The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at the following three Phase II awards focused on new ways of exploring asteroids and moons.
Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect Soft-bots) Jay McMahon University of Colorado, Boulder
Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object Steven Oleson NASA Glenn Research Center
NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester Michael VanWoerkom ExoTerra Resource
Each award is worth up to $500,000 for a two-year study. Descriptions of the awards are below. (more…)
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.
The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with eight U.S. companies to advance small spacecraft and launch vehicle technologies that are on the verge of maturation and are likely to benefit both NASA and the commercial space market.
These partnerships are the result of a solicitation released in August 2016 by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), titled Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies. They mark the second round of public-private opportunities that enable industry to develop promising commercial space technologies that also may benefit future NASA missions.
NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently selected 13 proposals for Phase I awards. Below is the description of a propellant harvester submitted by Michael VanWoerkom of Exoterra Resource, LLC.
NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester
Michael VanWoerkom Exoterra Resource, LLC
The latest Decadal Survey lists multiple sample return missions to the Moon, Mars and Jovian moons as high priority goals. In particular, a mission to Jupiter’s Europa is a top science goal as its liquid oceans holds the potential for discovery of extra-terrestrial life. However, using traditional techniques, these delta-V intensive missions result in large initial masses and have cost estimates in the $1-5B range.
To reduce the cost of these missions, ExoTerra taps into both the rapidly developing CubeSat industry, in-situ resource utilization, and the work being performed with high power solar arrays and electric propulsion under the asteroid redirect program. Combined, these offer the ability to drastically reduce the initial mass and cost of sample return missions.
ExoTerra’s NIMPH project develops a CubeSat scale in-situ resource utilization system that harvests water to enable low-cost sample return missions to icy moons through micro-landers. To exemplify the enabling capabilities of the technology, the project demonstrates the ability to conduct a sample return mission from Europa at an order of magnitude cost reduction.
During the effort, we develop the mission architecture and concept of operations, identifying key risks and mitigations. The project then performs the conceptual design of the key ISRU and micro-thruster technologies. Finally, the results of the design are fed into the conceptual design of the micro-lander used to collect and deliver the sample. Once the micro-lander and ISRU technologies are demonstrated, it offers the potential to perform sample return missions across the solar system at an affordable price.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 13 proposals through NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that invests in transformative architectures through the development of pioneering technologies.
Among the selected are: a concept for reprogramming microorganisms that could use the Martian environment to recycle and print electronics; a two-dimensional spacecraft with ultra-thin subsystems that may wrap around space debris to enable de-orbiting; and a method of computational imaging that leverages extrasolar intensity fluctuations to detect “echoes” from planets and other structures orbiting a distant star.
The agency is working on two concepts for the mission. The first concept would fully capture a very small asteroid in free space and the other would retrieve a boulder off of a much larger asteroid. Both concepts would redirect an asteroid mass less than 10 meters in size to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) would rendezvous with the captured asteroid mass in lunar orbit and collect samples for return to Earth.
So far, CubeSats have been used exclusively in Earth orbit. But, imagine a fleet of these tiny spacecraft fanning out to the moon and other deep-space destinations.
That’s what NASA has in mind. The space agency has just committed about $1.1 million to fund nine research projects that address different deep-space cubesat technologies. The funding is part of the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Select Phase 1 grants announced earlier this week.