New NASA Lunar Tech Funding Opportunity for U.S. Universities

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s new lunar surface technology research (LuSTR) opportunity seeks U.S. universities’ ideas to advance technologies needed for sustainable operations on the Moon. Via the solicitation, NASA will fund lunar technology development and accelerate the readiness of systems and components.

“NASA has a rich tradition of engaging talented teams at universities to develop groundbreaking, novel capabilities,” said Walt Engelund, the deputy associate administrator for programs in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “LuSTR will continue that tradition, emphasizing technologies for the Moon in the near-term.”

LuSTR targets technology areas to support NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative and the Artemis program. In its inaugural year, LuSTR seeks proposals relating to in-situ resource utilization and sustainable power systems. Six topics, relating to these two lunar capabilities, describe the types of proposals NASA is requesting.

Generating products with local materials on the Moon – a practice called in-situ resource utilization – will require new technologies. The 2020 LuSTR solicitation asks universities to propose innovations related to the following topics:

  • Advanced techniques for extracting and processing of water from lunar soil, or regolith. Maturing these technologies will help NASA figure out the best method to produce rocket fuel and other consumables from resources on the Moon.
  • Methods for determining the distribution and properties of water-bearing regolith, including instruments and measurement techniques for acquiring knowledge about the lunar surface to design in-situ resource utilization systems effectively.

On the Moon, the cold lunar night lingers for 14 days, and dark, permanently shadowed craters are of interest to study. Sustainable surface power will let NASA explore these regions and support robust operations on the Moon. Universities can contribute to this area by suggesting:

  • Flexible power distribution technologies for hard-to-reach locations and mobile applications. Wireless technologies to enable exploration in environments where conventional power generation methods, storage, and distribution might not work well.
  • Radiation-tolerant power electronics, and specifically how to include silicon carbide components in lunar power systems that withstand the space radiation environment.
  • Low-temperature batteries that provide reliable sustained power anywhere on the Moon.
  • Advanced power system control technologies that enable interconnected systems with distributed and diverse energy sources.

The 2020 LuSTR solicitation opened July 15. Notices of intent are due Aug. 12, and proposals are due Sept. 9. The maximum funding per grant is $2 million over two years. Only accredited U.S. universities are eligible to submit proposals. Proposers may partner with other universities, and teaming with industry and/or non-profit entities is encouraged, subject to restrictions outlined in the solicitation.

“Industry engagement in university-led research may facilitate the rapid infusion of technologies developed under LuSTR awards into Artemis,” said Engelund.

The opportunity is part of NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program – one of five solicitations meant to engage academia and accelerate the development of high-priority technologies. The program and NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative are part of STMD.

To learn more about opportunities to work and partner with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/solicitations