Modern space is transforming at unprecedented speed. Aerospace is advancing the concepts, capabilities, and strategies needed to leverage an integrated digital approach to solve challenges across the space and other complex enterprises. Adopting a digital-first approach enables enterprise integration and better multi-domain collaboration, producing scalable, agile architectures and informed acquisition planning.

“At its most fundamental, digital engineering is the application of modern technologies and processes at an enterprise scale to perform, connect and integrate traditional engineering functions in new ways. …


Ashley Kowalski, Project Leader in the Global Partnerships department at Aerospace, has been selected by NASA’s Human Research Program for a spaceflight simulation study in Moscow, Russia. Kowalski looks to join an international crew of six people who will live together in isolation for eight months while NASA researchers study crew interactions, health, and physiology experiences including various aspects of social isolation and confinement.

The simulation is part of the program known as the Scientific International Research In a Unique terrestrial Station (SIRIUS) program and takes place in a ground-based analog facility called Nazemnyy Eksperimental’nyy Kompleks, or NEK, within the…


DiskSat is a plate-shaped satellite (1m in diameter, 2.5cm thick) that could provide the required power and aperture needed for future missions.

The answer to that question may lie in a two-dimensional DiskSat, a NASA Small Spacecraft Technology program funded concept that may expand SmallSat mission designs and enable major scientific discovery at lower cost.

The concept for DiskSat originated when Richard Welle, Aerospace Senior Scientist took part in a study of large constellations using CubeSats. The team quickly recognized the mission would need additional power and more aperture than a CubeSat could provide. Placing the constellation in well-defined orbits would also require dedicated small launch vehicles.

Without the need for rideshare, Welle realized that satellite design options could be expanded beyond…


The APPLE concept is a new type of spacecraft power system that will open previously inaccessible parts of the solar system to human exploration and make a range of rapid transit missions possible. Credit: Aerospace

Space exploration remains a herculean effort. Due to the immense challenges imposed by time and distance, missions to near-Earth objects have been successfully accomplished using traditional means of propulsion. However, the outermost planets in our solar system are 2 to 3.7 billion miles from the Sun. Reaching them within a reasonable time frame requires propulsion systems that exceed the capabilities of conventional propulsion methods.

Using the Sun for Propulsion

Solar sails harness the radiation pressure exerted by light on a reflective material to provide thrust to spacecraft. With few moving parts and the propellant offboard, solar sails provide cost-effective operations and long operating lifetimes. …


STATE OF PLAY

Spacecraft propelled by nuclear fission or fusion are now being researched as a faster means of traveling the solar system. Credit: NASA

Multiple companies are developing advanced technologies for nuclear, electric, chemical, and solar propulsion with the potential to dramatically improve Earth-centric space operations and interplanetary exploration for decades to come. We surveyed the market’s “state of play” for insight into near and medium-term developments.

What is Nuclear Propulsion?

Nuclear propulsion derives from two atomic processes, fission and fusion. In fission, a “hot rock” of uranium atoms releases high-energy neutrons to create heat. Hydrogen propellant is then passed through a reactor for propulsion. The term Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) generally implies fission. For fusion, hydrogen isotopes deuterium or tritium are forced together to become heavier atoms…


Slingshot looks to advance on-orbit experiments using modular and autonomous technologies on next-generation satellite systems.

Aerospace’s Slingshot looks to advance on-orbit experiments using modular and autonomous technologies on next-generation satellite systems.

Space-based technology has become essential to modern society, and the accelerated pace of innovation continues to increase demand for space-based services. This has prompted a need for more resilient and responsive satellite development and launch processes that can streamline the mission lifecycle to reduce time and cost, while providing greater flexibility and adaptability for space access.

Recognizing the need for modernizing the space enterprise, The Aerospace Corporation has emphasized…


Could ambient air extend the life of very low Earth orbit satellites?

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program and the National Institute of Aerospace are seeking novel and robust concepts — particularly tugs, propelled by solar electric propulsion that transfer payloads from low earth orbit to a lunar distant retrograde orbit. Courtesy: NASA

Very low Earth orbit (VLEO) is becoming popular for large satellite constellations. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), approximately 5,000 satellites are currently in this orbit, but the historic numbers are dwarfed by future satellite forecasts. The booming commercial space industry has proposed another 20,000 satellites for deployment into non-geostationary orbits, with about 13,000 approved by the FCC thus far. One SpaceX filing from March 2017 alone proposed 7,518 satellites in orbits between 336 km and 346 km altitudes.

VLEO satellites typically experience fast orbital decay and…


Measuring human activity at sea has multiple applications, including environmental monitoring, resource management and national security, but the ability to effectively detect vessels in expansive ocean settings is a challenge with technologies like sonar and radar. Potential threats and bad actors deliberately maintain a low profile at sea, skirting international maritime laws and radio/cell transmission to avoid detection.

A new alternative measurement tool developed at Aerospace analyzes Kelvin wakes, something all sea-faring vessels leave upon the water. The V-shaped impressions trailing vessels as they move are typically 38 degrees across and produce wave characteristics influenced by its speed. …


A scientist explains why finding ice on the Red Planet was only part of the challenge.

In this illustration, NASA astronauts drill into the Mars’ subsurface. The agency is creating new maps that show where ice is most likely to be easily accessible to future astronauts. Credit: NASA

Any hope humans have for an off-world future relies on several factors for survival. One of the most important? Water. Continuously shipping water across the galaxy to resupply astronauts requires extraordinary expense in transportation costs. The next planet humans inhabit will need to have access to a local supply. Scientists have labored to locate water on Mars but finding it was only the first step. …


As plans for the end of ISS are being made, Aerospace Chief Technology Officer, Dr. David Miller, looks at the progress and the future of space-based microgravity lab facilities.

The International Space Station has served as a critical laboratory for microgravity research. (Credit: NASA)

Technology research is no longer solely a terrestrial endeavor. Crucial interactions between the zero gravity environment and the physics of spacecraft can’t be replicated in a 1-G environment on Earth. A benefit of human space exploration has been the ability to test space innovations in the environment where they will eventually operate.

Critical space-enabling technologies have been developed in the microgravity labs aboard space stations including Mir, the Space Shuttle, and…

The Aerospace Corporation

We operate the only federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) committed exclusively to the space enterprise.

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