NASA’s New Solar Sail Could Soon Navigate in Space

A project to develop an innovative solar sail has advanced to the final leg of a NASA research program. Phase three of the Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC) will allow researchers to continue exploring and developing a diffractive solar sail for two years with a funding award of $2 million, reports George Dvorsky for Gizmodo. This award could push the solar sail concept, a long-simmering field of research for space exploration only used a handful of times, towards far wider use.

Read the full article on here.

Author: Elizabeth Gamillo

Image Credit: MacKenzi Martin

First Dream Chaser vehicle takes shape

Sierra Space says it is making good progress on its first Dream Chaser spaceplane as the company looks ahead to versions of the vehicle that can carry crews and perform national security missions.

The company provided SpaceNews with images of the first Dream Chaser, named Tenacity, being assembled at its Colorado headquarters. The vehicle’s structure is now largely complete, but there is still more work to install its thermal protection system and other components.


Read full article here.

Author Credit: Jeff Foust, Space News

Image Credit: Sierra Space

New map of the night sky reveals 4.4 million galaxies and other space objects

Repost from

(CNN)Some 4.4 million space objects billions of light-years away have been mapped by astronomers, including 1 million space objects that hadn’t been spotted before.

The vast majority of these objects are galaxies that harbor massive black holes or rapidly growing new stars. Other discoveries include colliding groups of distant galaxies and flaring stars, which vary in brightness, within the Milky Way, according to a news statement from Durham University in England.
The observations were made by analyzing a huge amount of data from the sensitive Low Frequency Array telescope, known as LOFAR, which is using low radio frequencies to observe about a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere’s sky and catalog it in fine detail. It’s operated by ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.
Author credit: Katie Hunt
Image credit: CNN

Arizona Space Grant Mentors: $10M elevates UArizona hypersonics facilities to national prominence

University of Arizona aerospace and mechanical engineering researchers have received $3.5 million in funding from the state of Arizona’s investment in the New Economy Initiative and $6.5 million in federal support through the Department of Defense’s Test Resource Management Center to upgrade hypersonic facilities and related research infrastructure.

The funding positions the university as a leading educational institution in the hypersonics field, said Alex Craig, an assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering.

“We’re moving our wind tunnel complex into a more capable realm that you typically don’t see at universities, because it’s usually reserved for government facilities like NASA,” Craig said. “With these upgrades, we’ll be able to provide impactful ground testing services to DOD and its contractors, NASA, and emerging private ventures supporting space and commercial travel, while still fulfilling our educational mission.”

Wind tunnels blast air at high speeds past fixed objects, helping researchers better understand how similarly shaped objects, such as aircraft and missiles, behave in flight. Wind tunnel speed is represented by Mach number, with Mach 1 being equal to the speed of sound – about 761 mph at sea level.

UArizona is home to two hypersonic facilities and additional wind tunnels that permit testing from Mach 0 to Mach 5.


Read the full article online here.


Image Credit: University of Arizona



The ISS gets an extension to 2030 to wrap up unfinished business

Last week, NASA announced that the Biden-Harris Administration intends to extend International Space Station (ISS) operations through 2030, extending the US’s previous funding deadline by a few years.

“As more and more nations are active in space, it’s more important than ever that the United States continues to lead the world in growing international alliances and modeling rules and norms for the peaceful and responsible use of space,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a NASA statement Friday.

Read the full article here.

What’s next for NASA’s newly launched James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s next big space observatory is finally aloft, but it’ll be a while before it starts its highly anticipated science mission.

The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana yesterday (Dec. 25), kicking off a long-delayed, potentially transformative mission to study the early universe, nearby exoplanets and more. Telescope team members (and the rest of us) will have to remain patient, however, for Webb has a lot of work to do before it gets up and running.


Read the full article here.


Image Credit: NASA

North Dakota Space Grant Connects Students to STEM Research through Fellowship Bridge Program

That’s the Big Dipper. That’s the Little Dipper. And not so long ago, that’s about as deep as Lake Region State College graduate Liz Deckert wanted to dip into space science.

But that was before the kinesiology major and future chiropractor transferred this fall to the University of North Dakota, where she landed a NASA-funded Bridge Fellowship through the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium.

Now, just a few months into her junior year at UND, the space rookie from Devils Lake is doing cutting-edge research for NASA’s next-generation spacesuit.

More specifically, she’s testing upper mobility acceleration and range of motion for a spacesuit developed by Final Frontier Design, a company that already has three spacesuit components — boot, hip and waist joints — booked for the next trip to the moon. And though experts have questioned whether the mission will be ready for a 2025 launch, when it eventually does blast off, Artemis 3 is expected to be the first “crewed” lunar landing in more than half a century. The last one was Apollo 17 in 1972.


Read both UND Today articles on the NDSGC Bridge Fellowship program’s latest awardee, student Liz Deckert:



Image credit: Mike Hess/UND Today

Maybe Don’t Blow Up Satellites in Space

The astronauts were still asleep when NASA called the International Space Station. “Hey, Mark, good morning. Sorry for the early call,” a mission controller said in the early hours of Monday morning, speaking with Mark Vande Hei, one of four NASA astronauts on board. But the astronauts needed to get up, mission control said calmly, and move to the spacecraft docked to the station. They needed to be prepared to potentially escape and head back to Earth. This was an emergency.

NASA had just received word that a satellite had shattered into pieces. The cloud of debris was about to pass dangerously close to the space station, and everyone on board—four American astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts, and one German astronaut—had to hunker down.


Read the full article from the Atlantic here.


Image Credit: MIT News

Texas Space Grant Sponsors Student Aisha Williams with SEES Internship

In case you missed it!

Vicksburg High School student Aisha Williams has been selected for the prestigious STEM Enhancement in Earth and Space Science (SEES)  summer internship to be held at The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Space Research.  Students will work with scientists and engineers to conduct authentic research from data received  from NASA’s Earth observing satellites as well as designing Mars habitats, Lunar Exploration, and robotics. This nationally competitive program sponsored by NASA’s Texas Space Grant  Consortium selects students who will increase their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through Earth and space education.

SEES is a collaborative effort of Texas Space Grant Consortium members and affiliates, NASA, and The University of Texas at Austin. Students apply for SEES and are selected competitively.  The internships are organized around an aerospace or space science theme drawn from NASA’s diverse engineering and scientific research programs. The program combines the strengths of  collaborators to enrich teaching and learning of STEM.


Image Credit: VWSD