Today’s Tidbits: May 31, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: May 31, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for May 31, 2018: NASA makes 10 ISRU contract awards; Luca Parmitano to return to ISS; public comment sought on NOAA satellite architecture study.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

NASA Makes 10 ISRU Contract Awards

ISRU system concept for autonomous robotic excavation and processing of Mars soil to extract water for use in exploration missions. Image and caption credit: NASA

NASA announced its selection of nine companies and one university for contracts to develop In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technologies for use on the Moon and Mars.  ISRU refers to the use of indigenous resources on other celestial bodies like the Moon, Mars and asteroids, for example mining water on the Moon and splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket propellant or to sustain human outposts.

The awards are part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) effort to engage in partnerships to advance human space exploration.  Each company is expected to make “corporate contributions” in addition to the money it gets from the government.  NASA said the amounts of the individual awards are yet to be negotiated with each winner, but the total for all 10 entities for work extending through 2021 will be about $10 million.

Those winning awards for any of other three available tracks are:

  • Blue Origin
  • United Launch Alliance
  • University of Illinois, Urbana
  • UTC Aerospace Systems
  • BlazeTech Corporation
  • Paragon Space Development Corporation
  • Skyhaven Systems
  • Teledyne Energy Systems
  • Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation
  • OxEon Energy LLC

See NASA’s press release for more information: []

Luca Parmitano To Return to ISS  

Luca Parmitano, ESA astronaut. Credit: ESA

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano will make another trip to the International Space Station (ISS) next year, this time as commander of the orbiting facility.  He will be the first Italian to hold that position.

Parmitano had an especially exciting trip to ISS in 2013 when his helmet filled with water during a spacewalk — a “water incursion mishap.”  He demonstrated nerves of steel during and after the life-threatening incident.  Once back on Earth he recounted feeling like a “goldfish in a fish bowl.”

NASA conducted a thorough investigation not only into the hardware, but procedures, especially why earlier episodes of water in helmets during EVAs were not taken more seriously.  The spacesuits have been retrofitted with water absorption fabric to soak up any water that might get into the helmet and a snorkle as a backup.  In zero gravity, the water does not pool at the bottom of an enclosure.  Instead, surface tension allows it to surround an object like a face.  In Parmitano’s case, it covered his eyes, ears, and nose by the time he was safely back inside the airlock making it hard to see where he was going, hear instructions, and … breathe.

ESA announced today [] that he will be part of the ISS Expedition 60/61 next year.  Parmitano will be the first Italian, but not the first European, to serve as commander.  Frank De Winne of Belgium was the first, in 2009.  Germany’s Alexander Gerst will be the second. He is launching to ISS next week and will be commander during the second half of his mission.

The ISS is a partnership among the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and 11 European countries working through ESA.  The 11 European countries that signed the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that governs the ISS program are:  Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Public Comments Sought on NOAA Satellite Architecture Study

NOAA has been conducting a study to determine what satellite observing systems it needs for the future now that the GOES-R and JPSS series of geostationary and polar-orbiting weather satellites are past their peak development years.

The NOAA Satellite Observing System Architecture (NSOSA) study is now available for public comment.  NOAA will hold a “community day” meeting in Silver Spring, MD on June 21, 2018 to discuss it with the earth observation community and engage in one-on-one discussions.  Comments are due by July 2.

NOAA is especially interested in responses to these questions:

  • Did NOAA consider a sufficiently broad range of alternatives?
  • Are the opportunities that the analysis identified as deserving of consideration consistent with your knowledge of the state of the space enterprise?
  • Are there outcomes or options that you recommend for further analysis?
  • What suggestions do you have on how NOAA can better engage with industry, including approaches for developing innovative capabilities, new partnership opportunities and business models that may inform NOAA’s path forward?
  • What suggestions do you have on how we can engage with the academic and research community and other stakeholders to ensure NOAA makes the best use of the outputs of this study?

A link to the draft study, information on the public meeting, and instructions on how to comment are in the May 31, 2018 Federal Register: [].

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