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(7 December 2020 – Thales) Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract with Northrop Grumman to develop the pressurized module for HALO (Habitation And Logistics Outpost) that will be one of the first two elements to form the lunar Gateway which will be launched in late 2023.

HALO is planned to be launched together with the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and will be the initial habitat for astronauts visiting the Gateway. Its primary purpose is to provide basic living space for astronauts and prepare for their trip to the lunar surface. It will provide command, control and data handling capabilities, energy storage and power distribution, thermal control, communications and tracking capabilities. It will be equipped with 3 docking ports for visiting vehicles and future modules, as well as space for science and stowage. With NASA’s Orion spacecraft docked, it will be able to sustain up to four astronauts for up to 30 days as they embark on, and return from, expeditions to the lunar surface.

Artemis (courtesy: NASA)

Thales Alenia Space will be responsible of the design and manufacturing of the HALO primary structure (the pressurized module), the module and vestibule pressure control, part of the meteoroid protection system as well as the structure interfacing the NASA docking systems. The HALO design is derived from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, which Thales Alenia Space is a longstanding partner on. Cygnus is a human-capable vehicle that delivers supplies, spare equipment and scientific experiments to the International Space Station with 14 successful missions to date. HALO will have the same 3m diameter as Cygnus, but will include a 1m stretch in length to meet habitable volume needs for visiting crews, bringing the total HALO length to about 7m. HALO will also benefit from the heritage of the Cygnus Pressurized Module design and production process already in place.

“It is a great, fantastic challenge for our company to again be part of the amazing adventure of moving back to the Moon – in particular paving the way of the lunar outpost by being involved in one of the first 2 Gateway elements to be launched, in addition to providing the European contribution with ESPRIT and I-HAB. “We see this result as a concrete step towards future exploration missions and thank again Northrop Grumman for the long and unalterable trust they put in Thales Alenia Space technologies, capable of meeting the boldest challenges”, declared Massimo Claudio Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space.

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HALO (courtesy: Northrop Grumman)

Walter Cugno, Vice President Exploration and Science Domain at Thales Alenia Space added “By leveraging the active Cygnus production line and flight proven expertise, Thales Alenia Space will bring to Northrop Grumman the unique capability of providing an affordable and reliable HALO module in the timeframe needed to support lunar exploration. This more than 10-years success story as well the strong Thales Alenia Space expertise in deep space habitats, will allow us to design and manufacture this new lunar Gateway module in the respect of safety and comfort for the astronauts”.

About Artemis

moving forward to the Moon in 2024! The Artemis program will proceed in three phases: Artemis 1, a non-crewed flight to test the launch system and the Orion spacecraft together; Artemis 2, a first crewed flight of Orion; and Artemis 3, to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024. The program will set up sustainable structures on the Moon and in lunar orbit to carry out further human exploration of the surface and various scientific investigations. The Gateway will be a key to this program: it will be used as an outpost for astronauts on their way to the Moon, and as a laboratory to carry out scientific research, and thus support the development of sustained Moon exploration by the end of the decade.

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Gateway (courtesy: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

About the lunar Gateway

This outpost in lunar orbit is one of the pillars of NASA’s Artemis program, supporting sustainable exploration to the Moon and beyond. It is being implemented through international cooperation, currently involving NASA (United States) andESA (Europe). Discussions with other international partners continue. The Gateway, weighing about 40 metric tons, will be automatically assembled piece by piece and will be placed in a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. The configuration will mainly comprise habitation modules for the crew, power and propulsion systems, logistics modules, communications with the Earth and Moon, a robotic arm and docking ports. It is not intended for permanent occupancy, but as it evolves, it will be able to host 4-person crews for periods of one to three months. Gaining new experiences on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars as early as 2030s, and the Gateway will play a vital role in this process.

About Thales Alenia Space involvement in the moving forward to the Moon challenge

Already providing the thermo-mechanical systems for Orion European Service Module and strongly involved in European Space Agency contribution in the Gateway with ESPRIT and I-HAB, Thales Alenia Space is also involved in NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) initiative, as part of the Dynetics-led consortium recently chosen by NASA as well as in VIPER, the rover that NASA will send to the South Pole of the Moon in search for water.

*NRHO: an eccentric orbit with an apogee at 70,000 km and a perigee at 3,000 km, enabling the space station to revolve around the Earth at the same speed as the Moon, so that from Earth it will be seen as a lunar halo.

About Thales Alenia Space

Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.15 billion euros in 2019 and has around 7,700 employees in nine countries.

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Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft is ready for its Moon mission

Lockheed Martin built Orion spacecraft is ready for its Moon mission

(14 January 2021 – Lockheed Martin) NASA’s Orion spacecraft is ready for its mission to the Moon.

Lockheed Martin has completed assembly and testing of the Orion Artemis I spacecraft and has transferred possession to NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team today. Assembled at Kennedy Space Center, the EGS team will then perform final preparations on the spacecraft for its mission to the Moon later this year.

(courtesy: Lockhhed Martin)

Ready for the Moon

Orion is NASA’s new human-rated exploration-class spaceship that will take astronauts into deep space including the Moon and Mars. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for NASA and built the crew module, crew module adaptor and launch abort system. The European Space Agency provides the European Service Module for Orion.

The Artemis I mission will be the first launch of the Orion spacecraft aboard NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Over the course of three weeks, the uncrewed Orion capsule will fly out and orbit the Moon and return to Earth. This test mission will validate the spacecraft, rocket and ground systems for future crewed missions.

“Orion is a unique and impressive spacecraft and the team did an outstanding job to get us to this day,” said Mike Hawes, Orion vice president and program manager for Lockheed Martin. “The launch and flight of Artemis I will be an impressive sight, but more importantly it will confirm Orion is ready to safely carry humans to the Moon and back home. This tremendous advancement opens the door to a new era of deep space exploration that will ultimately benefit us back here on Earth.”

Orion is being transferred from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy, where it was assembled, to multiple Kennedy facilities where EGS will load propellants and other consumables such as ammonia, helium and nitrogen, and integrate the launch abort system and protective ogive fairing. After this is completed, it will be taken to the Vertical Assembly Facility to be lifted onto the SLS rocket and prepared for roll to the launch pad.

Crewed Missions Underway

The launch later this year will be the beginning of many Artemis missions to the Moon. The next mission, Artemis II, will be the first with a crew onboard and will go out to orbit the Moon and return. That Orion crew module and service module adapter are well under assembly at Kennedy and will see its first power-on of its integrated computers this summer.

Artemis III will see the first woman and the next man to walk on the Moon. Orion will carry them out to orbit the Moon where they will ultimately land on the surface using a lunar landing system. That spacecraft is already under construction as major structural elements of the crew module pressure vessel are arriving at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

As part of an Orion production and operations contract, NASA ordered three Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin for Artemis missions III-V with plans to order three additional Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions VI-VIII and options for up to 12 missions.

About Lockheed Martin

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 110,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

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NASA’s Juno mission expands into the future

NASAs Juno mission expands into the future

(13 January 2021 – JPL) NASA has authorized a mission extension for its Juno spacecraft exploring Jupiter.

The agency’s most distant planetary orbiter will now continue its investigation of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life. This expansion tasks Juno with becoming an explorer of the full Jovian system – Jupiter and its rings and moons – with multiple rendezvous planned for three of Jupiter’s most intriguing Galilean moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

This view of Jupiter’s atmosphere from NASA’s Juno spacecraft includes something remarkable, two storms caught in the act of merging. (courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSSImage processing by Tanya Oleksuik)

“Since its first orbit in 2016, Juno has delivered one revelation after another about the inner workings of this massive gas giant,” said principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “With the extended mission, we will answer fundamental questions that arose during Juno’s prime mission while reaching beyond the planet to explore Jupiter’s ring system and Galilean satellites.”

Proposed in 2003 and launched in 2011, Juno arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The prime mission will be completed in July 2021. The extended mission involves 42 additional orbits, including close passes of Jupiter’s north polar cyclones; flybys of Ganymede, Europa, and Io; as well as the first extensive exploration of the faint rings encircling the planet.

“By extending the science goals of this important orbiting observatory, the Juno team will start tackling a breadth of science historically required of flagships,” said Lori Glaze, planetary science division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This represents an efficient and innovative advance for NASA’s solar system exploration strategy.”

The data Juno collects will contribute to the goals of the next generation of missions to the Jovian system – NASA’s Europa Clipper and the ESA (European Space Agency) JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission. Juno’s investigation of Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io addresses many science goals identified by the National Academy of Sciences for a future Io explorer mission.

The extended mission’s science campaigns will expand on discoveries Juno has already made about Jupiter’s interior structure, internal magnetic field, atmosphere (including polar cyclones, deep atmosphere, and aurora), and magnetosphere.

“With this extension, Juno becomes its own follow-on mission,” said Steve Levin, Juno project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Close-up observations of the pole, radio occultations” – a remote sensing technique to measure properties of a planetary atmosphere or ring systems – “satellite flybys, and focused magnetic field studies combine to make a new mission, the next logical step in our exploration of the Jovian system.”

Jupiter’s enigmatic Great Blue Spot, an isolated patch of intense magnetic field near the planet’s equator, will be the target of a high-spatial-resolution magnetic survey during six flybys early in the extended mission. As Juno’s orbit evolves, multiple flybys of the moons Ganymede (2), Europa (3), and Io (11) are planned, as well as multiple passages through Jupiter’s tenuous rings.

Juno will also fly through the Europa and Io tori – ring-shaped clouds of ions – on multiple occasions, characterizing the radiation environment near these satellites to better prepare the Europa Clipper and JUICE missions for optimizing observation strategies and planning, science priorities, and mission design. The extended mission also adds planetary geology and ring dynamics to Juno’s extensive list of science investigations.

An Evolving Orbit

The natural evolution of Juno’s orbit around the gas giant provides the wealth of new science opportunities that the extended mission capitalizes on. Every science pass sends the solar-powered spacecraft zooming low over Jupiter’s cloud tops, collecting data from a unique vantage point no other spacecraft has enjoyed.

The point during each orbit where Juno comes closest to the planet is called perijove (or PJ). Over the course of the mission, Juno’s perijoves have migrated northward, dramatically improving resolution over the northern hemisphere. The design of the extended mission takes advantage of the continued northward migration of these perijoves to sharpen its view of the multiple cyclones encircling the north pole while incorporating ring and Galilean moon flybys.

“The mission designers have done an amazing job crafting an extended mission that conserves the mission’s single most valuable onboard resource – fuel,” said Ed Hirst, the Juno project manager at JPL. “Gravity assists from multiple satellite flybys steer our spacecraft through the Jovian system while providing a wealth of science opportunities.” The satellite flybys also reduce Juno’s orbital period, which increases the total number of science orbits that can be obtained.”

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NASA has extended the mission of its Juno spacecraft exploring Jupiter. The extended mission involves 42 additional orbits, expands on discoveries Juno has already made and adds exploration of the rings encircling the planet as well as flybys of Ganymede, Europa, and Io. (courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

The satellite encounters begin with a low-altitude flyby of Ganymede on June 7, 2021 (PJ34), which reduces the orbital period from about 53 days to 43 days. That flyby sets up a close flyby of Europa on Sept. 29, 2022 (PJ45), reducing the orbital period further to 38 days. A pair of close Io flybys, on Dec. 30, 2023 (PJ57), and Feb. 3, 2024 (PJ58), combine to reduce the orbital period to 33 days.

More About the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott J. Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

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Astrobotic selects Navigation Doppler Lidar from Psionic for mission to deliver VIPER to the lunar surface

Astrobotic selects Navigation Doppler Lidar from Psionic for mission to

(14 January 2021 – Astrobotic) Astrobotic today announced they have selected Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) from Psionic for their mission in late 2023 to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the South Pole of the Moon.

The NDL serves as a critical sensor element as part of the Griffin Lander’s Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) system to ensure a safe, precise landing. In June 2020, NASA awarded a $199.5 million contract to Astrobotic under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

A visual rendering of Griffin utilizing Navigation Doppler Lidar sensor to guide landing on the lunar surface. (courtesy: Psionic)

“Griffin is a vehicle unlike any other and it’s playing a critical role in our return to the Moon by delivering VIPER to the lunar South Pole,” said Daniel Gillies, Mission Director at Astrobotic. “We are excited and honored to have been selected to deliver VIPER the Moon. A safe, precise landing is critical to reach the target areas at the South Pole where water ice is most abundant, and we’re confident that NDL will help us achieve that precision landing in combination with our own suite of terrain navigation and hazard detection sensors.”

NASA’s VIPER is being designed to search for water ice on the moon – a vital preparatory mission that will guide the planned landing sites for the next Artemis human missions to the Moon. NDL was developed by NASA over 10+ years for precise, safe landings on the Moon and in other challenging environments.

The Astrobotic NDL unit will be built by Psionic, which is NASA’s licensee for the underlying patents for NDL. Several NASA-designed NDL payloads are being used to help robotic spacecraft land on the Moon. A separate, NASA-designed and provided NDL is also flying on the Astrobotic Peregrine mission in 2021.

“The accuracy and confidence NDL provides is critical given where these missions are headed,” according to Steve Sandford, founder and CTO of Psionic. “The NDL is an important link in the navigation sensor chain Griffin will use to meet NASA’s stringent landing requirements.”

NDL provides unprecedented ground-relative range and velocity-vector accuracies, precise vehicle coordinates, and other measurements necessary for safe, pinpoint landings, which are critical in narrowly defined landing zones such as those at the South Pole.

About Astrobotic

Astrobotic is a space robotics company making space accessible to the world. They develop advanced navigation, operation, and computing systems for spacecraft, and their fleet of lunar landers and rovers deliver payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. The company has more than 50 prior and ongoing NASA and commercial technology contracts and a corporate sponsorship with DHL. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.

About Psionic

Psionic Doppler Lidar provides advanced navigation for Space exploration and Defense applications in challenging environments. The company, based in Hampton, Virginia, was founded in 2016 by the engineers and scientists who worked on Doppler Lidar at NASA for more than a decade.

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