University satellites, synthetic biology and SLS going to the Moon

oo24323530889Successful deployment of university satellites from Space Station

Expedition 46 flight engineer Tim Peake of ESA captured this photo on Jan. 29, 2016 from the International Space Station, as the robotic arm in Japan’s Kibo laboratory successfully deployed two combined satellites from Texas universities.

The satellites will demonstrate communication protocols between them and with ground stations, as well as systems that allow the satellites to navigate through space and relative to each other and to orient themselves in three dimensions. Flight demonstration of these abilities, necessary for unmanned craft to be able to rendezvous and dock in space without direct human intervention, will contribute to future satellite missions as well.

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How synthetic biology will solve biological mysteries and make humans safer in space

More recently, we are discovering that microgravity can have important and mysterious effects on even single-celled microbes. While the mechanism underlying exactly how these tiniest of organisms are affected by microgravity is unclear, what is apparent is that our most rigorous, controlled experiments to date verify that gene expression and cell physiology change in response to spaceflight.

The particulars and extent of these intracellular changes seem to vary between organisms, since no known organism has evolved to live in anything other than 1G of gravity. Each organism responds in its own unique way to this evolutionarily unprecedented affront to its environment, likely since each organism’s genetic software and protein wiring are perturbed slightly differently.

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The first flight of NASA’s next big rocket will carry a lunar laser, an asteroid scout, and some yeast

lunar_flashlight_over_south_pole.0NASA is currently in the middle of building its next big rocket, the Space Launch System, which the agency hopes to use to send people into deep space and on to Mars someday. But before it can do all that, the SLS has to prove itself in the form of a test flight. That mission — scheduled for 2018 — will take NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the far side of the Moon. Toting the Orion may be the primary goal of the trip, but the SLS will have some extra room for other technologies — so it’s going to take up to 13 small satellites along for the ride.

NASA announced today what seven of those miniaturized satellites — called CubeSats — will look like. CubeSats are a type of research satellite, usually not much heavier than a couple pounds, that are fairly easy to build for space-based science and exploration. Since the test flight will take the Orion close to the Moon, many of the probes are designed to do close-up analysis of the lunar surface. A CubeSat called SkyFire will do a flyby of the Moon, collecting data with onboard sensors. And a satellite called the Lunar Flashlight will use a laser to map water ice at the lunar south pole.

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Job opening for a Spacecraft Software Engineer, Spire (USA). Working on our satellites offers software developers a chance to interact with the fullest of stacks, and this position can be customized to fit a variety of experiences and skill sets. As a Spacecraft Software Developer you will be working on the satellites and their terrestrial communication relays. More information


Build up your space experience by participating in the Project MESDT (for US citizens only). Some of the tasks student groups would be responsible for: work during mission operations, analyzing real Mars mission data; be responsible for specific exploration topics (i.e. polar caps, high latitudes, volcanic regions, MSL landing site locations, Phoenix lander location, etc.); retrieve current information from datasets (THEMIS, MRO, MER, etc.) More information

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