NASA Seeks Proposals on Asteroid Redirect Mission Concepts Development

60 Comments

asteroid_retrieval_nasa
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In support of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission – a key part of the agency’s stepping stone path to send humans to Mars – agency officials are seeking proposals for studies on advanced technology development.

Through a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), released Friday, NASA hopes to solicit proposals for concept studies in areas including asteroid capture systems, rendezvous sensors, adapting commercial spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Mission and feasibility studies of potential future partnership opportunities for secondary payloads and the crewed mission.

“As NASA continues to make great progress refining our mission concepts, we’re reaching out to seek new and innovative ideas as we extend the frontier of space exploration,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “To reach Mars, we’ll rely on new technologies and advanced capabilities proven through the Asteroid Initiative. We’re looking forward to exciting ideas from outside NASA as well to help realize that vision.”

Following evaluations of the proposals, NASA plans to select no more than 25 proposals and make total awards of as much as $6 million. Contracts would begin and end this year. More information can be found in the BAA, available at:

http://go.nasa.gov/1jhiPXs

The announcement precedes a Wednesday, March 26, Asteroid Initiative Opportunities Forum at NASA Headquarters. The forum will provide status updates from ongoing Asteroid Redirect Mission concept and extensibility refinement and expand on the BAA, which is a follow-on step from the 2013 Request for Information in mission planning activities. The event also will highlight opportunities for public engagement in the mission and activities associated with the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge. The forum will be carried on NASA Television and streamed online for virtual participants. For the agenda and to register as a virtual participant, go to:

http://socialforms.nasa.gov/asteroidforum-virtual

NASA’s Asteroid Initiative includes the Asteroid Grand Challenge and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The grand challenge will develop new partnerships and collaborations to accelerate the agency’s existing planetary defense work, and the mission will collect and redirect an asteroid where astronauts can explore and sample it.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission has three major elements: target identification; a robotic mission to capture and redirect the selected asteroid into a stable orbit beyond the moon; and a crewed segment in which astronauts in NASA’s Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System rocket will rendezvous with the captured asteroid, conduct spacewalks to collect samples from it, and return them to the Earth for analysis. New capabilities and systems tested through the Asteroid Initiative will advance NASA’s ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Asteroid Initiative, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Finding a few disparate water molecules scattered around or under the lunar surface is going to be difficult time consuming and energy intensive. More likely it’ll be under high crater cliffs which is going to be much more dangerous and difficult to reach. Then you’ve got to collect and process it. All this is going to take decades and decades to put in place on anything like a useful scale. Regolith may be oxygen rich, but the excavation and industrial processes to required it would, again, take many years and energy on the scale of a nuclear generator to extract.

    Not the industrialisation of the Moon nor the colonisation of Mars are going to happen without reusable launch systems. Once you have a reusable launch capability, the cost of lifting fuel, water and hardware to LEO becomes almost insignificant; especially compared to the cost of installing industrialised mining on the Moon. Perhaps some time in the future Moon fuel and/or water may be on a scale and cost competitive with Earth. By which time nuclear-electric propulsion will negate the need for lunar fuel. The maturity of reusable launch will still be competitive/convenient for water as perhaps will Martian water. Your delta-v argument secondary to the cost. It is not about physics, it is about economics.

  • Tonya

    So you’re idea is for a massive heavy spaceship with artificial gravity that will take up to nine months to reach Mars, or require even more mass increase to shave just a little time off.

    The engineering for nuclear thermal is 90% done. You’re designing ocean liners when the jet plane is already on the drawing board.

  • Tonya

    I’ve seen many proposals for a return to the moon and using it’s resources. They were all considerably more complicated than cooking a TV dinner.

  • Tonya

    I refer you to my earlier answer –

    “I’ve never seen a calculation that makes it work without making generous assumptions about the cost and difficulty of mining the moon, and at the same time eliminating nuclear as a propulsion option.”

    This still appears to hold true.

  • newpapyrus

    My plan is to dramatically reduce the delta v requirements by launching reusable interplanetary vehicles from the Earth-Moon Lagrange points to high Mars orbit using lunar polar ice resources rather than hyper expensive terrestrial water and fuel resources.

    Twin habitats rotating at opposite ends of each other are used to produce artificial gravity in order to eliminate the deleterious effects of microgravity. It also increases crew capacity while also enhancing astronaut safety by providing a back up habitat in case there is a serious malfunction in the other habitat.

    And it would also provide artificial gravity for the astronauts while they are in orbit around Mars for several months exploring the martian moons or deploying a manned shuttles to the Martian surface.

    Marcel

  • newpapyrus

    Its only hard if you want it to be hard:-)

    Cooking Up Water From the Moon? NASA Studies Water Extraction With Microwaves

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2009/09-083.html

    Marcel

  • Tonya

    Well that’s impressive. They managed to extract a little under 3kg of water per day for 1kw of energy.

    So, to get a useful amount of fuel to do a Mars mission, how much do we need to scale that up, about x1000? So let’s start with a solar array around 10x bigger than the ISS and put that on the moon. How many ISS launches will that take?

    Next, well need something to move all these microwave ovens around. Now the moon is a very hostile environment for rovers, the temperate range is brutal and the dust shreds mechanical parts. Just for the amount you want to extract you’ll need a lot of these and each will probably last at best a few years if used heavily every day. Shall we say one new rover per month so we have a few dozen of them in service at a time?

    But we also need to get this stuff off the moon, so we need a transport for that, and that of course needs to be reusable. But not just reusable, but VERY reusable, something that can be flown hundreds of times. So we’re going to have to invent a deeply reusable engine that requires minimal servicing, and of course it will also have to run on LOX/LH2 and have a wide throttling range for landing.

    That’s basically unobtainium and a reason why lunar mining proposals often add another requirement for railguns, space elevators or some other high capital cost infrastructure solution.

    Is this starting to sound complicated yet?

    Just using the SLS for sake of argument, where do you think the break even point is between launching all this stuff at the moon or just launching the fuel? 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 launches?

    Do you think you’ll get there before someone remembers that we basically solved the hard engineering problems on nuclear thermal four decades ago?

  • windbourne

    This is not about physics. This is about economics. And the fact is, that it is MUCH CHEAPER AND FASTER to currently launch from earth to get to mars, then from the moon.

    And as tonya and I spoke of earlier, the way to do this is to have BOTH the moon and mars, and ideally, the asteroid, happen at the same time.

    She suggests a COTS-lunar, while I suggest a COTS-SHLV. Both will accomplish the issue.

  • windbourne

    musk has been lobbying CONgress to focus on restarting NERVA. Sadly, they are not interested.

  • windbourne

    yeah, it is not as though you can tether 2 BA-330’s or multiple BA-1400’s together and spin them around a center like a bike wheel.