NASA’s TBIRD (TeraByte InfraRed Delivery) satellite, a compact satellite the size of a tissue box, has set a remarkable milestone by achieving the fastest data transfer rate ever recorded in space. According to a recent NASA post, TBIRD demonstrated a space-to-ground optical link speed of 200 gigabits per second (Gbps) on April 28. This orbital laser light communications system doubled its own previous record, set less than a year ago.
NASA emphasizes that “ultra-high-speed” optical communication has the potential to transmit significantly more information compared to traditional space communication systems. Recognizing its potential, NASA has announced plans to test this technology during its Artemis II mission scheduled for next year, which could enable Moon-bound astronauts to stream high-definition footage back to Earth in near real-time.
NASA has disclosed further details about its upcoming nuclear rocket launch scheduled for 2027. The agency has joined forces with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to conduct a test flight of a nuclear rocket on a conventional vehicle launch, focusing on examining the engine’s performance and ensuring its adherence to expectations.
During a recent meeting of NASA’s Advisory Council, Dr. Anthony Calomino, NASA’s space nuclear technology portfolio Manager, highlighted the safety measures implemented in the nuclear rocket launch plans. He emphasized that the reactor would remain inactive until it is securely distanced from Earth, emphasizing NASA’s commitment to ensuring the mission’s safety.
NASA’s involvement in the development of nuclear technology for space applications centers around three main designs: nuclear fission surface power generation (similar to a conventional nuclear power plant), nuclear electric propulsion, and nuclear thermal propulsion. The agency is presently collaborating with six contractors, including Lockheed Martin, BIWXT, Westinghouse, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Intuit Machines, and X-Energy, to develop a concept for a 40-kilowatt-electric lunar fission surface plant.
Mars, the moon, and even distant moons of Saturn and Jupiter—these celestial bodies have one thing in common: they are home to a different kind of inhabitant, robots. Humans have only sent their scientific devices to these extraterrestrial worlds, but now NASA is planning to send a groundbreaking slithering snake-bot into the depths of space.
The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been diligently developing a snake-inspired robot named Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor, or EELS, since 2019. EELS is designed not only to navigate various terrains on Earth but also to explore the intriguing landscapes of other planets within our solar system.
As the International Space Station (ISS) approaches the end of its service, several space agencies are preparing to take on its legacy with their own space stations. China plans to lead with the Tiangong, and India’s Space Research Organization (ISRO) has plans to deploy its own station by mid-decade. Meanwhile, NASA has contracted with three aerospace companies to design commercial space stations: Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef, the Axiom Space Station (AxS), and Starlab. However, a new player has entered the game: Airbus, a European multinational aerospace giant, has proposed the Multi-Purpose Orbital Module (MPOP), called the Airbus LOOP.
The Airbus LOOP is a modular space segment designed for future space stations and long-duration missions to Mars. It features three decks, a centrifuge, and enough volume for a crew of four. The LOOP builds on Airbus’s long history of human spaceflight programs, such as the ISS Columbus Module, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), and the Orion European Service Module (ESM).
NASA is investigating brain-training technology to help future astronauts adapt to life on the moon and Mars, according to a recent report by KXAN News.
The space agency is partnering with technology company Posit Science to test the effectiveness of their cognitive training program, which aims to improve memory, attention, and processing speed. The program includes a series of games and exercises designed to challenge and strengthen the brain.
Dr. Stephanie Mathews, a researcher at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said the brain-training technology could be especially useful for astronauts living in isolation for long periods of time. “We know that there are certain cognitive challenges that come along with isolation and confinement,” she said. “So, by having a program like this that can help keep their brain functioning at its best, it can really help with their overall well-being and their success on these missions.”
Posit Science CEO Dr. Henry Mahncke said the company’s cognitive training program has already been shown to be effective in improving brain function in other populations, such as older adults. “We’re really excited about the potential for this technology to help astronauts perform at their best and stay healthy and happy during these long-duration missions,” he said.
The brain-training technology is still in the testing phase, but if successful, it could be used to help prepare future astronauts for the challenges of living and working in space. “We’re really interested in making sure that our astronauts are performing at their best, and that they’re healthy and happy throughout the mission,” said Dr. Mathews.
NASA has plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 through its Artemis program, and aims to eventually establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface. The agency also has long-term goals of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
This illustration shows NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander approaching a site on Saturn’s exotic moon, Titan. Taking advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere and low gravity, Dragonfly will explore dozens of locations across the icy world, sampling and measuring the compositions of Titan’s organic surface materials to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the progression of prebiotic chemistry.
NASA has announced plans to launch a drone mission to one of Saturn’s moons, Titan, in search of signs of life. The drone, named Dragonfly, will be a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program that is aimed at exploring the solar system. Dragonfly is scheduled to launch in 2027 and will arrive on Titan in 2036.
According to NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, the Dragonfly mission is “an extraordinary opportunity to explore a world that we know has the potential for life, and one that could give us insight into the origins of life in our own solar system and beyond.”
Dragonfly will be a rotorcraft drone, which means it will be able to fly and hover like a helicopter. It will be equipped with a range of scientific instruments to study Titan’s surface and atmosphere in detail. The drone will also take samples of Titan’s surface and analyze its composition to search for signs of life.
The next space station NASA builds with international partners, the lunar Gateway, will use an agency-developed open-source code to run many of its systems. Commercial space companies are also using the code along with apps developed by Red Canyon to operate planetary landers, satellites, and more.
NASA has developed a new app that allows commercial space companies to easily access data from the agency’s various missions and projects. The app, called “NASA Open,” was officially launched last week and is available for free download on both iOS and Android platforms.
According to NASA Administrator, Dr. Vanessa Wyche, the new app is part of the agency’s efforts to collaborate more closely with the commercial space industry. “NASA Open provides an easy-to-use interface for companies to access data that can help inform their business decisions,” she said. “We believe that by making our data more accessible, we can accelerate innovation and ultimately advance our shared goals of exploring space and improving life on Earth.”
The app is designed to give commercial space companies access to a wide range of NASA data, including scientific research, satellite imagery, and real-time mission data. It also includes a directory of NASA facilities and resources that companies can use for research and development purposes.
The display can switch to different channels at eyewatering speeds, matching that of a single honeybee wing flap
According to an article published on The Sun’s website, NASA has developed a new aircraft that does not feature a front window. In describing the design of the aircraft, the author states that “The futuristic-looking craft uses a camera system instead of a traditional cockpit windscreen, with pilots relying on screens inside the cabin to see what’s ahead.”
This new aircraft, known as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft, has been designed to “fly faster than the speed of sound without producing the deafening sonic boom that’s typical of supersonic planes.” NASA has partnered with Lockheed Martin to build and test the QueSST, with the goal of using it to “gather information on how members of the public react to the sound of a sonic boom.”
HOWEVER, GETTING THOSE SAMPLES BACK TO EARTH IS A COMPLEX AND CHALLENGING PROCESS. TO HELP WITH THIS TASK, NASA HAS DEVELOPED A ROBOTIC ARM THAT WILL PLAY A KEY ROLE IN THE MARS SAMPLE RETURN MISSION.
The Sample Caching System on board the Perseverance rover includes a seven-foot-long robotic arm equipped with a drill and a coring mechanism. The arm can collect rock samples from the Martian surface, seal them in special tubes, and deposit them in a storage system located inside the rover.
Once the samples are safely stored, the rover will deposit them on the surface of Mars for future retrieval by a follow-up mission. That mission, called the Mars Sample Return campaign, will launch a spacecraft to Mars to collect the samples and bring them back to Earth.
CALLED DRACO, THE DEMONSTRATION SPACECRAFT COULD REACH MARS THREE TIMES FASTER THAN VESSELS RUNNING ON TRADITIONAL CHEMICAL-BASED PROPULSION.
One of the bigger questions surrounding NASA’s interest in sending a crewed mission to Mars surrounds the best way to get there, and it appears the agencymight have found its answer. NASA announced today that it will be developing a nuclear thermal rocket engine in collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The collaboration is called DRACO, or Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, and it’s expected to reduce the travel time it takes to get astronauts to Mars—and potentially more distant targets in deep space. According to a press release, NASA will lead technical development of the nuclear thermal engine that will be combined with an experimental DARPA spacecraft. The two agencies will further collaborate on combining the rocket with the spacecraft ahead of its demonstration in space as early as 2027.
“Our intent is to lead and develop a blueprint for human exploration and sustained presence in the solar system,” said NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy in a NASA fireside chat this morning. “DRACO will be a critical part of evaluating the technologies that will take us deeper into the solar system.”
As NASA takes its first steps toward establishing a long-term presence on the Moon’s surface, a team of propulsion development engineers at NASA have developed and tested NASA’s first full-scale rotating detonation rocket engine, or RDRE, an advanced rocket engine design that could significantly change how future propulsion systems are built.
The RDRE differs from a traditional rocket engine by generating thrust using a supersonic combustion phenomenon known as a detonation. This design produces more power while using less fuel than today’s propulsion systems and has the potential to power both human landers and interplanetary vehicles to deep space destinations, such as the Moon and Mars.
Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and primary collaborator IN Space LLC, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, are confirming data from RDRE hot fire tests conducted in 2022 at Marshall’s East Test Area. The engine was fired over a dozen times, totaling nearly 10 minutes in duration.