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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      NASA Marshall Space Flight Center technologists Les Johnson and Leslie McNutt at Redwire Space on Jan. 30, 2024, following a successful solar sail deployment test. NASA cleared a key technology milestone at Redwire’s new facility in Longmont, Colorado, with the successful deployment of one of four identical solar sail quadrants. Redwire Space By Wayne Smith
      In his youth, NASA technologist Les Johnson was riveted by the 1974 novel “The Mote in God’s Eye,” by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, in which an alien spacecraft propelled by solar sails visits humanity. Today, Johnson and a NASA team are preparing to test a similar technology.
      NASA continues to unfurl plans for solar sail technology as a promising method of deep space transportation. The agency cleared a key technology milestone in January with the successful deployment of one of four identical solar sail quadrants. The deployment was showcased Jan. 30 at Redwire Corp.’s new facility in Longmont, Colorado. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, leads the solar sail team, comprised of prime contractor Redwire, which developed the deployment mechanisms and the nearly 100-foot-long booms, and subcontractor NeXolve, of Huntsville, which provided the sail membrane. In addition to leading the project, Marshall developed the algorithms needed to control and navigate with the sail when it flies in space.
      NASA and industry partners used two 100-foot lightweight composite booms to stretch out a 4,445-square-footsquare-foot (400-square-meter) prototype solar sail quadrant for the first time Jan. 30, 2024. While just one quarter of the sail was unfurled in the deployment at Redwire, the complete sail will measure 17,780 square feet when fully deployed, with the thickness less than a human hair at 2 and a half microns. The sail is made of a polymer material coated with aluminum. (Redwire Space) The sail is a propulsion system powered by sunlight reflecting from the sail, much like a sailboat reflects the wind. While just one quarter of the sail was unfurled in the deployment at Redwire, the complete sail will measure 17,780 square feet when fully deployed, with the thickness less than a human hair at 2 and a half microns. The sail is made of a polymer material coated with aluminum.
      NASA’s Science Mission Directorate recently funded the solar sail technology to reach a new technology readiness level, or TRL 6, which means it’s ready for proposals to be flown on science missions.
      “This was a major last step on the ground before it’s ready to be proposed for space missions,” Johnson, who has been involved with sail technology at Marshall for about 25 years, said. “What’s next is for scientists to propose the use of solar sails in their missions. We’ve met our goal and demonstrated that we’re ready to be flown.”
      A solar sail traveling through deep space provides many potential benefits to missions using the technology because it doesn’t require any fuel, allowing very high propulsive performance with very little mass. This in-space propulsion system is well suited for low-mass missions in novel orbits.
      “Once you get away from Earth’s gravity and into space, what is important is efficiency and enough thrust to travel from one position to another,” Johnson said.
      A solar sail achieves that by reflecting sunlight – the greater the size of the sail, the greater thrust it can provide.
      Les Johnson
      NASA technologist
      Some of the missions of interest using solar sail technology include studying space weather and its effects on the Earth, or for advanced studies of the north and south poles of the Sun. The latter has been limited because the propulsion required to  get a spacecraft into a polar orbit around the sun is very high and simply not feasible using most of the propulsion systems available today. Solar sail propulsion is also possible for enhancing future missions to Venus or Mercury, given their closeness to the Sun and the enhanced thrust a solar sail would achieve in the more intense sunlight there.
      Moreover, it’s the ultimate green propulsion system, Johnson said – as long as the Sun is shining, the sail will have propulsion. Where the sunlight is less, he envisions a future where lasers could be used to accelerate the solar sails to high speeds, pushing them outside the solar system and beyond, perhaps even to another star. “In the future, we might place big lasers in space that shine their beams on the sails as they depart the solar system, accelerating them to higher and higher speeds, until eventually they are going fast enough to reach another star in a reasonable amount of time.”
      To learn more about solar sails and other NASA advanced space technology, visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/space-technology-mission-directorate
      Jonathan Deal
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
      256-544-0034
      jonathan.e.deal@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Feb 12, 2024 Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      A key NASA design milestone was recently completed by Collins Aerospace as the company works to develop a next-generation spacesuit for use on the International Space Station.
      The milestone – a pressure garment system fit and functionality test in a microgravity-like environment – marked an important step toward developing a suit for NASA that can be used for continuing operations and advancing scientific discovery in low Earth orbit.
      The agency selected Collins to develop a new spacesuit that can replace the current space station spacesuit, known technically as an extravehicular mobility unit, which has been worn by astronauts to assemble and maintain the space station for over two decades.
      The Collins test was conducted aboard a commercial microgravity aircraft to provide brief periods of weightlessness. During a parabolic flight, a pilot creates weightless conditions for around 20 seconds at a time by conducting a series of roller-coaster-like maneuvers. This allows engineers, scientists, and students to test hardware and conduct scientific experiments in a space-like gravity environment without ever going into space. 
      Collins Aerospace completed a key NASA design milestone on the company’s next-generation spacesuit for use on the International Space Station. The test was conducted aboard a commercial zero-gravity aircraft where Collins performed a pressure garment system fit and functionality test in a microgravity environment.Collins Aerospace Collins Aerospace’s chief test astronaut John “Danny” Olivas demonstrates a series of tasks during testing of Collins’ next-generation spacesuit while aboard a zero-gravity aircraft. Collins Aerospace Collins Aerospace’s chief test astronaut John “Danny” Olivas demonstrates a series of tasks during testing of Collins’ next-generation spacesuit while aboard a zero-gravity aircraft. Collins Aerospace Collins Aerospace’s chief test astronaut John “Danny” Olivas demonstrates a series of tasks during testing of Collins’ next-generation spacesuit while aboard a zero-gravity aircraft. Collins Aerospace The test was a key step in NASA’s preliminary design review process, one of a series of checkpoints in the project’s design lifecycle, that ensures the design meets all system requirements before manufacturing of flight-ready units can begin.
      Collins will continue testing its spacesuit in a vacuum chamber, where air will be removed to create a vacuum to see how the spacesuit performs in a space-like atmosphere, as well as at the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a 40-foot deep pool at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, that simulates a microgravity environment for astronaut spacewalk training.
      This next-generation spacesuit is designed to advance NASA’s spacewalking capabilities in low Earth orbit. It is being developed to support station maintenance and operations as NASA and its international partners continue carrying out scientific research that benefits humanity and demonstrates new technologies for future human and robotic missions.
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    • By NASA
      3 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      The Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander for the company’s first Commercial Lunar Payload Services delivery is positioned before being encapsulated inside its launch fairing. The Nova-C lander will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than mid-February.Credit: Intuitive Machines It’s easy to measure fuel in tanks on Earth, where gravity pulls the liquid to the bottom. But in space, the game changes. Quantifying fuel that’s floating around inside a spacecraft’s tank isn’t so simple.
      “Because of the very small amount of gravity, fluid doesn’t settle to the bottom of propellant tanks but rather clings to the walls and could be anywhere inside,” said Lauren Ameen, deputy manager for the Cryogenic Fluid Management Portfolio Project Office at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. “That makes it really challenging to understand how much propellant you have within your tank, which is really important to maximize your mission duration and plan how much you need to launch with.”
      A space-age fuel gauge technology meant to solve this problem will be demonstrated on an upcoming journey to the Moon. Developed at NASA Glenn under the agency’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, the Radio Frequency Mass Gauge (RFMG) payload is set to launch as a part of the Intuitive Machines IM-1 delivery to the lunar surface through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. With CLPS, NASA is working with American companies to deliver scientific, exploration, and technology payloads to the Moon’s surface and orbit.
      Dr. Greg Zimmerli, principal investigator for the Radio Frequency Mass Gauge (RFMG) project at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, explains how RFMG technology will help pave the way for future space missions.
      Credit: NASA/Denise Eletich

      RFMG technology uses radio waves and antennae in a tank to measure exactly how much propellant is available. While smaller-scale experiments have been conducted on the International Space Station and during parabolic flights, this will be the first long-duration RFMG testing on a standalone spacecraft, the Nova-C lunar lander. The data engineers receive throughout its journey could validate simulations done on the ground and mark the next step in developing this technology.
      “It’s definitely a critical point,” Ameen said. “This is the first time we’re getting this type of data for RFMG.”
      RFMG could be crucial during future long-duration missions that will rely on spacecraft fueled by cryogenic propellants, like liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen, or liquid methane. These propellants are highly efficient but are tricky to store as they can evaporate quickly, even at low temperatures. Being able to accurately measure spacecraft fuel levels will help scientists maximize resources as NASA moves toward its goal of returning humans to the Moon through Artemis.
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    • By NASA
      An Axiom Space engineer wearing the AxEMU (Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuit kneels to collect simulated lunar samples using a scoop during testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.Axiom Space As part of NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency is working to land astronauts on the lunar surface during Artemis III, laying the groundwork for a long-term human presence at the Moon for the benefit of all. When the Artemis astronauts take their first steps near the South Pole of the Moon, they will be wearing a spacesuit developed by Axiom Space. In the time since NASA selected the company to provide the spacesuit and supporting systems for Artemis III, Axiom Space has continued to progress with spacesuit design and testing. 
      In late 2023, NASA and Axiom Space test subjects wore the next-generation lunar spacesuit during testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they performed a number of maneuverability tasks that will be required during moonwalks, such as bending down to pick up lunar samples while using lunar geology tools.
      Axiom Space will continue to test the lunar spacesuit in facilities such as NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, one of the world’s largest indoor pools that can simulate a partial gravity environment, as the company works to finalize the spacesuit’s design. These tests are integral to ensuring the spacesuit is effective and complies with NASA’s safety and performance requirements. 
      Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman, the first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone to send the first astronauts to Mars. 
      An Axiom Space engineer uses a hammer and chisel to chip off simulated lunar rocks while wearing the AxEMU (Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuit during testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.Axiom Space An Axiom Space engineer uses tongs to pick up a simulated lunar rock while wearing the AxEMU (Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuit during testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.Axiom SpaceView the full article
    • By NASA
      3 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA continued a critical test series for future flights of NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket in support of the Artemis campaign on Jan. 17 with a full-duration hot fire of the RS-25 engine on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
      Data collected from the test series will be used to certify production of new RS-25 engines by lead contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, to help power the SLS rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond, beginning with Artemis V.
      Teams are evaluating the performance of several new engine components, including a nozzle, hydraulic actuators, flex ducts, and turbopumps. The current series is the second and final series to certify production of the upgraded engines. NASA completed an initial 12-test certification series with the upgraded components in June 2023.
      During the Jan. 17 test, operators followed a “test like you fly” approach, firing the engine for the same amount of time – almost eight-and-a-half minutes (500 seconds) – needed to launch SLS and at power levels ranging between 80% to 113%.
      The Jan. 17 test comes three months after the current series began in October. During three tests last fall, operators fired the engine for durations from 500 to 650 seconds. The longest planned test of the series occurred on Nov. 29 when crews gimbaled, or steered, the engine during an almost 11-minute (650 seconds) hot fire. The gimbaling technique is used to control and stabilize SLS as it reaches orbit.
      Each SLS flight is powered by four RS-25 engines, firing simultaneously during launch and ascent to generate over 2 million pounds of thrust.
      The first four Artemis missions with SLS are using modified space shuttle main engines that can power up to 109% of their rated level. The newly produced RS-25 engines will power up to the 111% level to provide additional thrust. Testing to the 113% power level provides an added margin of operational safety.
      With the completion of the test campaign in 2024, all systems are expected to be “go” for production of 24 new RS-25 engines for missions beginning with Artemis V.
      Through Artemis, NASA will establish a long-term presence at the Moon for scientific exploration with commercial and international partners, learn how to live and work away from home, and prepare for future human exploration of Mars.

      Photo cutline (use the same cutline for all four images): NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Photo Credit: NASA/Danny Nowlin

      For information about NASA’s Stennis Space Center, visit:
      Stennis Space Center – NASA
      -end-
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      Last Updated Jan 18, 2024 EditorNASA Stennis CommunicationsContactC. Lacy Thompsoncalvin.l.thompson@nasa.gov / (228) 688-3333LocationStennis Space Center Related Terms
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