Showing posts from May, 2019

NASA nabs $125 million in funding to develop nuclear rocket propulsion

NASA has been awarded a sum of $125 million to develop nuclear thermal propulsion systems for its future spacecraft. First reported by, the award was given as part of a total $22.3 billion of funding for NASA in commerce, justice, and science (CJS) appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee this month.

“The bill’s investment in nuclear thermal propulsion is critical as NASA works towards the design of a flight demonstration by 2024,” said Robert Aderholt, the U.S. Representative for Alabama’s fourth congressional district, during the subcommittee’s markup of the bill earlier in May.

“The bill’s investment in nuclear thermal propulsion is critical as NASA works towards the design of a flight demonstration by 2024,” said Robert Aderholt, the U.S. Representative for Alabama’s fourth congressional district, during the subcommittee’s markup of the bill earlier in May.

No nuclear thermal rocket has ever flown, although NASA has explored the possibility as fa…


President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have agreed to “dramatically expand” human spaceflight cooperation.  Trump is in Japan on a four-day visit.  He made the announcement at a joint press conference with Abe today.

Japan is already a partner in the International Space Station (ISS) and the two countries have been discussing cooperation in future human space exploration for many years.   This is the first statement since the White House decided to accelerate NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, however.

Japan and other countries have been making plans to participate in the Gateway that will orbit the Moon and serve as a transfer point between the Earth and the lunar surface and, eventually, the Earth and Mars.  There has been concern that the new plan, focused on Americans on the lunar surface, would leave international partners with a less prominent role.  The announcement today shores up the international component.

Extract from President T…

Momentum grows for nuclear thermal propulsion

PASADENA, Calif. — With congressional funding and industry support, nuclear thermal propulsion technology is making progress for potential use on future NASA deep space missions, although how it fits into the agency’s exploration architectures remains uncertain.

The House Appropriations Committee approved May 22 a commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill that offers $22.3 billion for NASA. That funding includes $125 million for nuclear thermal propulsion development within the agency’s space technology program, compared to an administration request for no funding.

“The bill’s investment in nuclear thermal propulsion is critical as NASA works towards the design of a flight demonstration by 2024,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), ranking member of the CJS appropriations subcommittee, during that subcommittee’s markup of the bill May 17. He offered similar comments in support of that project at the full committee markup.

The $125 million comes on top of $100 million th…

This NASA Experiment Shows Promise for Farm-Fresh Foods in Space

On long space voyages, food variety will be key.

A new NASA experiment called Veg-PONDS 02, which astronauts just ran on the International Space Station, offers a chance to attain that variety. While the experiment used a food already grown in space — romaine lettuce — future crops could include tomatoes or other plants, NASA officials said in a statement.

Past food experiments on the International Space Station used seed bags (also called pillows) that receive water from syringes, which astronauts push into the bags. While this water is enough for lettuce to grow, tomatoes and similar crops use more water. So NASA initiated a 21-day test, which ended May 16 — one that may eventually give space station astronauts more fresh food to eat.

The new method lets astronauts cultivate romaine lettuce seeds in 12 passive orbital nutrient delivery systems (PONDS). PONDS units are less expensive than the seed bags and can hold more water, while providing more room for roots to grow. Another adv…

The Global Race to Return to the Moon

And this time, to stay.
Invigorated by a renewed fascination with space exploration, as well as the emergence of billionaire-backed private spaceflight companies, humans are once again shooting for the moon.
Cutting-edge crew capsules, powerful rockets and the world’s first moon-orbiting space station could launch a new push to explore — and eventually inhabit — the lunar surface. So buckle up: The next decade is sure to be a wild ride.

Orion capsule: Astronauts need a reliable vehicle to commute from Earth to the upcoming lunar Gateway space station. That’s where the Orion crew capsule comes in. Developed by Lockheed Martin, NASA and the European Space Agency, the spacecraft could ferry up to six astronauts to lunar orbit by the early 2020s.

Chang’e: China’s Chang’e 4 mission made the first landing on the moon’s far side in January. Future missions will collect and return lunar samples, explore the poles for resources that could be mined and prep for a Chinese crew of “taikonauts” some…

Musha Jump Drive

Check out this interesting concept:

NASA's Kilopower nuclear reactor would be a space exploration game changer

Last year, NASA conducted a successful test of a new nuclear power generator called Kilopower under a program called Kilowatt Using Stirling Technology or KRUSTY for short. The generator ran a series of tests between November 2017 and March 2018, ending in a full-power trial that proved its effectiveness and safety. Since then the space agency has been examining a flight test of the technology.

One of the limiting factors for any space mission has been the amount of electric power a spacecraft can generate. Solar panels are most often used because they are relatively cheap, and sunlight is plentiful in the inner solar system. A type of nuclear battery called the radioisotope thermoelectric generator is the preferred power source for the outer solar system, i.e. Jupiter and beyond, where the sun’s light is dim.

Both solar panels and RTGs can only generate so much power. Furthermore, plutonium-238, the fuel used by RTGs, is in short supply. Its production is an expensive and time-consu…

Blue Origin unveils lunar lander

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin revealed new details about a lunar lander concept that the company’s founder says can support a human return to the moon by 2024.

At an invitation-only event here May 9, company founder Jeff Bezos unveiled a full-sized model of the Blue Moon lander the company has been developing, along with an engine named BE-7 that will power the spacecraft. “We’ve been working on this for three years,” he said after a theatrical curtain-raising to reveal the lander model a half-hour into his presentation.

The spacecraft is able to land 3.6 metric tons of cargo on the lunar surface, with a “stretch tank” version capable of landing 6.5 metric tons on the surface. The lander has a deck on the top for hosting payloads, and a davit, or crane, to lower them to the lunar surface.

The lander uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, rather than storable hypergolics. “It’s very high performance,” he said of the choice of propellants. “Ultimately, we’re going to be able to…