NASA Ames, JPL Developing Game Changing Technologies

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This picture shows three High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensors, mounted on leadless chip carriers. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA PR — Two NASA California centers have been selected to develop new space-aged technologies that could be game-changers in the way we look at planets from above and how we safely transport robots or humans through space and bring them safely back to Earth.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will use advanced compound semiconductor materials to develop new technologies for the High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration. NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., is developing the Woven Thermal Protection System to radically change the way heat shields protect spacecraft during re-entry.

The High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration is aimed at lowering operational cost and system weight for sensors. The higher the temperature at which an infrared detector can operate, the less power is required to cool it. If successful, this sensor technology could be used in many future NASA Earth and planetary science instruments, as well as for U.S. commercial and defense applications.

“The technology demonstration effort is different in the fact that we’re focused on affordability concurrently with performance,” said Sarath Gunapala of JPL, who is project manager for the High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration. “This technology has excellent potential for transitioning from laboratory demonstration to NASA and commercial product lines.”

The overall goal for this technology development effort is to achieve 100 percent cost savings as compared with traditional cryogenically cooled infrared sensors. The weight and volume savings allow for more compact instruments — an important consideration for a spacecraft’s payload size and cost. This state-of-the-art technology also will have spinoff applications for commercial instrument manufacturers.

Seeking to radically change the way heat shields protect spacecraft during atmospheric entry, NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., is developing the Woven Thermal Protection System. The project is a revolutionary approach to thermal protection system design and manufacturing for extreme environments. Ames is the lead center for the project, partnering with NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Partnering with the U.S. textile industry, NASA is employing an advanced, three-dimensional weaving approach in the design and manufacture of thermal protection systems. Today, lightweight aircraft parts are being manufactured using similar weaving technologies. This will be expanded to include spacecraft heatshield applications. The system will enhance performance using advanced design tools with cost savings from a shortened product development and testing cycle.

“Woven TPS has the potential to significantly impact future NASA missions by changing heat shield development from a challenge to be overcome into a mission-enabling component,” said NASA Langley’s Ethiraj Venkatapathy, principal investigator of the project. “By delivering improved heat shield performance and affordability, this technology will impact all future exploration missions, from the robotic science missions to Mars, Venus and Saturn to the next generation of human missions.”

NASA’s Game-Changing Technology Division focuses on maturing advanced space technologies that may lead to entirely new approaches for the agency’s future space missions while finding solutions to significant national needs. NASA Langley oversees project management of the Game Changing Technology programs.

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information on the Game-Changing Technology Division, visit: http://go.usa.gov/IQn .

For more information about JPL technology, visit: http://scienceandtechnology.jpl.nasa.gov/ .

  • Paul451

    Would this have made much difference to the cost of JWST had it already existed while they were building instruments?

  • warshawski

    I hope the Woven TPS technology is available to SpaceX in making Falcon 9 re-usable. That would be a real game changer not just to sensing technology but to space access as a whole. If the launch vehicle is re-usable the cost falls and whole new industries become viable.
    Making space access more affordable should be the prime objective of NASA as it is the key enabling technology.

  • Paul451

    It probably needs to be said: This is the stuff NASA should be doing. Not big rockets.