DLR explores human-machine relations using AI on the ISS

The “floating brain” has arrived on the ISS. This new experiment is a mobile and autonomous assistance system using IBM’s Watson AI technology, and the first AI-powered robot crew member aboard the ISS. CIMON – which stands for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion – is a 3D-printed flying robot about the size of a medicine ball and weighing 5 kg. The hardware was developed by Airbus in partnership with German space

Phase Four simplifies electric propulsion for mass manufacturing

In-space propulsion systems are getting a reboot. Spacecraft propulsion company Phase Four has built an electric radio frequency (RF) propulsion thruster that is easy to mass manufacture and doesn’t erode over time. The company recently announced a deal with small sat manufacturer Astro Digital, which will be using Phase Four thrusters on its Landmapper and Corvus satellites. Astro Digital will also act as a reseller for Phase Four propulsion on some

Stofiel Aerospace aims to unleash mobile, on-demand access to space

Stofiel Aerospace is a little company hoping to bring big innovations to the small launch market. The company, which was founded in 2015 by Air Force veteran and aerospace engineer Brian Stofiel, is building a small launch “rockoon” system, called the Boreas Launch System, which the company says will offer flexible, low-cost, and on-demand access to space. The system is still in the early phases of development, but the company

Astrobotic’s lunar delivery service set to launch in 2020

Lunar logistics startup Astrobotic is hoping to become the world’s first lunar delivery service. The company, spun out of a project at Carnegie Mellon University, was launched about a decade ago in order to participate in the Google Lunar XPrize. “Our goal is to make the moon accessible to the world,” John Thornton, Astrobotic’s CEO, told The Downlink. “We are building a DHL delivery service to take payloads from all

Exos gears up for test flight of SARGE

Exos Aerospace Systems and Technologies is angling to make its debut in the suborbital launch market. The company has spent the past decade and $14 million to build a reusable suborbital launch vehicle, dubbed SARGE: Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with Guidance. SARGE has passed a number of testing milestones, and the company is now gearing up for its first flight test from Spaceport America in May. The Exos vehicle’s provenance is

Blue Origin’s BE-4 could propel the next stage of space exploration

After five years of development, Jeff Bezos announced in Twitter this week Blue Origin has successfully completed a hot fire test of its fully reusable BE-4 engine. The hot fire test marks an important milestone for both Blue Origin and the next step in human exploration of space. https://twitter.com/JeffBezos/status/921114359119560704 Blue Origin's orbital rocket, the New Glenn, will use seven BE-4 engines in its first stage, and a single BE-4 in

‘Lunar. Sooner’: ULA & Bigelow propose 2022 launch for lunar depot

Bigelow Aerospace and ULA have announced plans to put Bigelow’s B330 expandable habitat module into low lunar orbit by the end of 2022. Bigelow said the habitat will serve as a lunar depot and support infrastructure for other deep space missions. The commercial habitat will launch on ULA’s latest Vulcan rocket. The announcement expands an earlier partnership to launch one of Bigelow's B330 habitats into low Earth orbit aboard ULA's

Aerospace firms tout solar electric propulsion to Congress

A handful of private firms submitted testimony to Congress touting the potential uses of solar electric propulsion at a hearing on in-space propulsion held last week by the U.S. House of Representatives’ subcommittee on space. SEP systems could replace chemical propulsion for use in deep space exploration, but experts say the technology needs more improvement to become a viable propulsion option. “We are on the cusp of a giant leap

On-orbit satellite maintenance ‘will change the space system paradigm’

NASA, DARPA, and others are developing technologies to support autonomous refueling and maintenance capabilities for satellites while they’re orbiting Earth, as part of a wider ambition to advance autonomous servicing capabilities that’ll enable a new era of infrastructure building in space. On-orbit satellite servicing will help extend the mission lives of satellites, but the technology that’s being developed to do so will help usher in a new era of space

Brane Craft, the ‘nearly 2-dimensional’ solution to space debris, gets more NASA funding

Aerospace Corp’s senior nanotechnology scientist Dr. Siegfried Janson has designed a nearly two-dimensional spacecraft that could be used to removed dead satellites and other space debris from orbit. The Brane Craft proposal was one of 13 designs chosen by NASA last year to receive a $100,000 Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant. This week, Janson’s project was chosen to for another $500,000 in phase II funding to fund another two years