January 18th, 2016

Bigelow Aerospace and NASA Execute NextSTEP Contract to Study B330 Utilization

Dual B330s in Lunar Orbit

NASA has executed a contract with Bigelow Aerospace for the company to develop ambitious human spaceflight missions that leverage its innovative B330 space habitat. The contract was executed under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (“NextSTEP”) Broad Agency Announcement issued by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems program.

Via its NextSTEP contract, Bigelow Aerospace will demonstrate to NASA how B330 habitats can be used to support safe, affordable, and robust human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. As the name indicates, the B330 will provide 330 cubic meters of internal volume and each habitat can support a crew of up to six. Bigelow expandable habitats provide much greater volume than metallic structures, as well as enhanced protection against radiation and physical debris. Moreover, Bigelow habitats are lighter and take up substantially less rocket fairing space, and are far more affordable than traditional, rigid modules. These advantages make the B330 the ideal habitat to implement NASA’s beyond low Earth orbit (“LEO”) plans and will support the utilization of transportation systems such as the SLS and Orion. Additionally, the B330s, which will initially be deployed and tested in LEO, will be used as private sector space stations that will conduct a wide variety of commercial activities.

September 21st, 2015

NASA Seeks Big Ideas from Students for Inflatable Heat Shield Technology NASA


NASA is giving university and college students an opportunity to be part of the agency’s journey to Mars with the Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge.

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program (GCD), managed by the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) are seeking innovative ideas for generating lift using inflatable spacecraft heat shields or hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (HIAD) technology.

“NASA is currently developing and flight testing HIADs — a new class of relatively lightweight deployable aeroshells that could safely deliver more than 22 tons to the surface of Mars,” said Steve Gaddis, GCD manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “A crewed spacecraft landing on Mars would weigh between 15 and 30 tons.”

August 12th, 2015

Traveling to Another Planet? Just Add Water! NASA


As NASA and other space agencies continue humanity’s interplanetary reconnaissance, one thing is becoming very clear: on balance, the solar system is a rather soggy place. Water, mostly in the form of ice, lurks practically everywhere we look. There are water deposits on the Moon, on Mars, and even in the cold, shadowed floors of deep polar craters on sun-broiled Mercury. Water exists in even greater abundance further out from the sun, constituting much of the crust for a wealth of dwarf planets, moons, and asteroids and even occasionally forming subsurface oceans.

Planetary scientists speak often and with great eloquence about how all this water boosts the possibility of alien life right in our solar system; much less discussed is how it boosts the possibility of carrying human life far beyond Earth. Water will be a cornerstone of our existence everywhere we go, of course, perhaps in more ways than you realize. The killer app for all that extraterrestrial water isn’t just beverages and baths—it’s also rocket fuel.

August 6th, 2015

What Will Our Homes Look Like On Mars? NASA


For generations there have been discussions about the next step in space exploration with a new focus on reaching and populating Mars. There are now many opportunities upon us with organisations such as NASA, the primary investigator, and Mars One the organisation co-founded by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, seeking out and developing technologies.

The big question is: can science fiction become science reality?

DesignCurial talks to internationally recognised space architects Guillermo Trotti, president of Trotti & Associates, and Brent Sherwood, programme manager at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who give us an idea of what our homes on Mars would look like and how soon this might happen.

Trotti has contributed significantly to NASA, including working on the International Space Station (ISS), lunar bases, Mars vehicles and more, with Sherwood having 28 years professional experience in the civil and commercial space industry.

June 8th, 2015

NASA Go for June 8 LDSD Launch NASA

The LDSD launch support team is go to report to stations tonight at 9 p.m. HST to begin preparations for a Monday, June 8, 7:30 a.m. HST (1:30 p.m. EDT) launch attempt from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. NASA Television and JPL’s Ustream channel will carry live coverage of the launch beginning at 7 a.m. HST (1 p.m. EDT). The LDSD crosscutting technology demonstration mission will test two braking technologies that will enable larger payloads to be landed safely on the surface of Mars or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth.

April 29th, 2015

10 things humans are doing right now to reach Mars Business Insider

Mars is a freezing, desolate desert seemingly devoid of life. Yet humanity will be in much better shape after we colonize it.

This feat, however, will not be easy. The first steps will likely begin with return missions from Mars back to Earth. And only after we’ve proven that we can safely transport, land, and launch people from Mars, will we begin considering the possibility of establishing small, permanent colonies there.

Before either of those things can happen, however, scientists first need to make sure we can afford these missions and, more importantly, prove that we have the technology to safely get people to Mars and back.

There are ten projects that are currently underway which should help us move forward with missions to Mars. Based on the ground and in space, these projects are pushing the boundaries of technology and human psychology, physiology, and ingenuity.

November 21st, 2014

How NASA Plans to Land Humans on Mars The Planetary Society

Mars lander concept
On the surface, NASA’s humans to Mars plans seem vague and disjointed. For instance, it’s difficult to see how visiting a captured asteroid in lunar orbit fits into a bigger picture. But if you combine Gerst’s speech with two days of symposium panels and a day of interviews at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the full breadth of what the agency is trying to do begins to makes sense. There is indeed a plan to put humans on Mars. Vague? Yes. Hard to see? Absolutely. But that’s because Gerst and NASA are playing the long game. And right now, it may be the only game they can play. There are three big reasons NASA can’t lay out a comprehensive Mars plan: flat budgets, a perilous political landscape, and the sheer scale of a 20-plus-years program. Thus far, NASA’s most audacious human exploration program kicked off in 1961, when John F. Kennedy declared Americans would walk on the moon by the end of the decade. The nine-year program was a success, but it was bolstered by a strong political mandate and more than double the funding NASA receives today. The agency’s budget peaked in 1966 at $43.5 billion (in 2014 dollars). Today, NASA gets about $18 billion. There’s not much political will to go to Mars, and no indication that NASA’s budget will change significantly. In fact, NASA doesn’t even have a fiscal year 2015 budget yet, as it operates under a stopgap continuing resolution.

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.

May 25th, 2013

Bigelow to test habitat prototype in desert near Las Vegas SEN

Desert dwellers near Las Vegas will receive an unusual addition to the population at some point next year: a habitat built by Bigelow Aerospace.
Public details are still few, except for these: it is called The Guide, it’s described as a “flight-like” test article that is somewhat smaller than an automobile, and it will be placed in a dry lake near Alamo sometime in the spring or summer of 2014.
This is just one of a series of tests that Bigelow is undertaking as it seeks to build one of its inflatable habitats on the Moon someday, said founder Robert Bigelow in a press conference Thursday.

April 4th, 2013

Inspiration Mars considers NASA’s Space Launch System, ULA rockets for 2018 Mars trip

Dennis Tito, the man trying to mount a privately funded fly-by mission of Mars in 2018, is considering the Space Launch System being developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as his astronauts’ ride to the red planet. A Marshall spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Tito and another executive of his Inspiration Mars non-profit organization, visited Marshall March 19 for a briefing on SLS. Marshall is leading development of the booster part of the new heavy-lift rocket for NASA. An April 3 Inspiration Mars feasibility analysis on the website of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics lists SLS as an optional launch vehicle along with a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and the big versions of the Atlas and Delta rockets assembled by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Al. The Falcon Heavy has not flown yet, either, but ULA has launched both Atlas and Delta rockets successfully.