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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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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule atop is raised to the vertical position on June 2, 2021, at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in preparation for the company’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA to the International Space Station. In view is the access arm. Dragon will deliver more than 7,300 pounds of cargo to the space station. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:29 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 3.SpaceX Media accreditation is open for SpaceX’s 29th commercial resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket is targeted no earlier than Wednesday, Nov. 1, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Media prelaunch and launch activities will take place at NASA Kennedy. Attendance for this launch is open to U.S. citizens. The application deadline for U.S. media is 11:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 18.
All accreditation requests should be submitted online at:
Credentialed media will receive a confirmation email upon approval. NASA’s media accreditation policy is available here. For questions about accreditation, or to request special logistical needs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For other questions, please contact Kennedy’s newsroom at: 321-867-2468.
Para obtener información sobre cobertura en español en el Centro Espacial Kennedy o si desea solicitar entrevistas en español, comuníquese con Antonia Jaramillo at: email@example.com or 321-501-8425.
SpaceX’s Dragon will deliver new science investigations, food, supplies, and equipment to the international crew. The research includes work to understand interactions between weather on Earth and space, and laser communications. NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) will study atmospheric gravity waves –powerful waves formed by weather disturbances on Earth such as strong thunderstorms or brewing hurricanes – to understand the flow of energy through Earth’s upper atmosphere and space. Another experiment – Integrated Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Low-Earth-Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal – (ILLUMA-T) aims to test high data rate laser communications from the space station to Earth. This will complete NASA’s first two-way, end-to-end laser relay system by sending high-resolution data to the agency’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, which launched in December 2021.
Other investigations that will launch with the resupply mission include ESA’s (European Space Agency) Aquamembrane-3, which will test water filtration using proteins found in nature for water recycling and recovery, and Plant Habitat-06, which will evaluate the effects of spaceflight on plant defense responses using multiple genotypes of tomato.
Commercial resupply by U.S. companies significantly increases NASA’s ability to conduct more investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory. These investigations lead to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth. Other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions can also conduct microgravity research through the agency’s partnership with the International Space Station National Laboratory.
Humans have occupied the space station continuously since November 2000. In that time, 273 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the orbital outpost. It remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in exploration, including future missions to the Moon under Artemis, and ultimately, human exploration of Mars.
For more information about commercial resupply missions, visit:
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Stephanie Plucinsky / Steven Siceloff
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Johnson Space Center, Houston
Last Updated Sep 29, 2023 Related Terms
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NASA logo Credit: NASA NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, and its Falcon 9 rocket to provide the launch service for the agency’s TRACERS (Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites) mission, a pair of small satellites that will study space weather and how the Sun’s energy affects Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere
TRACERS will be an important addition to NASA’s heliophysics fleet and aims to answer long-standing questions critical to understanding the Sun-Earth system. The spinning satellites will study how solar wind, the continuous stream of ionized particles escaping the Sun and pouring out to space, interacts with the region around Earth dominated by our planet’s magnetic field. This interaction, or magnetic reconnection, is an intense transfer of energy that can happen when two magnetic fields meet, which could potentially impact operations with crew and sensitive satellites. TRACERS is led by the University of Iowa with partners at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, and Millennium Space Systems in El Segundo, California.
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based out of the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in partnership with NASA’s Heliophysics Small Explorers program, announces the launch service as part of the agency’s VADR (Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare) launch services contract.
Learn more about NASA’s TRACERS mission online:
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Last Updated Sep 29, 2023 Editor Jennifer M. Dooren Location NASA Headquarters Related Terms
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NASA’s New Horizons to Continue Exploring Outer Solar System
NASA has announced an updated plan to continue New Horizons’ mission of exploration of the outer solar system.
Beginning in fiscal year 2025, New Horizons will focus on gathering unique heliophysics data, which can be readily obtained during an extended, low-activity mode of operations.
While the science community is not currently aware of any reachable Kuiper Belt object, this new path allows for the possibility of using the spacecraft for a future close flyby of such an object, should one be identified. It also will enable the spacecraft to preserve fuel and reduce operational complexity while a search is conducted for a compelling flyby candidate.
“The New Horizons mission has a unique position in our solar system to answer important questions about our heliosphere and provide extraordinary opportunities for multidisciplinary science for NASA and the scientific community,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The agency decided that it was best to extend operations for New Horizons until the spacecraft exits the Kuiper Belt, which is expected in 2028 through 2029.”
This new, extended mission will be primarily funded by NASA’s Planetary Science Division and jointly managed by NASA’s Heliophysics and Planetary Science Divisions.
NASA will assess the budget impact of continuing the New Horizons mission so far beyond its original plan of exploration. As a starting point, funding within the New Frontiers program (including science research and data analysis) will be rebalanced to accommodate extended New Horizons operations, and future projects may be impacted.
Launched on January 18, 2006, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has helped scientists understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by visiting the dwarf planet Pluto (its primary mission) and then venturing farther out for a flyby of the Kuiper belt object Arrokoth, a double-lobed relic of the formation of our solar system, and other more remote observations of similar bodies.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The Marshall Space Flight Center Planetary Management Office provides the NASA oversight for the New Horizons. Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, directs the mission via Principal Investigator Stern, and leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
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