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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly took this majestic image of the Earth at night highlighting the green and red hues of an Aurora. NASA NASA is asking American companies to provide input on the agency’s requirements for end-to-end services as part of the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development Program.
In the future, the agency plans to transition its operations in low Earth orbit to commercially owned and operated destinations to ensure continued access and presence in space for research, technology development, and international collaboration after the planned retirement of the International Space Station.
Through a request for information (RFI), NASA is seeking feedback from industry as the agency refines its anticipated requirements for new commercial space destinations. The requirements will help industry understand NASA’s human-rating standards that will be used by the agency to certify that the new systems meet NASA expectations for low Earth orbit operations and transportation. An industry briefing day is scheduled to take place Tuesday Oct. 12, with responses to the RFI due Wednesday, Nov. 17.
“This RFI is a significant next step in transitioning low Earth orbit operations to the private sector, allowing NASA to be one of many customers for services” says Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “These requirements will be the foundation upon which the companies can design safe systems. But the requirements have to work for companies as well. Thus, we are seeking industry feedback on these draft requirements to ensure that the Commercial LEO destinations will be safe, reliable, and cost effective.”
The agency is currently supporting the development of several new stations and destination concepts through both funded and unfunded agreements. However, a company does not need to have a current agreement with NASA in order to provide feedback via the RFI or to bid on future procurements to provide low Earth orbit services to the agency.
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of innovation and effort from industry thus far in developing their station designs,” says Angela Hart, manager of the Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We are working in lockstep with multiple companies to help guide them in a way that sets them up for success to meet our requirements. However, it’s crucial that we open feedback to as wide of an audience as possible. The more commercial stations that are successfully operating in low Earth orbit, the greater likelihood that we can continue to drive down costs and encourage innovation in this new commercial space industry.”
NASA previously sought industry input in 2022 and early 2023, and has hosted two industry days on the agency’s assumptions and expectations for crew and technical requirements to guide companies’ technical and business plans. The feedback from industry will continue to inform the agency’s future commercial services strategy for low Earth orbit destinations.
NASA’s goal is to enable a strong commercial marketplace in low Earth orbit where NASA is one of many customers for private industry. This strategy will provide services the government needs safely, at a lower cost, and enables the agency to focus on its Artemis missions to the Moon in preparation for Mars, while continuing to use low Earth orbit as a training and proving ground for those deep space missions.
Information about how to attend the industry briefing day is contained in the RFI on SAM.gov. The dates for industry day and responses due are subject to change pending a government shutdown resolution and will be updated on SAM.gov when available. For more information about NASA’s commercial space strategy, visit:
By Rebecca Turkington
Johnson Space Center, Houston
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The NASA Space Tech Catalyst Prize will recognize U.S. individuals and/or organizations that share effective best practices for how they support underrepresented and diverse space technology innovators, researchers, technologists, and entrepreneurs. The prize competition’s primary goals are: (1) Showcase effective strategies and approaches for developing the capacity and skill sets of these groups, enhancing their ability to succeed, (2) Expand the outreach and engagement efforts of the NASA ESIP portfolio, ensuring a diverse and inclusive pool of applicants for future funding opportunities, and (3) Recognize the efforts of those who support and nurture underrepresented and diverse individuals and organizations in the space technology sector.
Award: $500,000 in total prizes
Open Date: September 29, 2023
Close Date: February 22, 2024
For more information, visit: https://www.spacetechcatalystprize.org/
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Hubble Views A Vibrant Virgo Cluster Galaxy
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, ESA, and J. Lee (Space Telescope Science Institute); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America) It’s easy to get swept up in the swirling starry arms of this intermediate spiral galaxy, NGC 4654, in the constellation Virgo. The galaxy has a bright center and is labeled “intermediate” because it has characteristics of both unbarred and barred spirals. NGC 4654 is just north of the celestial equator, making it visible from the northern hemisphere and most of the southern hemisphere. The galaxy is around 55 million light-years from Earth.
NGC 4654 is one of many Virgo Cluster galaxies that have an asymmetric distribution of stars and of neutral hydrogen gas. Astronomers reason that NGC 4654 may be experiencing a process called “ram pressure stripping,” where the gravitational pull of the Virgo galaxy cluster puts pressure on NGC 4654 as it moves through a superheated plasma made largely of hydrogen called the “intracluster medium.” This pressure feels like a gust of wind – think of a biker feeling wind even on a still day – that strips NGC 4654 of its gas. This process produced a long, thin tail of hydrogen gas on the galaxy’s southeastern side. Most galaxies that experienced ram pressure stripping hold very little cold gas, halting the galaxy’s ability to form new stars, since stars generate from dense gas. However, NGC 4654 has star formation rates consistent with other galaxies of its size.
NGC 4654 also had an interaction with the companion galaxy NGC 4639 about 500 million years ago. The gravity of NGC 4639 stripped NGC 4654’s gas along its edge, limiting star formation in that region and causing the asymmetrical distribution of the galaxy’s stars.
Scientists study galaxies like NGC 4654 to examine the connection between young stars and the cold gas from which they form. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope took this image in visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
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