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Science Launching on SpaceX's 30th Cargo Resupply Mission to the Space Station
NASA and the agency’s international partners are sending scientific investigations to the International Space Station on the 30th SpaceX commercial resupply services mission, including tests of technologies to monitor sea ice, automate 3D mapping, and create nanoparticle solar cells. The company’s Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in early March.
Read more about some of the research making the journey to the orbiting laboratory:
Plants off the Planet
Plants can be used in regenerative life support systems, to provide food, and to contribute to the well-being of astronauts on future deep space exploration missions. C4 Photosynthesis in Space (APEX-09) examines how microgravity affects the mechanisms by which two types of grasses, known as C3 and C4, capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“Plants respond to stressful conditions based on their genetic makeup and the environment,” said Pubudu Handakumbura, principal investigator with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “We aim to uncover the molecular changes involved in plants exposed to spaceflight stressors and develop an understanding of the mechanisms of photosynthesis in space.” Results could clarify plant responses to stressful environments and inform the design of bio-regenerative support systems on future missions, as well as systems for plant growth on Earth.
Seedlings germinating for the APEX-09 C4 Space investigation. Pubudu Handakumbura Sensing the Sea
The ocean significantly affects the global climate. A technique called Global Navigation Satellite System reflectometry (GNSS-R), which receives satellite signals reflected from the surface of Earth, shows promise as a way to monitor ocean phenomena and improve climate models. Killick-1: A GNSS Reflectometry CubeSat for Measuring Sea Ice Thickness and Extent (Nanoracks KILLICK-1) tests using this technique to measure sea ice. The project supports development of space and science capabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, by providing hands-on experience with space systems and Earth observation. More than 100 undergraduate and graduate engineering students participated in the project.
“The most exciting aspect of this project is that students have the opportunity to launch a mission into space,” said Desmond Power, a co-investigator with C-CORE of Canada. “It is also exciting to build a tiny satellite that does different things, including contributing to our knowledge of climate change.”
GNSS-R technology is low-cost, light, and energy efficient. Its potential applications on Earth include providing data for weather and climate models and improving the understanding of ocean phenomena such as surface winds and storm surge.
The KILLICK-1 CubeSat ready to pack for launch. Memorial University, Canada Automated Autonomous Assistance
Multi-resolution Scanner (MRS) Payload for the Astrobee (Multi-Resolution Scanning) tests technology to automate 3D sensing, mapping, and situational awareness systems.
“Our MRS on an Astrobee free-flying robot will create 3D maps inside the space station,” said Marc Elmouttie, project lead with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. “The technology combines multiple sensors, which compensates for weaknesses in any one of them and provides very high-resolution 3D data and more accurate trajectory data to understand how the robot moves around in space.”
The technology could be used for autonomous operation of spacecraft with minimal or no human occupancy where robots must sense the environment and precisely maneuver, including the lunar Gateway space station. Other uses could be to inspect and maintain spacecraft and for autonomous vehicle operations on other celestial bodies. Results also support improvements in robotic technologies for harsh and dangerous environments on Earth.
Project Lead Marc Elmouttie with the MRS hardware housed in an Astrobee robot. NASA Placement of Particles
The Nano Particle Haloing Suspension investigation examines how nanoparticles and microparticles interact within an electrical field. A process called nanoparticle haloing uses charged nanoparticles to enable precise particle arrangements that improve the efficiency of quantum-dot synthesized solar cells, according to Stuart J. Williams, principal investigator with the University of Louisville Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Quantum dots are tiny spheres of semiconductor material with the potential to convert sunlight into energy much more efficiently. Conducting these processes in microgravity provides insight into the relationship between shape, charge, concentration, and interaction of particles.
The investigation is supported by NASA’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which partners with government, higher education, and industry on projects to improve a research infrastructure and research and development capacity and competitiveness.
A capstone student assembles part of the Nano Particle Haloing Suspension hardware.University of Louisville Download high-resolution photos and videos of the research mentioned in this article.
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Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
A computer generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Credits: NASA ODPO NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy & Strategy is soliciting research and analysis related to the social, economic and policy aspects of space sustainability. This topic area is further refined into two separate elements: orbital space sustainability and lunar surface sustainability. OTPS will provide up to $300K (orbital) and $200K (lunar surface) for between 1-3 proposals in each element. Key questions are featured below.
Orbital Space Sustainability: Economic, Social and Policy Research and Analyses
Proposals should be responsive to one of the following questions:
What are current policy, regulatory or legal gaps to improve space sustainability in various orbital regimes (LEO, MEO, GEO, Cislunar, and/or Lunar) and what specific measures should be taken to address them? Proposers may address one or several orbital regimes. Considering various scenarios for the space environment in the 2040 timeframe, what policies, regulations or other support are forecasted to be needed? Research should take into consideration that potential policies for space sustainability may be incentivized or rendered unnecessary by advancements in technological capabilities and differing assumptions about the future operational environment; therefore, the research should assess the robustness of various policy proposals under realistic assumptions. What are the costs to spacecraft operators from interacting with debris in GEO and Cislunar space? What are the benefits of potential risk-reducing actions? How effective are various policy tools and mechanisms (for example, performance bonds, incentives to improve PMD compliance/fees for bad behavior, global minimum tax, and environmental liability insurance)? How might such interventions impact the business of satellite owners and operators or government owners and operators? Lunar Surface Sustainability: Economic, Social and Policy Research and Analyses
The sustainable development of the lunar surface acknowledges that current operations may impact our ability to conduct future operations (indeed current operations may also impact other current operations. Whether we seek to protect critical areas for scientific investigation (e.g., Permanently Shadowed Regions), preserve lunar heritage areas (e.g., Apollo sites) or incorporate other technical, economic, or cultural considerations may all factor into our mission planning, policy and potential regulatory approaches. Analyses may help disentangle and characterize the goals of sustainability, develop frameworks for evaluating the sustainability of operations, or compare and contrast the different definitions of sustainability. Proposals should consider both human and robotic missions.
All proposals must be submitted to one of the ROSES calls (F.21 or F.17) by May 17, 2024. Proposers can submit different proposals to each element. However, duplicate proposals submitted to both elements will only be considered for a single element (NASA will make most appropriate determination).
To submit proposals, visit:
Lunar Surface Sustainability
Last Updated Feb 15, 2024 EditorBill Keeter Related Terms
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