NASA Selects 31 Promising Space Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

NASA has selected 31 promising space technologies for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems. By exposing the innovations to many of the rigors and characteristics of spaceflight – without the expense of an orbital flight – NASA can help ensure these technologies work correctly when they are deployed on future missions.

“By supporting suborbital flight testing, our Flight Opportunities  program aims to help ensure that these innovations are well-positioned to address challenges and enable NASA to achieve its lunar ambitions, while also contributing to a growing and vibrant commercial space industry,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Flight Opportunities program is part of STMD.

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NASA Selects Maxar to Build, Fly Innovative Robotic Spacecraft Assembly Technology on Restore-L

SPIDER on the Restore-L satellite. (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Maxar PR) — Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR), a trusted partner and innovator in Earth Intelligence and Space Infrastructure, today announced that it was selected by NASA to perform an in-space assembly demonstration using a lightweight robotic arm. The arm, called SPIDER (Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot), will be integrated with the spacecraft bus Maxar is building for NASA’s Restore-L project, which plans to refuel a satellite in low Earth orbit.

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NIAC Award: Micro-Probes Propelled & Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity

Creditr: Yu Gu/Kansas National Geographic

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Micro-Probes Propelled and Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity (MP4AE)
Yu Gu
West Virginia University

Inspired by spiders’ ballooning capabilities, the proposed concept envision the deployment of thousands of micro probes to study planetary atmospheres. Each micro probe, with a total mass of about 50 mg, will have a small payload pod hanging under a 200 m long string loop, which provides both atmospheric drag and electrostatic lifts. Two electric booms each about 2.5 m long will sense the Atmospheric Potential Gradient (APG) and harvest a small amount of electricity for powering the probe.

The payload pod will contain energy storage and conversion devices, an actuator for replenishing and regulating the static electric charge on the string loop, and integrated microprocessor, radio, and sensors. The motions of the micro probes will be uncontrolled along the horizontal directions but can be regulated to a limited degree along the vertical direction.

The onboard control system will allow extending the mission time and increasing the probability of keeping the probe in the desired atmospheric layer. If successful, the proposed micro probes can support several future planetary missions by gaining large spatial-scale atmospheric sensing capabilities.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List