitude of 75 miles. After launch and payload recovery, the participants will conduct preliminary data analysis and discuss their results.

In addition to the 7 workshop-built experiments, 11 custom-built, self-contained experiments also will fly on the rocket inside a payload canister known as RockSat. The latter experiments were developed at ten universities that previously had participated in a RockOn! workshop.

Avatar Meets NASA on Mars

James Cameron and NASA team up to shoot Mars in 3D, DVICE

"James Cameron got plenty of experience creating an alien world in Avatar. Now the 3D pioneer is looking to test his might with the real deal, Mars, though still in three dimensions. Cameron met with NASA administrator Charles Bolden to pitch the idea of including a 3D camera on the space agency's next generation rover, Curiosity, set to launch toward the red planet next year. "He actually was really open to the idea," Cameron told the Pasadena Star News. "Our first meeting went very well." Beyond the scientific value the detailed images could possess, Cameron may also use the footage in a documentary on Mars in the future."

Avatar Director Helps NASA With Mars Cameras, Information Week

"NASA is getting help from Hollywood director James Cameron to build 3D cameras for the next Mars rover, Curiosity. The space agency abandoned plans to build cameras with the capability for the rover in 2007 due to budgetary concerns. That prompted the director " known for blockbuster films Avatar and Titanic-- to step in and personally petitioned the agency to build the cameras, according to NASA. The agency this month said it has delivered the last two of four science cameras -- called Mastcams -- for the rover without 3D capability."

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."

Video and Photos: Titan 1 at NASA Ames

This a Titan ICBM 1 first and second stage in the location where they have sat neglected for 40 years. We are going to restore this rocket and upgrade it to serve as an educational tool as well as a smallsat payload integration testbed. This project will be undertaken at NASA Ames Research Center at Bldg 596 aka "McMoons" where the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) has been underway for 2 years. The rocket is slated to be moved to its new location on Thursday 18 March.

Titan 1 first and second stage in the location where they have sat for 40 years.

More photos below

NASA's CubeSat Initiative

NASA is announcing a new initiative to launch small cube-shaped satellites for education and not-for-profit organizations. CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called picosatellites, having a size of approximately four inches, a volume of about one quart, and weighing no more than 2.2 pounds.

This is NASA's first open announcement to create an agency-prioritized list of available CubeSats. They are planned as auxiliary payloads on launch vehicles already planned for 2011 and 2012.

"We're anticipating some exciting proposals for this pilot program with hopes to break down the barriers to the launching of CubeSats," said Jason Crusan, chief technologist for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. "There are organizations that have been waiting a long time for a chance to see their satellites fly in space."

Proposed CubeSat payloads must be the result of development efforts conducted under existing NASA-supported activities. Investigations proposed for this pilot project must address an aspect of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations encompassed by NASA's strategic goals and outcomes as identified in the NASA Strategic Plan and/or NASA's Education Strategic Coordination Framework.

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.

By chance I was in Omaha this week when the news was announced that the X-38 was going on display in the Strategic Air & Space Museum there. What an interesting and out of the way place to display this remarkable device. My work schedule didn't allow me the luxury of a visit to the museum, but then I've seen the X-38 up close before.

Disclaimer: I was a member of an independent review team for the X-38 development for a short period of time.

ESA's Education Office has awarded a contract to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd of the UK to manage the development and testing of the first European student mission to the Moon. Launch is expected in 2013-2014.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been selected as the prime contractor for the European Student Moon Orbiter (ESMO) project. The final signature of the contract took place on 4 November 2009. The mission involves delivering a spacecraft to lunar orbit, followed by 6 months of operations that include mapping of the lunar surface and studying our nearest neighbour.