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House appropriations bill supports increase to NASA’s budget

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WASHINGTON — A House appropriations subcommittee advanced a spending bill July 12 that would provide NASA with a small increase over what the administration proposed for fiscal year 2022, but does not address some key areas of concern.

The commerce, justice and science (CJS) subcommittee favorably reported a spending bill that provides $25.04 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2022. That would be 7.6% higher than what NASA received in 2021, but just 1% above the administration’s request of $24.8 billion released in May.

The biggest change in the budget is in NASA’s exploration account, which would get $7.28 billion in the bill, nearly $400 million above the request. While funding for the Orion spacecraft is kept constant, the bill increases funding for the Space Launch System, Exploration Ground Systems and Exploration Research and Development.

In the brief subcommittee markup session, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), ranking member of the subcommittee, mentioned the SLS increase in particular. “NASA seldom, if ever, provides Congress with a budget request for the Space Launch System that reflects program estimates,” he complained, calling for “multiyear acquisition plans” for long-term SLS production.

That included, he said, development of a cargo version of the SLS, which replaces the Orion spacecraft with a large payload fairing. “Congress must ensure the future of the SLS includes a cargo variant, which, in fact, has long been part of the NASA plan,” he said. “This capability will be integral to future lunar cargo and science missions.”

However, at a meeting of the steering committee of the planetary sciences decadal survey July 7, a NASA official said that the limited production rate of the SLS — currently one a year, and not slated to increase to two per year until as late as the early 2030s — meant that the cargo version of SLS would not be available until at least the late 2020s in order to support Artemis missions.

NASA’s science program would see an overall increase of $38 million compared to the request, with increases to planetary science and astrophysics offset partially by cuts to heliophysics and biological and physical sciences. Aeronautics would increase by $20 million, but space operations would be cut by $56 million.

The biggest proposed cut would be to NASA’s space technology account, which would be cut by $145 million compared to the request of $1.425 billion but would still be above the $1.1 billion it received in 2021. The bill also requires NASA to spent $227 million on the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM) 1 mission and $110 million for nuclear thermal propulsion technologies. NASA requested $227 million for OSAM-1 in its budget proposal but did not include funding for nuclear propulsion.

Aderholt mentioned the nuclear thermal propulsion funding in his comments at the markup, but expressed disappointment that the bill does not require the funding to support a flight demonstration by 2024, a goal supported in past years’ bills. NASA’s work on nuclear thermal propulsion is led by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

“We need this technology to out-compete China as both countries continue deep space exploration,” he said. “Therefore, I am deeply disappointed that the long-standing bipartisan language requiring NASA to use $80 million of the funding for the design of a flight demonstration was not included. The omission imperils the progress of, and our previous investments in, nuclear thermal propulsion capabilities.”

The bill does not go into details about most programs, specifics contained in the report accompanying the bill that will be released when the full House Appropriations Committee marks up the bill July 15. For example, the bill is silent on the Human Landing System program, which is part of the Exploration R&D budget line that would get $150 million more than the nearly $2.4 billion requested.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has lobbied House and Senate appropriators to add funding to NASA’s budget to allow it to support a second HLS provider. The large amount of funding needed — more than $5 billion over several years — led Nelson to recommend that the funding be included in any jobs and infrastructure bill that Congress takes up outside of the normal appropriations process.

Aderholt criticized the bill for lack of direction on HLS. “This bill fails to adequately address recent unwise NASA decisions that have jeopardized the Human Landing System,” he said, a reference to NASA’s selection of a single company, SpaceX, for an HLS award because of limited budgets. “I believe this committee must provide appropriate direction to NASA to restore foundational aspects of this program.”

Other members of the committee mentioned NASA’s part of the overall $81.3 billion CJS bill only in passing. “This subcommittee’s commitment to American leadership in space science, space exploration and aeronautics research continues in this year’s bill,” said Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), chairman of the subcommittee.


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Source: https://spacenews.com/house-appropriations-bill-supports-increase-to-nasas-budget/

Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

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Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

Published

on

Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

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Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

Published

on

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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