Today’s Tidbits: August 8, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: August 8, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for August 8, 2018:  NASA picks 10 “tipping point” technology ideas; NASA gives credit where credit is due; South Africa’s Peter Martinez is new head of Secure World Foundation.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

NASA Picks 10 “Tipping Point” Technology Ideas

Jim Reuter, Acting Associate Administrator, NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate. Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Today NASA announced the winners of its third “Tipping Point” solicitation seeking public-private partnerships in developing technologies to benefit “the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including deep space rocket engine technologies.”  A technology is at a Tipping Point “if investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improving the company’s ability to bring it to market.”

The total amount available for firm fixed price contracts is $44 million. Jim Reuter, Acting Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), said during a media teleconference that the intent is to award all of that money, but the specific contracts have not been negotiated yet so the exact total is TBD.

NASA solicited proposals in three technology focus areas: Expand Utilization of Space, Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space, and Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces.  Reuter said NASA received about 90 initial proposals, of which approximately 25 were selected for further consideration.

NASA chose six companies for 10 technologies.  The full list is on NASA’s website [], but in summary they are:

  • United Launch Alliance (ULA), $13.9 million:
    • $10 million for extended cryogenic upper stage operations that has application for lunar landers,
    • $2 million to prove that very low cryogenic fuel boil off is achievable and can support long duration missions,
    • $1.9 million to demonstrate mid-air retrieval capabilities up to 8,000 pounds;
  • Blue Origin, $13 million:
    • $10 million for cryogenic liquid propulsion for lunar landers,
    • $3 million to mature critical technologies that enable precision and soft landing on the Moon;
  • Astrobotic Technology Inc., $10 million:
    • $10 million for a stand-alone High Precision Planetary Landing sensor suite to precisely deliver robotic landers to planetary surfaces;
  • Space Systems Loral, $4 million:
    • $2 million for satellite servicing and in-space xenon propellant transfer,
    • $2 million for high efficiency electric propulsion;
  • Frontier Aerospace Corporation, $1.9 million:
    • $1.9 million for flight qualification of Frontier’s Deep Space Engine as part of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander mission planned for 2020;
  • Paragon Space Development Corporation, $1.6 million:
    • $1.6 million to test the Cryogenic Encapsulating Launch Shroud and Insulated Upper Stage (CELSIUS) to provide enhanced insulation capabilities and protection from meteoroids and debris for cryogenic upper stages.

Reuter added that those amounts are NASA’s contributions to the technology demonstration.  The companies themselves are required to fund at least 25 percent of the project.  The timeline for completing the projects is specific to each proposal, but ranges from 15 months to 36 months, he said.

NASA Gives Credit Where Credit is Due

NASA presented Distinguished Service Medals and Distinguished Public Service Medals last week.  They are the agency’s highest honors, recognizing outstanding achievements of employees, contractors and other members of the NASA community.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk presented them at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX the day before the announcement of the commercial crew flight assignments.

The full list is posted on NASA’s website [], but would like to offer its special congratulations to some of those honorees we’ve worked with over many years:

Gale Allen, former Deputy Chief Scientist and former Acting Chief Scientist

Bob Jacobs, Deputy Associate Administrator (AA) for Communications and currently Acting AA for Communications (we’ve heard this is his seventh stint as Acting AA — that must be a record!)

Robert Lightfoot, former NASA Acting Administrator, former Associate Administrator, and former Director of Marshall Space Flight Center

Greg Williams, former Deputy Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (and with the Science Mission Directorate before that)

Frank Morring, retired journalist, Aviation Week and Space Technology

We especially appreciate the assistance we regularly get from Bob Jacobs and his team at NASA. Famed NASA photographer Bill Ingalls took this great photo of Bob receiving his medal from Bridenstine (left) and Jurczyk (right).

South Africa’s Peter Martinez is New Head of Secure World Foundation

Peter Martinez, incoming Executive Director of the Secure World Foundation (SWF). Credit: SWF

The Secure World Foundation (SWF) announced that its new Executive Director is Peter Martinez effective October 1, 2018.  He succeeds Mike Simpson who has served in that position since 2011.

Martinez was Chairman of the South Africa Council for Space Affairs from 2010-2015 and chaired the working group on Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities of the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for eight years.

SWF is a non-profit founded in 2002 by Cynda Collins Arsenault that provides non-partisan analysis about the “secure, sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space.” Based in Colorado, SWF is well known and highly regarded in Washington space policy circles for convening high-level discussions of space sustainability policy, though its work is world-wide.

Collins Arsenault said Martinez would “bring an even greater global perspective to our efforts promoting the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of all humanity.”

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