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NASA awards Caltech five-year JPL contract

August 20, 2012 7:40 am | News | Comments

NASA has awarded the California Institute of Technology a new five-year contract to manage the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The contractor's primary mission is to support NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in carrying out specific objectives identified in the SMD Science Plan. The contract is for $8.5 billion.

ChemCam laser sets its sights on first Martian target

August 17, 2012 10:08 am | News | Comments

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team have received the first photos from the instrument's remote microimager. The successful capture of ChemCam's first 10 photos sets the stage for the first test bursts of the instrument's rock-zapping laser in the near future.

'Microthrusters' could propel small satellites

August 17, 2012 3:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A penny-sized rocket thruster may soon power the smallest satellites in space. The device, designed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bears little resemblance to today's bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes, and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, its design is a flat, compact square covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions.

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Radiation belt probes may help predict space weather

August 16, 2012 9:26 am | News | Comments

Living with a star can be a challenge, especially as Earthlings extend their reach into space. A Rice University scientist is contributing to an effort to make life more comfortable for both the people and satellites sent out there, and provide valuable research for those who remain planet-bound.

Unmanned U.S. military hypersonic craft failed

August 15, 2012 11:42 am | News | Comments

A faulty control fin prevented the X-51A Waverider from starting its exotic scramjet engine and it was lost Tuesday shortly after being launched. Though data showed the right conditions were achieved for engine ignition, the subsystem failure sent it plummeting into the Pacific Ocean. One Waverider remains.

Recreating a slice of the universe

August 15, 2012 9:07 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies have invented a new computational approach that can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years.

Georgia Tech advances potential commercial space flight system

August 15, 2012 3:32 am | News | Comments

Last spring private industry successfully sent a spacecraft carrying cargo to the International Space Station. Now the race is on to see which company will be the first to make commercial human spaceflight a reality. Sierra Nevada Corporation will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to further develop its commercial human spacecraft system, NASA announced earlier this month; and they are now turning to Georgia Tech for help.

Aircraft shoots for 3,600 mph for 300 seconds

August 14, 2012 7:40 am | News | Comments

According to reports from the Los Angeles Times, a unmanned X-51 WaveRider is expected to reach Mach 6 Tuesday when it's dropped by a B-52 bomber and takes flight off the Southern California coast near Point Mugu. If it travels for 300 seconds it would double the previous flight time.

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United Technologies Corp. completes acquisition of Goodrich

August 13, 2012 9:59 am | News | Comments

United Technologies Corp. announced it has completed its acquisition of Goodrich Corp., marking a major milestone for the company and strengthening its position in the commercial aerospace industry. Goodrich will be combined with Hamilton Sundstrand to create the new UTC Aerospace Systems business unit, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.

Curiosity sends back flood of new views from Mars

August 8, 2012 8:32 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Locale aside, Curiosity is giving scientists an unprecedented sense of what it took to reach its Martian destination. A low-quality video of the landing and the first color picture arrived quickly. Now, spectacular images of the crate in which the rover landed are beginning to arrive, and the best views—of Mars and the journey there—are yet to come.

First-ever outdoor flight test of laser-powered unmanned aerial system

August 8, 2012 4:49 am | News | Comments

After demonstrating more than 48 hours of continuous flight in a wind tunnel, Lockheed Martin and LaserMotive Inc. report they have completed a series of outdoor flight tests of the Stalker Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). These tests mark the first-ever outdoor flight of a UAS powered by laser.

NASA picks three private firms to develop space taxis

August 7, 2012 12:23 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA recently picked three aerospace companies to build small rocketships to take astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the third phase of NASA's efforts to get private space companies to take over the job of the now-retired space shuttle. The companies will share more than $1.1 billion. Two of the ships are capsules like in the Apollo era and the third is closer in design to the space shuttle.

NASA releases low-res video of Mars rover descent

August 7, 2012 4:15 am | by Alicia Chang and Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writers | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover on Monday transmitted a low-resolution video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the Mars atmosphere, giving Earthlings a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world. It was a sneak preview since it'll take some time before full-resolution frames are beamed back depending on other priorities.

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Research collaboration among multiple institutions is a growing trend

August 6, 2012 6:03 am | News | Comments

According to a recent National Science Foundation report, the amount of R&D funding that passed through universities to others for collaborative projects during fiscal years 2000 to 2009 grew more rapidly than overall academic R&D expenditures. Federal initiatives and technological advances are thought to be contributing factors to this trend.

Touchdown: NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars

August 6, 2012 5:38 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere. Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

NASA team to demonstrate spectrometer-on-a-chip

August 3, 2012 5:14 am | News | Comments

The size of a dishwasher, the Composite Infrared Spectrometer aboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a number of important scientific discoveries. But now, scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center are hoping to achieve the same sort of mid-infrared detection performance out of a wafer-like spectrometer that fits in the palm of a hand.

NASA to athletic Mars rover: 'Stick the landing'

July 31, 2012 8:24 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA's most ambitious and expensive Mars mission yet begins with the red planet arrival late Sunday of the smartest interplanetary rover ever built. But before Curiosity can start rolling it must survive a complicated touchdown so risky it's been described as "seven minutes of terror"—the time it takes to go from 13,000 mph to a complete stop.

R & D 100 Winners Seek Success with Partners

July 27, 2012 8:43 am | by R&D Editors | Articles | Comments

R&D laboratories take on challenges of terrorism, energy, and communications in the new millennium.

Need it, print it

July 26, 2012 7:01 am | News | Comments

Imagine being able to design a new aircraft engine part on a computer, and then being able to it. Not the design; the actual part. And not just a lightweight, nonfunctional model, but an actual working part to be installed in an engine. The University of Dayton Research Institute was awarded $3 million for the Ohio Third Frontier to provide specialized materials for use in additive manufacturing.

Skydiver Fearless Felix jumps from 18 miles up

July 25, 2012 5:21 pm | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

On Wednesday, Felix Baumgartner took another stratospheric leap, this time from an altitude of more than 18 miles—an estimated 96,640 feet, nearly three times higher than cruising jetliners. He landed safely near Roswell, N.M. His top speed was an estimated 536 mph, said Brian Utley, an official observer on site.

NASA successfully tests hypersonic inflatable heat shield

July 24, 2012 5:05 am | News | Comments

A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 7,600 mph. A cone of uninflated high-tech rings covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat resistant materials, the shield was launched Monday from a three-stage Black Brant rocket for its suborbital flight.

Tiny “Firefly” satellite may solve mystery about lightning

July 20, 2012 10:46 am | by Cheryl Dybas, NSF | News | Comments

CubeSats are fully-instrumented satellites the size of a half-gallon milk carton. Several are in orbit around the Earth, including Firefly, a CubeSat is designed to help solve the mystery of a phenomenon that's linked with lightning: terrestrial gamma rays, or TGFs. By using its small but powerful instrumentation,Its designers hope that Firefly will provide the first direct evidence for a relationship between lightning and TGFs.

Gravity offset table brings inertia of space to robotics research

July 18, 2012 8:32 am | News | Comments

To emulate the classical mechanics of physics found in space on full-scale replica spacecraft on Earth requires not only a hefty amount of air to 'float' the object, but a precision, frictionless, large surface area that will allow researchers to replicate the effects of inertia on man-made objects in space. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory recently got that capability with a one-of-a-kind 75,000 gravity offset table made from a single slab of concrete.

Plasma is next NASA science target

July 18, 2012 4:35 am | News | Comments

Two giant donuts of this plasma surround Earth, trapped within a region known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts. The belts lie close to Earth, sandwiched between satellites in geostationary orbit above and satellites in low Earth orbit are generally below the belts. A new NASA mission called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, due to launch in August 2012, will improve our understanding of what makes plasma move in and out of these electrified belts wrapped around our planet.

NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s

July 17, 2012 5:39 am | by Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Associated Press | News | Comments

Through a labyrinth of hallways deep inside a 1950s-era building that has housed research that dates back to the origins of U.S. space travel, a group of scientists in white coats is stirring, mixing, measuring, brushing and, most important, tasting the end result of their cooking. Their mission: Build a menu for a planned journey to Mars in the 2030s.

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