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NASA logoCredits: NASA NASA has selected seven companies to provide commercial data in support of the agency’s Earth science research.
The Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program will acquire Earth observation data and related services from commercial sources for NASA. This fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, multiple-award contract will be effective for a period of five years with an option to extend services an additional six-months. The maximum potential value is cumulatively $476 million among all contractors selected.
The following companies were selected as part of this full and open competition:
Airbus DS Geo, Inc. of Herndon, Virginia Capella Space Corp. of San Francisco GHGSat, Inc. of Montreal Maxar Intelligence, Inc. of Westminster, Colorado Space Sciences and Engineering (dba PlanetiQ) of Golden, Colorado Spire Global Subsidiary, Inc. of Vienna, Virginia Umbra Lab, Inc., of Santa Barbara, California The contract serves as a flexible method for NASA to acquire data from commercial sources that support NASA’s Earth science research and application activities. An emphasis will be placed on data acquired by commercial satellite constellations, affording the means of complementing NASA’s Earth observations data with higher resolutions, increased temporal frequency or other novel capabilities.
This contract will provide a cost-effective means to complement the suite of Earth observations acquired by NASA and other U.S. government agencies, as well as international partners and agencies. NASA will require end user license agreements to enable broad levels of dissemination and shareability of the commercial data. There is a set of government-defined license tiers associated with all contracts and task orders awarded for scientific non-commercial use.
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On Oct. 1, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officially began operations. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act the previous July, creating NASA to lead America’s civilian space program in response to Soviet advances in space exploration. T. Keith Glennan and Hugh L. Dryden were sworn in as NASA’s first administrator and deputy administrator, respectively. As its core, the new agency incorporated the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), founded in 1915 to advance aeronautics research in the United States. The NACA elements included three large research laboratories and two small test facilities. Projects and facilities transferred from other agencies to augment NASA’s capabilities. Within days of opening, NASA began work on America’s first human spaceflight program.
Left: NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden, left, introduces NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan as he prepares to deliver a filmed address to NACA employees about the impending transition to NASA. Middle: The Dolley Madison House on LaFayette Square in Washington, D.C., NASA’s first headquarters building. Right: The main entrance to the Dolley Madison House.
In a filmed address delivered to all NACA employees shortly before the transition, Glennan explained that the change to the new organization should not affect their daily lives, even though the new agency would over time take on more responsibilities. Indeed, the transition for the existing 8,000 NACA employees proved rather seamless. They went home on Sept. 30 as NACA employees and reported for work on Oct. 1 as NASA employees, without change to their daily routines. On Oct. 1, Glennan addressed the 170-member headquarters staff in the courtyard of the Dolley Madison House on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., that served as NASA’s first headquarters.
Left: The logo for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) on the wall of the 8-foot transonic pressure wind tunnel at the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, now NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Right: The entrance sign to the NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, now NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
Left: The entrance sign to NACA’s Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory. Right: The entrance sign to the renamed NASA Lewis Research Center, now NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Left: The NACA High Speed Flight Station, now NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Right: Workers removing the NACA logo at the High Speed Flight Station.
Three NACA research laboratories – Langley Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia; Ames Aeronautical Laboratory in Mountain View, California; and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio – and two small test facilities – the Muroc Dry Lake in California’s high desert for high-speed flight research, and one for sounding rockets at Wallops Island in Virginia – transferred to NASA on Oct. 1, with a total of 8,000 employees and an annual budget of $100 million. By Dec. 31, 1958, NASA had absorbed elements of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama, the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., including its Project Vanguard, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a contractor facility operated by the California Institute of Technology. These added 420 employees and 2,300 contractors to the workforce and brought the agency’s appropriations to more than $330 million. It also acquired a high-priority rocket engine development project from the U.S. Air Force. Over time, the Agency established or incorporated additional centers and facilities to meet the growing needs of the nation’s space program. Today, 10 field centers across the nation work together to accomplish NASA’s varied missions.
Left: The headquarters building for the Space Task Group at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Middle: An early cutaway representation of a Mercury capsule. Right: An early representation of rocket engines for human spaceflight, including the F-1 at right.
President Eisenhower gave NASA overall responsibility for developing America’s human spaceflight program. The new agency inherited two large top priority projects in this arena. The first involved developing a spacecraft capable of carrying a single human into space and returning him safely to Earth. Engineers at Langley had conducted studies in this area since 1952, and on Oct. 8, 1958, Glennan gave the formal approval for the formation of a team at Langley to develop this capability. On Nov. 5, the Space Task Group (STG) formally came into existence, with Robert R. Gilruth named as project manager and Charles J. Donlan as his assistant. Thanks to their previous work, the STG released the specifications for the crewed capsule on Nov. 14, mailing them three days later to 20 prospective companies that had expressed an interest in bidding on the project that NASA formally named Project Mercury on Nov. 26. On Jan. 9, 1959, NASA selected the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis to develop the spacecraft. The second major high-priority project involved the development of a 1.5-million-pound thrust rocket engine to power a future large space booster. The new agency inherited studies conducted by the U.S. Air Force, and by mid-December, NASA selected the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation to develop the F-1 engine that later powered the Saturn V moon rocket.
Left: Pioneer 1 shortly before its launch on a Thor-Able rocket. Middle: Replica of Pioneer 1 on display at the Smithsonian Institute’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Image credit: courtesy National Air and Space Museum. Right: Engineers inspect Pioneer 3 before launch. The nearly identical Pioneer 4 became the first American spacecraft to reach solar orbit.
The new agency inherited satellite programs from other agencies. The first of these, part of a program of lunar orbiters inherited from the U.S. Air Force, launched on Oct. 11, 1958, under the auspices of NASA although the Air Force conducted the operations. Pioneer 1 blasted off aboard a Thor-Able rocket from a fledgling launch facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Although it did not achieve its intended mission to orbit the Moon due to a rocket malfunction, Pioneer 1 did reach a then record altitude of about 70,000 miles. The probe returned scientific data confirming the existence of the Van Allen radiation belts until it burned up on reentry in the Earth’s atmosphere 43 hours after launch. Two other Pioneers met similar fates in November and December. Pioneer 4, although it missed the Moon, became the first American spacecraft to enter solar orbit in March 1959. In the subsequent decades, NASA launched spacecraft to unlock the mysteries of the universe, dispatched probes to make close up observations of every planet in the solar system, sent men on voyages to the Moon, built a space station to maintain a permanent human presence in space, and today is preparing to return astronauts to the Moon.
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When the asteroid Psyche has its first close-up with a NASA spacecraft, scientists hypothesize they will find a metal-rich asteroid. It could be part or all of the iron-rich interior of a planetesimal, an early planetary building block, that was stripped of its outer rocky shell as it repeatedly collided with other large bodies during the early formation of the solar system.
New research from scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley suggests that is exactly what the agency’s Psyche mission will find.
An artist’s concept depicting the metal-rich asteroid Psyche, which is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU Led by Anicia Arredondo, the paper’s first author and a postdoctoral researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and Maggie McAdam, Ames research scientist and principal investigator, the team observed Psyche in Feb. 2022 using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The now-retired observatory was a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a reflecting telescope. As a flying telescope, SOFIA collected data that was not affected by Earth’s lower atmosphere and made observations from all over the world, including over the oceans.
For the first time, SOFIA was able to gather data from every part of Psyche’s surface. It also allowed the team to collect data about the materials that make up Psyche’s surface – information that could not be gathered from ground-based telescopes.
Psyche’s potential to answer many questions about planet formation is a key reason why it was selected for close observation by a spacecraft. Scientists believe that planets like Earth, Mars, and Mercury have metallic cores, but they are buried too far below the planets’ mantles and crusts to see or measure directly. If Psyche is confirmed to be a planetary core, it can help scientists understand what is inside the Earth and other large planetary bodies.
Psyche’s size is also important for advancing scientific understanding of Earth-like planets. It is the largest M-type (metallic) asteroid in our solar system and is long enough to cover the distance from New York City to Baltimore, Maryland. This means Psyche is more likely to show differentiation, which is when the materials inside a planet separate from one another, with the heaviest materials sinking to the middle and forming cores.
“Every time a new study of Psyche is published, it raises more questions,” said Arredondo, who was a postdoctoral researcher at Ames on the SOFIA mission when the Psyche observations were collected. “Our findings suggest the asteroid is very complex and likely holds many other surprises. The possibility of the unexpected is one of the most exciting parts of a mission to study an unexplored body, and we look forward to gaining a more detailed understanding of Psyche’s origins.”
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room on June 26, 2023, at the Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.NASA/Frank Michaux More about the Psyche and SOFIA missions:
Arizona State University leads the Psyche mission. A division of Caltech in Pasadena, JPL is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, provided the high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.
Psyche is the 14th mission selected as part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch service.
SOFIA was a joint project of NASA and the German Space Agency at DLR. DLR provided the telescope, scheduled aircraft maintenance, and other support for the mission. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley managed the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft was maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California. SOFIA achieved full operational capability in 2014 and concluded its final science flight on Sept. 29, 2022.
For news media:
Members of the news media interested in covering this topic should reach out to the Ames newsroom.
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created on October 1, 1958, to perform civilian research related to space flight and aeronautics. President Eisenhower commissioned Dr. T. Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator.NASA On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act “to provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere.” At the White House less than a month later, Eisenhower commissioned Dr. T. Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator.
NASA officially opened for business 65 years ago on Oct. 1, 1958, to oversee the United States’ nonmilitary space activities. It was based on its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which was established in 1915 to “supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solution.”
Learn more about the creation of NASA.
Image Credit: NASA
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NASA Citizen Scientist Wins Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
NASA volunteer Dan Caselden, visiting NASA headquarters. Image credit: Dan Caselden The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), established in 1889, is a nonprofit organization that uses astronomy to increase the understanding and appreciation of science and to advance science and science literacy. This year, the ASP awarded the 2023 Gordon Myers Amateur Achievement Award to NASA Volunteer Dan Caselden for “reshaping the understanding of what is possible in volunteer-research”.
A Principal Software Engineer at Netskope by trade, Caselden began his citizen science journey when NASA’s Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project caught his eye on Reddit. Together with fellow data scientist, Paul Westin, Caselden created a new, efficient visualization tool, called WiseView, to improve the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 search. Caselden’s work on WiseView—and his subsequent work applying machine learning to search for Jupiter-like objects called brown dwarfs—has led him to co-author 19 scientific publications so far with multiple research teams.
Caselden will be honored at at an in-person ASP Awards Gala on Saturday, November 11, 2023 at the Grand Bay Hotel San Francisco in Redwood City, California.
NASA’s Citizen Science Program:
Learn about NASA citizen science projects
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