NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening their longstanding partnership on space-based assets benefitting life on Earth.
The agreement brings together NASA’s experience with technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements and USDA’s scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, and forests and working lands.
NASA and USDA will explore research gaps of importance to the agricultural community that could be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems and technologies developed over the next decade. The collaboration also will address recommendations made in the 2017 National Academies’ Earth Science Decadal Survey.
“When we combine research on the International Space Station with the amazing capabilities that Earth observation provides, I believe that NASA, in partnership with USDA, could transform farming and bolster agricultural production in ways we can’t even imagine today,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Microgravity research can unlock secrets in a wide variety of fields, and I’m particularly excited about our agency’s potential impact on next-generation agricultural techniques.”
The agreement also will leverage USDA’s connections with the agricultural community and the global marketplace.
“As we’ve seen over the past 100 years, increasing innovation in agriculture is limitless,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This partnership between USDA and NASA will bring together the best research, science, and technology we have to offer to help produce more food to feed the growing world. We are continuing an already great collaborative effort to utilize space-based technologies across sectors and into agriculture.”
The partnership outlined in the agreement will benefit a variety of Earth and space-based goals, including activities in support of NASA’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon and establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners. Plant-related research on the International Space Station, and other space or ground platforms, may lead to creative new ways to improve American and global agriculture, protect the environment, and contribute to better human health.
In addition, the agencies collaborate to inspire youth in America to pursue careers in STEM and agriculture through various education and communication activities, such as the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education.
Furthermore, NASA has also awarded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company Blue Origin a NASA Launch Services II (NLS II) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to launch planetary, Earth observation, exploration, and scientific satellites for the agency aboard New Glenn, Blue Origin’s orbital reusable launch vehicle. The contract allows Blue Origin to compete for missions through Launch Service Task Orders issued by NASA. Project managers at NASA Centers around the country can now design spacecraft to take advantage of New Glenn’s unique seven-meter fairing and heavy-lift performance for a broad range of missions.
“We are proud to be in NASA’s launch services catalog and look forward to providing reliable launches for future NASA missions aboard New Glenn for years to come. The award builds on Blue Origin’s existing partnership with NASA and will advance science and exploration to benefit Earth,” said Jarrett Jones, senior vice president, New Glenn, Blue Origin.
New Glenn is a single-configuration, operationally reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle powered by seven BE-4 liquefied natural gas rocket engines. The vehicle’s seven-meter fairing provides more than double the usable volume of any existing launch vehicle.