MarsNews.com
September 8th, 2015

Fortifying Computer Chips for Space Travel

Michael Johnson, Nuclear Science Division, in caves 3A,3B of the 88 inch Cyclotron.

Michael Johnson, Nuclear Science Division, in caves 3A,3B of the 88 inch Cyclotron.

Space is cold, dark, and lonely. Deadly, too, if any one of a million things goes wrong on your spaceship. It’s certainly no place for a computer chip to fail, which can happen due to the abundance of radiation bombarding a craft. Worse, ever-shrinking components on microprocessors make computers more prone to damage from high-energy radiation like protons from the sun or cosmic rays from beyond our galaxy.

It’s a good thing, then, that engineers know how to make a spaceship’s microprocessors more robust. To start, they hit them with high-energy ions from particle accelerators here on Earth. It’s a radiation-testing process that finds a chip’s weak spots, highlighting when, where, and how engineers need to make the microprocessor tougher.

One of the most long-lived and active space-chip testing programs is at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab). Sitting just up the hill from UC Berkeley, in Berkeley Lab’s Building 88, is the 88-Inch Cyclotron, a machine that accelerates ions to high energies along a circular path.

July 8th, 2014

NASA finalizes contract to build the most powerful rocket ever Los Angeles Times

SA has reached a milestone in its development of the Space Launch System, or SLS, which is set to be the most powerful rocket ever and may one day take astronauts to Mars.
After completing a critical design review, Boeing Co. has finalized a $2.8-billion contract with the space agency. The deal allows full production on the rocket to begin. “Our teams have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the SLS – the largest ever — will be built safely, affordably and on time,” Virginia Barnes, Boeing’s Space Launch System vice president and program manager, said in a statement.
The last time NASA’s completed a critical design review of a deep-space human rocket was 1961, when the space agency assessed the mighty Saturn V, which ultimately took man to the moon.
Work on the 321-foot Space Launch System is spread throughout Southern California, including Boeing’s avionics team in Huntington Beach. The rocket’s core stage will get its power from four RS-25 engines for former space shuttle main engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park.

June 26th, 2014

NASA’s deep-space craft readying for launch CNN

The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA’s successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
Orion, the agency’s newest manned spaceship, is being prepared for its first mission in December. In future missions, it will journey into deep space — to Mars and beyond — farther than humans have ever gone before.
Orion comes loaded with superlatives. It boasts the largest heat shield ever built and a computer 400 times faster than the ones on the space shuttles. It will be launched into space on the most powerful rocket NASA has ever made.
No astronauts will be aboard the December flight, which will test the spacecraft’s systems for future manned missions.

February 26th, 2014

Full Committee Hearing – Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System? Space

The Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled Mars Flyby
2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and SLS at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday,
February 27th. This hearing will explore the need for a roadmap of missions to guide
investments in NASA’s human spaceflight programs, how a manned mission to flyby the planets
Mars and Venus launching in 2021 might fit into a series of missions and how the Space Launch
System (SLS) and Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle could contribute to that mission.

October 16th, 2013

Spaceflight experts work on alternate vision for Mars trips NBC News

While NASA works on a multibillion-dollar, decades-long space exploration plan that relies on monster rockets, an informal cadre of engineers is laying out a different vision that would take advantage of cheaper, smaller spacecraft that can fuel up at “truck stops” along the way.
Right now, the alternate vision, known as the “Stairway to Mars,” is little more than an engineering exercise. But the plan’s proponents on the Space Development Steering Committee say their scenario for Mars missions in the 2030s may have a better chance of becoming a reality than NASA’s scenario.

April 29th, 2013

John Kelly: NASA still aiming for manned Mars mission Florida Today

NASA’s not giving up on flying people to Mars.
Some critics of the space agency’s recent proposal to fly astronauts to an asteroid say we’re “settling” for something less than the big prize: humans walking on the red planet.
Not true. The mission to an asteroid is part of a stepping-stone approach to sending human beings exploring deeper into the solar system. A sensible look at NASA’s current flight capabilities, human limitations and the space exploration budget means Mars isn’t possible yet.
NASA’s top human spaceflight chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, recently went over the payoffs with a committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

October 25th, 2012

ATK Selected to Develop MegaFlex™ Solar Array Structure ATK

MegaFlex™ solar array was recently selected by NASA’s Space Technology Program under a Game Changing Technology competition for development of the promising lightweight and compact solar array structure. ATK received a $6.4 million contract for the MegaFlex™ development.
MegaFlex™, under development by ATK’s Space Components Division in Goleta, California, is designed specifically to meet the anticipated power demands of 350kW and higher, with very low mass and small stowed volume for future space exploration missions using solar electric propulsion.
“We are honored to win this program to develop the future space exploration power platform for NASA,” said David Shanahan, vice president and general manager of ATK Aerospace Group’s Space Components Division. “This win is a result of the outstanding innovation and capabilities of our Goleta team.”

March 21st, 2010

Room for Debate: Where, If Anywhere, Is NASA Headed? Scientific American

On complex issues, as is often said, it is possible for intelligent people to disagree. That was certainly the case March 15 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, when five leaders of the space exploration intelligentsia met to discuss NASA’s plans for human spaceflight.
The topic of the event, the 10th annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, could hardly have been more timely, given the February budget request from President Obama that sought to drastically change NASA’s direction for human spaceflight and the way the agency does that business. If the budget survives Congress, NASA could start hiring private corporations to launch U.S. astronauts into orbit rather than use its own hardware; Obama’s plan would also scrap the existing Constellation Program, including the Ares rockets being developed to lift humans beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the 1970s.

March 21st, 2010

Sen. Nelson Floats Alternate Use for NASA Commercial Crew Money Space News

As the Senate Commerce Committee begins work on a 2010 NASA authorization bill, science and space subcommittee chairman Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is questioning whether $6 billion the U.S. space agency is seeking for developing a commercial crew taxis might be better spent on a heavy-lift rocket that could take humans beyond low Earth orbit.
Nelson told a NASA Kennedy Space Center-area audience March 19 that he expects U.S. President Barack Obama to “revamp his budget” and set specific goals for the nation’s human spaceflight program when he visits Florida April 15 to talk space.

August 31st, 2006

Lockheed Martin to build future moonship MSNBC

Lockheed Martin on Thursday won NASA’s multibillion-dollar nod to build the Orion crew exploration vehicle, a spaceship with a look and a mission that echoes the space agency’s giant leap to the moon in the 1960s.
The announcement kicks off an effort to produce spacecraft that would replace NASA’s fleet of space shuttles, due for retirement in 2010. NASA’s timetable calls for the cone-shaped Orion ships to bring cargo or up to six crew members to the international space station by 2014, and carry up to four astronauts to the moon and back by 2020.