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Xplore wins award for solar observatory concept

Xcraft observing sun
Artwork shows Xplore’s Xcraft probe observing the sun in different spectral bands. (Xplore Illustration)

Seattle-based Xplore has won a $670,111 award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to look into the feasibility of sending a solar observatory to a gravitational balance point that’s a million miles from Earth.

From that spot, known as the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange Point, Xplore’s multi-mission Xcraft probe would monitor the sun and provide early detection of solar storms that could disrupt power grids and telecommunications on Earth.

Based on the outcome of Xplore’s study, which is due for completion in December, NOAA would decide whether or not to provide further support for the concept that the company comes up with.

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Space investor reserves spot on Xplore probe

Xplore probe
An artist’s conception shows Xplore’s Xcraft probe near the moon. (Xplore Illustration)

Seattle-based Xplore says space investor and philanthropist Dylan Taylor plans to reserve payload space on its first mission beyond Earth orbit, on behalf of a nonprofit group he founded.

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Xplore works with gravity-lens telescope team

Solar sail
An artist’s conception shows Xplore’s advanced solar sail for NASA’s Solar Gravity Lens Focus mission. (Visualization by Bryan Versteeg, SpaceHabs.com / via Xplore)

NASA has awarded a $2 million grant to the Jet Propulsion LaboratoryThe Aerospace Corp. — and Xplore, a Seattle-based space venture — to develop the design architecture for a far-out telescope array that would use the sun’s gravitational field as a lens to focus on alien planets.

The Phase III award from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, or NIAC, would cover two years of development work and could lead to the launch of a technology demonstration mission in the 2023-2024 time frame.

Xplore’s team will play a key role in designing the demonstration mission’s spacecraft, which would be launched as a rideshare payload and propelled by a deployable solar sail.

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Xplore to study navigation for cislunar missions

Xplore moon mission
An artisti’s conception shows Xplore’s Xcraft with the moon in the background. (Xplore Illustration)

Seattle-based Xplore has won a $50,000 award from the Air Force to develop an architecture for keeping track of missions between Earth and the moon.

The three-month study is being funded through the Air Force’s AFWERX technology innovation program, a partnership involving the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Security Innovation Network. The Air Force wants to develop systems for position, navigation and timing, or PNT, that would extend a GPS-like tracking system to cislunar space — that is, the domain of space extending to the moon.

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Xcraft probe lands in Xtronaut 2.0 board game

Xtronaut 2.0 playing cards
Xplore’s Xcraft space probe is featured on the Xtronaut 2.0 card at far right. (Xplore / Xtronaut Illustration)

Seattle-based Xplore isn’t due to launch its first Xcraft space probe until late 2021, but it’s already landed in an educational board game.

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Xplore forges tech partnerships for space trips

Xcraft at moon
An artist’s conception shows Xplore’s Xcraft spacecraft at the moon. (Xplore / Orbion Illustration)

Seattle-based Xplore has selected two new technologies for propelling and refueling its Xcraft spacecraft as it makes its way to the moon and beyond.

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Xplore, Nanoracks team up on deep-space missions

Xcraft and moon
An artist’s conception shows Xplore’s Xcraft probe making its way to the moon. (Xplore Illustration)

Seattle-based Xplore says it’s joining forces with Houston-based Nanoracks to create low-cost rideshare opportunities for payloads heading for the moon, Mars and other destinations beyond Earth orbit.

The partnership takes advantage of the commercial approach to deep-space exploration that’s being pioneered at NASA under Administrator Jim Bridenstine, said Lisa Rich, Xplore’s chief operating officer and co-founder.

“We’re the perfect fit for Bridenstine’s goal of NASA being one partner of many partners,” she told GeekWire today.

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Archives will be going to the moon and beyond

Xcraft
Artwork shows Xcraft, the spacecraft being developed for interplanetary missions. (Xplore Illustration)

Seattle-based Xplore and the Arch Mission Foundation are teaming up on what sounds like “Mission: Impossible”: a plan to send the foundation’s Arch Libraries on space odysseys to the moon, Mars, Venus and near-Earth asteroids starting in 2021.

The micro-miniaturized compendiums of human knowledge, laser-etched on nickel to preserve the equivalent of 30 million pages of information, are to be attached as payloads to Xplore’s Xcraft spacecraft and sent into deep space on rockets to be named later.

“Our civilization’s knowledge is precious. Helping distribute Arch Libraries in space is an important way to secure this valuable data,” Xplore CEO Jeff Rich said in a news release. “The Xplore team is proud to host the Lunar Library payload on our missions.”

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