Tag Archives: Awards

NASA Awards Contract for Mars Sample Return Rocket

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Perseverance is finally rolling around the Martian surface after arriving last month, and NASA hopes to cover a lot of ground as it searches for evidence of life. The rover won’t do all the science itself, though. Part of its mission is to collect samples that will eventually make their way back to Earth, and NASA just awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to build part of the return system. Specifically, the long-time government contractor will develop the Mars Ascent Propulsion System (MAPS). 

The Perseverance rover is just the first part of a three-stage plan to get pieces of Mars back to Earth. As the rover travels around Mars, it will use its robotic arm and drill to collect, photograph, and store samples in special ultra-clean metal tubes. The rover doesn’t have any way to get these samples off the surface, but that’s where the second phase comes in. 

To get those samples into space, NASA is working on a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). The MAPS contract awarded to Northrop Grumman covers just the rocket that will launch from the MAV with the samples safely inside, but arguably, that’s the most important part of the mission. Mars has just one-third of Earth’s gravity, which will allow the MAPS to be smaller and more compact than rockets that launch on Earth. 

The MAV will also have a sample fetch rover that will pick up the tubes from Perseverance and bring them back to the MAV. If successful, the MAPS system will be the first rocket ever launched from the surface of another planet. The contract has a total value of $ 84.5 million. Work on the project will begin immediately with a 14-month timeline for initial design and testing. 

The ultra-clean sample containers Perseverance will fill up on Mars.

Once the samples are in orbit, NASA will need to send a third mission to Mars to pick up the payload and send it back to Earth. JPL fellow and Mars 2020 chief engineer Adam Steltzner believes it should be possible to return the Mars samples in 10-12 years. 

Getting some bits of Mars back to Earth in pristine condition could vastly expand our understanding of the dusty world. While rovers like Perseverance and Curiosity can do incredible in-situ science, some instruments can’t be miniaturized and stuffed into a rocket. Researchers on Earth can also come up with new ways to study the samples without needing to wait for another Mars mission to take their experiment into space.

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NASA Awards Nokia $14.1 Million to Bring 4G LTE to the Moon

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Companies have been building cell towers all over Earth for decades, and yet, you still don’t have to look hard to find dead zones. Some people even live in places where they can’t get a bar to save their lives. Soon, the surface of the moon might even have better cell service than your living room. NASA has awarded Nokia $ 14.1 million to develop a lunar 4G LTE network for astronauts. 

The grant is part of NASA’s Tipping Point initiative to develop new technologies that support space exploration. The latest iteration of the program has a total value of $ 370 million. In addition to Nokia’s LTE plans, NASA has chosen to fund research into cryogenic fuel transfer technology at SpaceX, lunar oxygen extraction at Sierra Nevada Corporation, and more. 

NASA, of course, is planning ahead for the upcoming Artemis Program, which will see the first woman set foot on the moon. The communication systems currently in place rely on simple radio frequency signals. A true cellular network on the moon could provide much more reliable communication over a larger area. It could even be more efficient than LTE here on Earth because there are no obstacles (or air) to degrade the signal. 

Nokia’s Bell Labs says it will design the network in such a way that it will be upgradable to 5G in the future. The company hasn’t mentioned anything about frequencies, but there won’t be a lot of interference on the moon. Many of the coverage and reliability issues here on Earth are due to obstructions and crowded wireless spectrum. On the moon, NASA will have its pick of cellular bands. This might even be a viable use case for millimeter-wave 5G down the road. These signals are very fast but unreliable on Earth because they degrade quickly and can’t pass through walls—not many of those on the moon!

Moon-Feature

So, why not just use existing cellular tech on the moon? We can’t deploy terrestrial cell tower technology there because it’s a vastly more harsh environment. There’s no atmosphere, and temperatures range from 250 to -208 degrees Fahrenheit. The levels of radiation will also fry electronic components that are not hardened against it. Nokia hopes to develop hardware that will address all these issues without taking up too much space in cargo vessels. You’ve probably seen the transmitters atop towers here on Earth. They’re not very portable, and every ounce counts when you’re launching a rocket to the moon. 

The initial $ 14.1 million grant won’t get us all the way to streaming Netflix on the moon, but it will allow the company to demonstrate its technology. It can then pursue additional funding to bring LTE to the moon.

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Demi Lovato Says She’s ‘Fighting’ for Trans Rights Amid ‘Crazy’ Political Climate During 2020 GLAAD Awards

Demi Lovato Says She’s ‘Fighting’ for Trans Rights at GLAAD Media Awards | Entertainment Tonight

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2021 Awards Season Calendar: Updates on the Oscars, Golden Globes and More

Screen Actors Guild Awards: New Dates and Delays on Awards Season 2021 | Entertainment Tonight

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NASA Awards Lunar Lander Contracts to SpaceX, Blue Origin, Dynetics

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NASA hasn’t landed humans on the moon in decades, but the agency is pursuing an ambitious timeline for the Artemis program. Currently, NASA hopes to have crewed lunar missions ready to launch in 2024, and to further that goal, it has awarded contracts to three companies to develop lunar landers: SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics. 

The value of the new human landing systems (HLS) contracts is $ 967 million, but that’s just for these firms to get started. The exact nature of Artemis is still up in the air. Initially, NASA hoped to have the Lunar Gateway station available for the first landings in 2024, but it’s now planning to send an Orion capsule to lunar orbit where the crew can transfer to one of the proposed landing systems. The Gateway is still on the agenda for use in later missions. 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully pitched its Starship vessel, which is already undergoing testing and finally managed not to explode during a recent pressurization test. The Starship will be a single-stage landing solution that will launch from Earth on the company’s Super Heavy platform. The Starship will descend to the lunar surface, remain there for the duration of the mission, and then return astronauts to orbit. 

Blue Origin, backed by billionaire Jeff Bezos, will work with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to field the Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV). This three-stage lander will have ascent, descent, and transfer elements. The ILV will be compatible with Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket, which is still in the early stages of development. Failing that, it will also work with the ULA Vulcan launch system. 

Finally, there’s Dynetics, an Alabama-based firm that proposes the single-stage Dynetics Human Landing System (DHLS) with a unique “low-slung” crew module for easier access to the lunar surface. Dynetics isn’t attempting to make its own launch platform for the DHLS — it will use the ULA Vulcan launch system. 

The current HLS contract runs through February 2021, at which time NASA will evaluate design and prototyping progress before selecting one or more companies to proceed with building landers for NASA. SpaceX does seem to have a leg up on the competition as it’s already building Starship prototypes, but this spacecraft is not intended specifically for lunar landings. SpaceX wants to use the Starship for deep space missions, Mars landings, and more. Blue Origin and Dynetics have the advantage of offering more specialized landers.

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2020 NAACP Image Awards: The Complete Winners List

2020 NAACP Image Awards: The Complete Winners List | Entertainment Tonight

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2020 Independent Spirit Awards: The Complete Winners List

2020 Independent Spirit Awards: The Complete Winners List | Entertainment Tonight

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2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards Nominations: See the List

2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards Nominations: See the List | Entertainment Tonight

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Adam Sandler Responds to Jennifer Aniston’s Shout-Out at 2020 SAG Awards

Adam Sandler Responds to Jennifer Aniston’s Shout-Out at 2020 SAG Awards | Entertainment Tonight

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Catherine Zeta-Jones Is ‘So Proud’ of Husband Michael Douglas’ SAG Awards Nomination (Exclusive)

Catherine Zeta-Jones Is ‘So Proud’ of Husband Michael Douglas’ SAG Awards Nomination (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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