Category Archives: micro-g R&D

Virginia student wins first Design/Build/Launch competition sponsored by AIAA/Blue Origin

Here’s an announcement from AIAA and Blue Origin :

Virginia High School Student Wins First Design/Build/Launch Competition
Sponsored by Blue Origin and AIAA

July 8, 2020 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Blue Origin are pleased to announce the winner of their Design/Build/Launch (DBL) competition.

Eleanor Sigrest.

Eleanor Sigrest, a rising senior enrolled in a dual program at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Virginia, and the Governor’s School at Innovation Park in Manassas, Virginia, won the competition with her experiment, Improving Fluid Management Through A Novel Microgravity Slosh Mitigation Technique, which will be the first AIAA-sponsored payload to go into flight.

“Ever since I can remember,” she said, “I’ve looked at the stars and known I want to go to space. I want to be the first person on Mars. Through research, I feel I better my personal knowledge and contribute to a community, all sharing the same goal of exploring beyond our Earth and developing the technologies necessary to get to Mars – technologies that will also benefit all humankind.”

In her quest to be the first person on Mars, Eleanor has been conducting independent research on rockets since middle school. She has won a host of science competitions, beginning with the grand prize, regional level, in her first science fair when she was in fourth grade, and including the Broadcom MASTERS Samueli Foundation prize at the national level with her experiment, “Rockets and Nozzles and Thrust, OH MY!

“Design/Build/Launch is the perfect next step to complement my research of a novel microgravity slosh technique that could simplify spacecraft systems, increase payload capacity and save the space industry billions of dollars,” she said. “This opportunity provides me the chance to further this research and prepare for my own launch to Mars.”

AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher said,

“If aerospace is to continue pushing boundaries to create a better world for us all, we need students like Eleanor Sigrest to be inspired to take up the challenge. Congratulations, Eleanor, on being the first winner of Design/Build/Launch! You inspire us!”

[ Dr. Erika Wagner, Payload Sales Director at Blue Origin, said,]

“Pushing the boundaries of technology are essential to charting our future course in space,” … “Eleanor’s passion to explore the unexplored and determination to bring clarity to science we don’t yet understand are unmatched, and we can’t wait to see how her experiment performs in space. We’re humbled to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM through payloads on our reusable New Shepard vehicle and our non-profit, Club for the Future.”

Eleanor has made presentations at the 2016 Broadcom MASTERS Science and Engineering Project Showcase in Washington, DC, and the 2017 World Science Festival in New York, NY. She leads workshops for middle-school girls, advocating for greater representation by women in STEM fields. She has been featured on NBC’s TODAY program in a “Girls Changing the World” segment and is a lifetime fellow of the American Junior Academy of Science. In May, Eleanor received the first-place AIAA “Look Up!” Award presented at the 2020 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF).

A fully reusable New Shepard rocket lifts off for a suborbital trip to space. Credits: Blue Origin

Design/Build/Launch (DBL) Competition
The DBL competition is open to high school students and designed to promote student engagement in microgravity and/or space technology research. Each proposal is composed of two parts: each entrant designed an experimental payload to be launched on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and described outreach plans to engage the public with the promise and excitement of space.

Eleanor’s DBL proposal was selected from among entries received from students from across the United States.

Eleanor will receive a $1,000 grant to prepare her work to fly on a future New Shepard flight. She will report on the results of her experiment at 2021 ASCEND, AIAA’s event dedicated to the space ecosystem.

About Blue Origin: For information on Blue Origin, visit and follow @BlueOrigin on Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about Club for the Future and our space mail program, visit and follow @ClubForFuture on Twitter and Instagram.

About AIAA: The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

About ASCEND: ASCEND stands for Accelerating Space Commerce, Exploration and New Discovery and is designed to bring together technical and business leaders to solve problems that affect the entire planet and beyond. Powered by AIAA, the ASCEND event will happen online 16–18 November 2020. For more information, please visit, or follow ASCEND on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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Refabricator 3D printer on ISS will use recycled plastic as feedstock

Tethers Unlimited sent me this update on the installation of the Refabricator 3D printer on the International Space Station:

Refabricator Installed on the ISS
Tethers Unlimited Announces Successful Installation
of the First Recycler-3D Printer On-Board the ISS

Astronaut Anne McClain installs Tethers Unlimited’s Refabricator™ recycling and 3D printing payload aboard the International Space Station.

Bothell, WA, 8 February 2019 – Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have successfully installed the first integrated recycler and 3D printer into the station’s experiment racks. This technology demonstration, called the Refabricator, will perform repeated recycling and 3D printing of plastic materials to demonstrate capabilities for supporting long-duration crewed space missions with sustainable manufacturing.

The Refabricator was developed and built by Tethers Unlimited, Inc. for NASA’s In-Space Manufacturing Project under funding from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. It combines the ability to recycle plastic items into high-quality 3D printer feedstock, and then use this feedstock to print new items. It is the first plastic recycler on the space station and the first combination of recycling and 3D printing capability in one unit.

“The Refabricator is key in demonstrating a sustainable model to fabricate, recycle and reuse parts and waste materials on extended space exploration missions,” said Niki Werkheiser, manager of In-Space Manufacturing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Tethers Unlimited engineers in Bothell, Washington supported the space station operations team while astronaut Anne McClain, also from Washington state, installed the Refabricator into the equipment rack. With the installation complete, Tethers Unlimited eagerly looks forward to the opportunity to begin experiment operations within the next few weeks.

“I’m incredibly proud and thankful for the hard work put in by our team, the astronauts, and the NASA In Space Manufacturing Team to get the Refabricator all the way to installation aboard the space station,” said Dr. Rob Hoyt, Tethers Unlimited’s CEO.  “The Refabricator is intended to demonstrate sustainable in-space manufacturing capabilities that are crucial to minimizing the costs and risks for long duration manned missions on the ISS, to the Moon, and someday to Mars.  It will provide future astronauts the ability to manufacture tools, replacement parts, utensils, and medical implements when they need them and greatly reduce the logistics costs for manned space missions by re-using waste materials and minimizing the amount of replacement parts that must be launched from Earth.”

The Refabricator™ recycling and 3D printing payload has been successfully installed into the International Space Station’s EXPRESS rack.

About Tethers Unlimited, Inc.: Tethers Unlimited, Inc. develops transformative technologies for Space and Defense missions.  Its technology portfolio includes programmable radios for small satellites, advanced space propulsion modules, and systems for in-space manufacturing of spacecraft components.   To learn more about TUI and its products, please visit

About NASA’s In-Space Manufacturing Program:

The mission patch for the Refabricator on the ISS.


The High Frontier: An Easier Way

Blue Origin flies New Shepard reusable rocket vehicle to edge of space

Blue Origin today successfully flew a New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket vehicle to over 100 km altitude. There were eight research experiments aboard the capsule, which separated from the booster after its engine ended its burn. The booster made a powered landing while the capsule returned via parachutes. The flight took place at Blue’s facility in West Texas.

This was the tenth flight of this second NS vehicle. During the webcast, a video was shown of a third New Shepard being transported from the factory in Washington state to the West Texas facility. The webcast host said this new vehicle will be dedicated to carrying people while the vehicle that flew today will focus on uncrewed missions with scientific and technology R&D payloads.

The complete webcast:

See also:


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Two rockets set to launch: A SpaceX Falcon 9 and Blue Origin’s New Shepard

[ Update Dec.18 #3: : All the launches set for today have been scrubbed:

Update Dec.18 #2: The Falcon 9 has also been scrubbed for today. No reason yet provided. They will try again tomorrow during a launch window that opens at 9:07 am EST (1407 GMT).

Update Dec.18: The Falcon 9 launch is now set for 9:34 EST. The New Shepard flight has been postponed:

Three other launches are also expected in the next day:

** ULA Delta-4 Heavy to launch a military payload from Vandenberg AFB in California this evening at 5:57 p.m. PST, 8:57 p.m. EST, 0157 GMT (19th)

** Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. 2 (GSLV Mk.2) will launch the GSAT 7A communications satellite for the Indian military. Liftoff currently set for 5:40 a.m. EST (1040 GMT) on Wed. Dec. 19.

** Russian/Arianespace Soyuz from Guiana Space Center in South America with a military reconnaissance satellite for France. Liftoff set for 11:37:14 a.m. EST (1637:14 GMT) on Wed. Dec.19.


Two rocket launches are scheduled for Tuesday morning within half hour of one another:

** GPS III SV01 MISSION | SpaceX – A Falcon 9 rocket is to place a USAF upgraded GPS satellite into orbit:

SpaceX is targeting Tuesday, December 18 for launch of the United States Air Force’s first Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The 26-minute launch window opens at 9:11 a.m. EST, or 14:11 UTC. The satellite will be deployed to medium Earth orbit approximately 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff. A 26-minute backup launch window opens on Wednesday, December 19 at 9:07 a.m. EST, or 14:07 UTC.

Due to mission requirements, SpaceX will not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch.

You can watch the live launch webcast below, starting about 15 minutes before liftoff, and find out more about the mission in our press kit.

** Blue Origin New Shepard NS-10 – Nine NASA sponsored experiments will ride Blue‘s reusable New Shepard suborbital rocket to over 100 km in altitude:

New Shepard to fly 9 NASA-sponsored Payloads to Space on NS-10

Blue Origin’s next New Shepard mission (NS-10) is currently targeting liftoff tomorrow at 8:30 am CST [9:30 am EST] / 14:30 UTC. This will be the 10th New Shepard mission and is dedicated to bringing nine NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program is an essential program for researchers providing access to microgravity for technology development. Blue supports NASA’s Flight Opportunities program and its role in perfecting technology for a future human presence in space.

The payloads flying with us on NS-10 include:

Carthage College Space Sciences Program: The Modal Propellant Gauging experiment led by Dr. Kevin Crosby is a joint effort with the NASA Kennedy Space Center Cryogenics Laboratory. It demonstrates a way to measure fuel levels in microgravity by using sound waves.

Controlled Dynamics Inc.: The Vibration Isolation Platform (VIP) aims to separate payloads from the normally occurring vibrations experienced during spaceflight. The payload led by Dr. Scott Green allows researchers to have a clear understanding of microgravity’s effects on their research results.

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab: On its second flight with Blue, the EM Field experiment will observe and collect data on the naturally occurring electromagnetic fields both inside and outside New Shepard during the launch. Principal Investigator Dr. Todd Smith will use success of this experiment to determine how global measurements of the Earth’s electromagnetic field can be conducted in the future.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: Cooling tightly-packed electronics onboard a spacecraft can be challenging, and many solutions have not been able to undergo robust testing. Principal Investigator Franklin Robinson will test one of these solutions in his Flow Boiling in Microgap Coolers experiment.

NASA Johnson Space Center: On its third flight on New Shepard, the Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 (SFEM-2) led by Dr. Katy Hurlbert will analyze various aspects of the flight environment during New Shepard’s mission profile, measuring cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, acceleration and more. The data collected will help future researchers on New Shepard design the most effective experiments for the vehicle.

Purdue University: Dr. Steven Collicott’s payload looks at Zero-Gravity Green Propellant Management Technology, which aims to help advance the use of a safer and more environmentally friendly rocket propellant by better understanding the fuel’s behavior in microgravity.

University of Central Florida: Two teams led by Dr. Josh Colwell and Dr. Addie Dove both have planetary science payloads on NS-10. The Collisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE) aims to understand how dust particles react after surface contact during exploration missions to places such as the Moon, Mars and asteroids. The Collection of Regolith Experiment (CORE) addresses the unique challenge of collecting and analyzing material samples in microgravity.

University of Florida: Dr. Rob Ferl and Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul are adapting technology designed for the ISS to suborbital uses with their experiment, Validating Telemetric Imaging Hardware for Crew-Assisted and Crew-Autonomous Biological Imaging in Suborbital Applications. By recalibrating the way data is collected, the experiment will enable more biological research on suborbital missions.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter for launch day updates and join us at to watch the launch live!


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EXOS Aerospace to launch student and medical research payloads on suborbital rocket

This Saturday at Spaceport America in New Mexico, EXOS Aerospace will attempt the first launch of the company’s reusable suborbital sounding rocket, which has the title SARGE (Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE) . The rocket will be carrying payloads for  student projects and medical research experiments:

Reusable Rocket to Carry Student and Medical Research Payloads into Space

Researching science in space has long been a costly endeavor. A rocket launching from New Mexico’s Spaceport America this Saturday may help change that when an EXOS Aerospace SARGE test flight heads into space carrying student and other research experiments.

Tune in to the launch live stream here at the EXOS YouTube channel. It will go active when the live stream begins:

Currently, liftoff is planned for 1:00 ET on Saturday (12:00 CT, 11:00 MT, 10:00 PT). The EXOS website ( has a countdown timer.

“Reusable rocket technology makes it possible to cut the launch waiting period for a payload dramatically, while also reducing costs,” said EXOS Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer John Quinn. “This lowers the barriers for the types of NewSpace education experiments made possible by Enterprise In Space (EIS).”

The EIS student experiments were created at the Grand Center Arts Academy (GCAA) in Saint Louis, Missouri. EIS worked with Andrew Goodin of GCAA and 24 students from his “Building Creative Confidence” class on experiments related to topics such as using the heat of space to melt crayons into space art and determining the effects of the space environment on maple tree seeds that will be grown on Earth when returned from space. To house the experiments, Goodin’s class produced a 3D-printed container that met the criteria of EXOS. In less than two months, they made a 3D-printed cube housing and drop tested it to ensure the object would survive the rocket trip.

Also onboard, the Center for Applied Space Technology (CAST)-sponsored Biological Research in Canister (BRIC) experiment features nine petri dishes containing biological material and is anticipated to have terrestrial and long-duration space flight applications. The BRIC project supports two proof-of-concept projects in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic of Florida Space Medicine program. These projects include an innovative passive flight-crew monitoring system and a cutting-edge organ-on-a-chip experiment.

Enterprise In Space, a nonprofit program of the National Space Society, has led the effort as part of its focus on STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) education and space exploration advocacy. EXOS is hosting the Enterprise In Space and CAST payloads as an in-kind contribution.

“This is the first of many anticipated suborbital research space flights,” said Shawn Case, EIS founder and chairman of the EIS board. “Our goal is to inspire the next generation of future astronauts and space explorers by doing valuable scientific experiments in space. The experiments going up with the SARGE rocket look at some really cutting-edge science, and we’re thrilled to be able to launch the educational payload for Goodin’s class.”

EIS plans to work with EXOS to create an educational K-12 curriculum for the EIS Academy (, as the two partners further develop a long-term relationship.

About Enterprise In Space: Enterprise In Space (EIS) is the world’s first NewSpace education program. EIS provides access to STEAM education to all through the open online EIS Academy. The program’s first Academy-wide project is the design, launch, and retrieval of a 3D-printed spacecraft carrying 100+ active and passive experiments from K-postgrad student teams from all around the world.

About the National Space Society (NSS): NSS is an independent nonprofit educational membership organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space, with over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The Society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space.

About EXOS Aerospace Systems and Technologies: EXOS is a leading developer of reusable space launch vehicles and is based in Greenville, Texas. EXOS provides affordable, repeatable, and reliable commercial spaceflight with accelerated turnaround.

About the Grand Center Arts Academy: GCAA Grand Center Arts Academy provides the highest level of academic and artistic education for the most talented students in the St. Louis community.

About the Center for Applied Space Technology: The Center for Applied Space Technology (CAST) is a 501(c)(3) corporation based in Florida with offices at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Jacksonville, FL. The Center has supported space medicine research in the laboratory and on parabolic, high altitude balloon and suborbital space flight, as well as on board the International Space Station. The EXOS flight will provide the CAST team with another significant opportunity to explore and characterize the behavior of biological systems when in the environment of microgravity.

About Made In Space: Made In Space, Inc. is the world’s most experienced in-space manufacturing company. Established in 2010 and with offices in Florida, California, Alabama and Ohio, Made In Space leverages the unique properties of the space environment to develop manufacturing solutions to commercial, industrial, research and defense challenges.

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