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Scientific Balloons as Solar Sails

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Existing scientific research balloons such as those launched from Wallops Flight Facility could be placed in near- Earth space where they would perform as solar sails, providing relatively inexpensive propulsion systems for interplanetary missions. The balloons would accelerate at rates comparable with the ion drive performance of the NASA Dawn spacecraft, so they would enable unprecedented low-cost access to interplanetary space.

Posted in: Briefs

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Non-Thermal, Plasma-Assisted Catalytic Reactor for CO2 Methanation

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Converting in-situ resources such as CO2, which is the main component of the Mars atmosphere, into methane for rocket propellants can significantly reduce the cost and risk of human exploration while at the same time enabling new mission concepts and long-term exploration sustainability. Methanation of CO2, also called a Sabatier reaction, is hence a key enabling technology required for sustainable and affordable human exploration of Mars.

Posted in: Briefs

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Sea-Level Flight Demonstration Altitude Characterization of a LO2/LCH4-Based Ascent Propulsion Lander

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas A recently developed 1,500-lbf (6,672-N) thrust-class liquid oxygen/liquid methane (LO2/LCH4) rocket engine was tested at both sea level and simulated altitude conditions. Sea-level tests were conducted using both a static horizontal test bed, and a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) test bed capable of liftoff and hover-flight in low atmospheric conditions. The vertical test bed configuration is capable of throttling the engine valves to enable liftoff and hover-flight.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Improved Hall Thrusters Fed by Solid Phase Propellant

Mg is more abundant than Xe and provides a much higher specific impulse. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio Hall thrusters normally use Xe propellant, which is expensive and scarce in the solar system. The weight of Xe is such that typical Hall thrusters are limited in specific impulse to approximately 3,000 s. The objective of this program was to improve and demonstrate Mg Hall thruster systems. Mg is abundant in the solar system and has an atomic mass approximately one-fifth that of Xe, which means much higher specific impulse is achieved than with Xe at typical thruster operating conditions (power, voltage).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Aerodynamics Model for a Solid Rocket Booster

Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia NASA required an aerodynamics model of a spent solid rocket booster (SRB) to predict trajectory and impact location of the Ares I first stage after separation. The software needed to be integrated into new simulations written in C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) had previously developed a solid rocket booster re-entry simulation for the Space Transportation System (the Space Shuttle). The simulation was written in Fortran, and the aerodynamics model was embedded in a single function with other parts of the flight dynamics model. It could not be extracted easily for reuse in another simulation.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Intranasal Scopolamine — INSCOP

This drug, in intranasal form, is an effective treatment for motion sickness. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas Space motion sickness (SMS) commonly experienced by astronauts during a space mission often requires treatment with medication. However, exposure to a microgravity environment results in a myriad of physiological changes that alter bioavailability. In particular, studies indicate that the bioavailability of oral scopolamine (SCOP) is decreased during spaceflight. Although altered gastrointestinal function, including delayed gastric emptying, appears to contribute to decreased bioavailability of oral medications, other factors typical of spaceflight may influence the pharmacokinetics of medications administered via a variety of other non-parenteral routes.

Posted in: Briefs

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Microbial Isolates from Research Activities as a Biological Resource

A collection of 1,530 individual isolates is used to evaluate the potential hazard of introducing sterilization-resistant microorganisms onto planetary spacecraft. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California International treaty requires spacecraft landing on planetary surfaces that may have water present, or may have supported life in the past, to adhere to strict guidelines governing the microbial contaminants that are incidentally present in, and on, spacecraft hardware introduced to those environments. Precautions to prevent microbial contamination of flight hardware are taken throughout assembly, test, and launch operations to minimize transferring biological contamination to the planet. Effectiveness of these precautions is assessed by conducting bioassays of spacecraft surfaces and assembly areas to estimate the number of microorganisms present. Microorganisms discovered are preserved as a living document and compendium for the mission. The organisms that are of greatest concern are those that are highly resistant to desiccation and spacecraft sterilization by dry heat.

Posted in: Briefs

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