NASA STTR 2018 Program Solicitation
NOTE: The Solicitations and topics listed on this site are copies from the various SBIR agency solicitations and are not necessarily the latest and most up-to-date. For this reason, you should use the agency link listed below which will take you directly to the appropriate agency server where you can read the official version of this solicitation and download the appropriate forms and rules.
The official link for this solicitation is: https://sbir.nasa.gov/solicit-detail/59380
Application Due Date:
Available Funding Topics
- 02: Power Energy and Storage
- 03: Autonomous Systems for Space Exploration
- 04: Robotic Systems for Space Exploration
- 06: Life Support and Habitation Systems
- 09: Sensors, Detectors and Instruments
- 12: Entry, Descent, and Landing Systems
- 14: In-Space and Advanced Manufacturing
- 15: Lightweight Materials Structures and Assembly / Construction
- 18: Air Vehicle Technology
- 21: Small Spacecraft Technologies
Power Energy and Storage
Focus Area 2: Power Energy and Storage
Lead MD: STMD
Participating MD(s): SMD, STTR
Power is a ubiquitous technology need across many NASA missions. Within the SBIR Program, power is represented across a broad range of topics in human exploration, space science, space technology and aeronautics. New technologies are needed to generate electrical power and/or store energy for future human and robotic space missions and to enable hybrid electric aircraft that could revolutionize air travel. A key goal is to develop technologies that are multi-use and cross-cutting for a broad range of NASA mission applications. In aeronautics, power technologies are needed to supply large-scale electric power and efficiently distribute the power to aircraft propulsors (see Focus Area 18 – Air Vehicle Technologies). In the space power domain, mission applications include planetary surface power, large-scale spacecraft prime power, small-scale robotic probe power, and smallsat/cubesat power. Applicable technology options include photovoltaic arrays, radioisotope power systems, nuclear fission, thermal energy conversion, motor/generators, fuel cells, batteries or other energy storage devices, power management, transmission, distribution and intelligent control. An overarching objective is to mature technologies from analytical or experimental proof-of-concept (TRL 3) to breadboard demonstration in a relevant environment (TRL 5). Successful efforts will transition into NASA Projects where the SBIR/STTR deliverables will be incorporated into ground testbeds or flight demonstrations.
Intelligent/Autonomous Electrical Power Systems
Lead Center: GRC
Participating Center(s): JPL
Missions to Mars and beyond experience communication delays with Earth of between 3 to 45 minutes. Due to this, it is impractical to rely on ground-based support and troubleshooting in the event of a power system fault or component failure. Intelligent/autonomous systems are required that can manage the power system in both normal mode and failure mode.
In normal mode, the system would predict energy availability, perform load scheduling, maintain system security and status on-board and ground based personnel. One aspect of overall system autonomy would be solar array characterization, for spacecraft utilizing this technology. One drawback of current satellite systems is the lack of adequate means of determining solar panel or cell status. Being able to automatically characterize solar panel status can enhance energy availability prediction. Similar technology to access that status of battery systems would further enhance these predictions.
In failure mode, the system must identify a fault or failure and perform contingency planning to react or reconfigure the system appropriately to move it back into normal mode of operation, without human involvement. The technologies to detect and identify specific failures in both the generation, distribution and storage systems are needed along with strategies to utilize the failure data to identify recovery strategies for the power system.
With the potential of future manned missions to Mars, this technology will become increasingly important for electrical power management and distribution. Specific areas of interest include:
- Autonomous/intelligent PMAD.
- Failure detection strategies.
- Recovery strategies.
- Generation and storage characterization.
Bio-inspired Concepts for the Development of Power, Energy and Storage Technologies for Air and Space
Lead Center: GRC
Participating Center(s): ARC, LaRC
Biomimicry is the imitation of life and life's principles characterized by reduced use of energy, water and raw materials. Energy and material use is substituted by information and structure. The goal of this topic is to focus efforts on system driven technology development that draws from nature to solve technical challenges in aeronautics and space exploration. This subtopic is also looking for proposals that include data collection that would add to the Periodic Table of Life database. For example, if looking at building a solar concentrator based on plants, it would be valuable to collect and share information on a wide variety of applicable plants and related biological models. The data may be from literature, museums, or through measurements conducted as part of the STTR.
Proposals must demonstrate that the proposed technology complies with natural principles, patterns and mechanisms. Refer to the following sources to understand biomimetic principles.
Some resources are provided here:
- V.I.N.E. (Virtual Interchange for Nature-inspired Exploration) - https://www.grc.nasa.gov/vine.
- PeTaL - https://www.grc.nasa.gov/vine/about/what-is-petal/.
- Taxonomy tool - https://asknature.org/.
- Systems tool - http://toolbox.biomimicry.org/.
Technology is sought in the following areas:
Bio-inspired resource utilization, power generation, energy storage, power management and distribution
The NRC has identified a NASA Top Technical Challenge as the need to "Increase Available Power". Additionally, a NASA Grand Challenge is "Affordable and Abundant Power" for NASA mission activities. It is essential to be able to harness, store and distribute energy while maintaining minimal system mass and complexity. Biological models such as the oriental hornet or electric eel may be obvious candidates. Methods to improve solar cell efficiency or to create structural solar cells are of interest.
Power generation and management systems are also of interest to the growing Hybrid Gas Electric Propulsion Project under ARMD. There is specific interest in motor thermal management and low loss power distribution and storage. New concepts for electric motors and hybrid systems are desirable.
Topics include, but are not limited to:
- Solar electric propulsion concepts (packing strategies based on nature, cell orientation/stabilization)
- Thermal management for solar electric propulsion.
- In Situ Resource Utilization using nature-inspired principles (passive, feedback controls, using local resources and energy sources, water-based chemistry and processes).
- Life support systems and personal protective equipment including anti-microbial films, first aid, radiation protection. Examples of natural models include tardigrades, structural color in butterflies/peacocks, shark skin.
- Swarm topologies, communication strategies and system dynamics applied to CubeSats or rovers.
Cross cutting technology making use of bio-inspired processes
Specific areas of interest include:
- Tools to aid in discovery of bio-inspired materials or technology.
- Demonstrations of advantages in mass savings made possible through bioinspired topologies enabled by additive manufacturing methods.
- Controlled synthesis of lightweight engineering materials due to bioinspired synthesis methods.
Autonomous Systems for Space Exploration
Focus Area 3: Autonomous Systems for Space Exploration
Lead MD: HEOMD
Participating MD(s): SMD, STTR
The exploration of space requires the best of the nation's technical community to provide the technologies that will enable human and robotic exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO): to visit asteroids, to extend man’s reach to Mars, and for increasingly ambitious robotic missions such as a Europa Lander. Autonomous Systems technologies provide the means of migrating mission control from Earth to spacecraft, habitats, and robotic explorers. This is enhancing for missions in the Earth-Lunar neighborhood and enabling for deep space missions. Long light-time delays, for example up to 42 minutes round-trip between Earth and Mars, require time-critical control decisions to be closed on-board autonomously through automation, augmented for human missions by astronaut-automation teaming,
rather than through round-trip communication to Earth mission control.
Long-term crewed spacecraft and habitats, such as the International Space Station, are so complex that a significant portion of the crew's time is spent keeping it operational even under nominal conditions in low-Earth orbit, while still requiring significant real-time support from Earth. The considerable challenge is to migrate the knowledge and capability embedded in current Earth mission control, with tens to hundreds of human specialists ready to provide instant knowledge, to on-board automation that teams with astronauts to autonomously manage spacecraft and habitats. For outer planet robotic explorers, the opportunity is to autonomously and rapidly respond to dynamic environments in a timely fashion. The autonomous agent subtopic addresses this challenge by soliciting proposals that leverage the growing field of cognitive computing to advance technology for deep-space autonomy.
The technology challenge for autonomous crewed systems in off-nominal conditions is even more critical. In the majority of Apollo lunar missions, Earth mission control was needed to resolve critical off-nominal situations ranging from unexplained computer alarms on Apollo 11 to the oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13 that required executing an 87-hour free return abort trajectory around the moon and back to Earth. Through creative use of Lunar Module assets, Apollo 13 had sufficient resiliency to keep the three astronauts alive despite loss of the oxygen tank and many of the capabilities of the service module. In contrast to a lunar mission, a free return abort trajectory around Mars and back to Earth is on the order of two years – requiring a leap in resiliency. To prevent Loss of Mission (LOM) or Loss of Crew (LOC) in deep space missions, spacecraft and habitats will require long-term resiliency to handle failures that lead to loss of critical function or unexpected expenditure of consumables. Long communication delays or accidents that cause loss of communication will require that the initial failure response be handled autonomously. The subtopic on resilient autonomous systems solicits technology for the design and quantification of resiliency in long-duration missions. The subtopic on sustainable habitats solicits technology for long-term system health management that goes beyond short-term diagnosis technology to include advances machine learning and other prognostic technologies.
Enhancing the capability of astronauts is also critical for future long-duration deep space missions. Augmented reality technology can guide astronauts in carrying out procedures through various sensory modalities. The augmented reality subtopic within the STMD Robotics area is very relevant to autonomous systems technologies, and
proposers are encouraged to review that subtopic description.
Machine learning could become an increasingly important aspect of space exploration, from finding novel patterns in the science data transmitted from robotic spacecraft, to the operation of sustainable habitats. The sustainable habitat subtopic calls for machine learning technology in order to substantially improve diagnostic and prognostic performance for integrated systems health management. In addition, STTR subtopics related to machine learning are very relevant to autonomous systems technologies.
Coordination and Control of Swarms of Space Vehicles
Lead Center: JPL
Related Subtopic Pointer(s): Z8.02
This subtopic is focused on developing and demonstrating technologies for coordination and autonomous control of teams and swarms of space systems including but not limited to spacecraft and planetary rover teams in a dynamic environment.
Possible areas of interest include but are not limited to:
- Coordinated task planning, operation, and execution.
- Relative localization in space and on planet surface.
- Close proximity operations of spacecraft swarms including sensors required for collision detection and avoidance.
- Fast, real-time, coordinated motion planning in areas densely crowded by other agents.
- Human-Swarm interaction interfaces for controlling the multi-agent system as an ensemble.
- Distributed fault detection and mitigation due to hardware failures or compromised systems.
- Communication-less coordination by observing and estimating the actions of other agents in the multi-agent system.
Phase I awards will be expected to develop theoretical frameworks, algorithms, software simulation and demonstrate feasibility (TRL 2-3). Phase II awards will be expected to demonstrate capability on a hardware testbed (TRL 4-6).
Intelligent Sensor Systems
Lead Center: SSC
Participating Center(s): KSC, MSFC
This subtopic area seeks to develop advanced instrumentation technologies which can be embedded in systems and subsystems. Embedded sensor systems have the potential for substantial reduction in time and cost of propulsion systems development, with substantially reduced operational costs and evolutionary improvements in ground, launch and flight system operational robustness. The technologies developed would be capable of addressing multiple mission requirements for remote monitoring such as vehicle health monitoring. The goal is to provide a highly flexible instrumentation solution capable of monitoring remote or inaccessible measurement locations. All this while reducing substantially or eliminating cabling. Highly desirable to be integrated into process control for highly autonomous system operation including the ability to detect present conditions and apply appropriate control system reactions.
Rocket propulsion development is enabled by rigorous ground testing in order to mitigate the propulsion system risks that are inherent in spaceflight. Test articles and facilities are highly instrumented to enable a comprehensive analysis of propulsion system performance. This subtopic seeks to develop advanced instrumentation technologies which can be embedded in systems and subsystems. The goal is to provide a highly flexible instrumentation solution capable of monitoring remote, hazardous or inaccessible measurement locations. All this while reducing or completely eliminating cabling and auxiliary power. It is focused on near-term products that augment and enhance proven, state-of-the-art propulsion test facilities and new ones to be developed. Rocket propulsion test facilities within NASA provide excellent test beds for testing and using the innovative technologies discussed above. The technologies developed would be capable of addressing multiple mission requirements for remote monitoring such as vehicle health monitoring.
Intelligent sensor systems have the potential for substantial reduction in time and cost of propulsion systems development, with substantially reduced operational costs and evolutionary improvements in ground, launch and flight system operational robustness. Sensor systems should provide an advanced diagnostics capability to monitor test facility parameters including simultaneous heat flux, temperature, pressure, strain and near-field acoustics. Applications encompass remote monitoring of vacuum lines, gas leaks and fire; where the use of wireless/self-powered sensors to eliminate power and data wires would be beneficial.
Sensor technologies should be capable of being embedded in structures and systems that are smaller, more energy efficient, and allow for more complete and accurate health assessments including structural health monitoring for long-duration missions. Structural health monitoring is one of the top technical challenges. Nanotechnology enhanced sensors are desired where applicable to provide a reduction in scale, increase in performance, and reduction of power requirements. Specific technology needs include the following:
- Sensor systems should have the ability to provide the following functionality:
- Measure of the quality of the measurement.
- Measure of the health of the sensor.
- Sensors are needed with capability to function reliably in extreme environments, including rapidly changing ranges of environmental conditions, such as those experienced in ground test, launch environment and space. These ranges may be from extremely cold temperatures, such as cryogenic temperatures, to extremely high temperatures, such as those experienced near a rocket engine plume. Collected data must be time stamped to facilitate analysis with other collected data sets.
- Sensor systems should be self-contained to collect information and relay measurements through various means by a sensor-web approach to provide a self-healing, auto-configuring method of collecting data from multiple sensors, and relaying for integration with other acquired data sets.
- Sensor technologies shall be capable of measuring pressure and temperature with cryogenic and gaseous fluid flow within metal piping.
- Sensor systems should enable the ability to detect anomalies, determine causes and effects, predict future anomalies, and provides an integrated awareness of the health of the system to users (operators, customers, management, etc.).
- The proposed innovative systems must lead to improved safety, reduced test, and space flight costs by allowing for the real-time analysis of data, information, and knowledge through efficient interfaces to enable integrated awareness of the system condition by users.
- The system provided must interface with existing data acquisition systems and the software used by such systems.
- The system must provide NIST traceable measurements.
- The system design should consider an ultimate use of space flight sensor systems, which could be used for multi-vehicle use.
Robotic Systems for Space Exploration
Focus Area 4: Robotic Systems for Space Exploration
Lead MD: STMD
Participating MD(s): SMD, STTR
This focus area includes development of robotic systems technologies (hardware and software) to improve the exploration of space. Robots can perform tasks to assist and off-load work from astronauts. Robots may perform this work before, in support of, or after humans. Ground controllers and astronauts will remotely operate robots using a range of control modes, over multiple spatial ranges (shared-space, line of sight, in orbit, and interplanetary) and with a range of time-delay and communications bandwidth. Technology is needed for robotic systems to improve transport of crew, instruments, and payloads on planetary surfaces, on and around small bodies, and in-space. This includes hazard detection, sensing/perception, active suspension, grappling/anchoring, legged locomotion, robot navigation, end-effectors, propulsion, and user interfaces.
In the coming decades, robotic systems will continue to change the way space is explored. Robots will be used in all mission phases: as independent explorers operating in environments too distant or hostile for humans, as precursor systems operating before crewed missions, as crew helpers working alongside and supporting humans, and as caretakers of assets left behind. As humans continue to work and live in space, they will increasingly rely on intelligent and versatile robots to perform mundane activities, freeing human and ground control teams to tend to more challenging tasks that call for human cognition and judgment.
Innovative robot technologies provide a critical capability for space exploration. Multiple forms of mobility, manipulation and human-robot interaction offer great promise in exploring planetary bodies for science investigations and to support human missions. Enhancements and potentially new forms of robotic systems can be realized through advances in component technologies, such as actuation and structures (e.g., 3D printing). Mobility provides a critical capability for space exploration. Multiple forms of mobility offer great promise in exploring planetary bodies for science investigations and to support human missions. Manipulation provides a critical capability for positioning crew members and instruments in space and on planetary bodies, it allows for the handling of tools, interfaces, and materials not specifically designed for robots, and it provides a capability for drilling, extracting, handling and processing samples of multiple forms and scales. This increases the range of beneficial tasks robots can perform and allows for improved efficiency of operations across mission scenarios. Manipulation is important for human missions, human precursor missions, and unmanned science missions. Sampling, sample handling, transport, and distribution to instruments, or instrument placement directly on in-place rock or regolith, is important for robotic missions to locales
too distant or dangerous for human exploration.
Future space missions may rely on co-located and distributed teams of humans and robots that have complementary capabilities. Tasks that are considered "dull, dirty, or dangerous" can be transferred to robots, thus relieving human crew members to perform more complex tasks or those requiring real-time modifications due to contingencies. Additionally, due to the limited number of astronauts anticipated to crew planetary exploration missions, as well as their constrained schedules, ground control will need to remotely supervise and assist robots using time-delayed and limited bandwidth communications. Advanced methods of human-robot interaction over time delay will enable more productive robotic exploration of the more distant reaches of the solar system. This includes improved visualization of alternative future states of the robot and the terrain, as well as intuitive means of communicating the intent of the human to the robotic system.
Information Technologies for Intelligent and Adaptive Space Robotics
Lead Center: ARC
Participating Center(s): JPL, JSC
Related Subtopic Pointer(s): H6.02
The objective of this subtopic is to develop information technologies (algorithms, avionics, and software) that enable robots to better support space exploration. Improving robot information technology is critical to improving the capability, flexibility, and performance of future NASA missions. In particular, the NASA "Robotics and Autonomous Systems" technology roadmap (T04) indicates that extensive and pervasive use of robots can significantly enhance future exploration missions that are progressively longer, complex, and operate with fewer ground control resources.
The performance of space robots is directly linked to the quality and capability of the information technologies that are used to build and operate them. Thus, proposals are sought that address the following technology needs:
- Advanced robot user interfaces that facilitate distributed collaboration, geospatial data visualization, summarization and notification, performance monitoring, and physics-based simulation. The primary objective is to enable more effective and efficient interaction with robots remotely operated with discrete commands or supervisory control. Note: proposals to develop user interfaces for direct teleoperation (manual control) are not being solicited and will be considered non-responsive.
- Navigation systems for mobile robot (free-flying and wheeled) operations in man-made (inside the International Space-Station) and unstructured, natural environments (Earth, Moon, Mars). Emphasis on multi-sensor data fusion, obstacle detection, and localization. The primary objective is to radically and significantly increase the performance of mobile robot autonomous navigation through new sensors, avionics (including COTS processors for use in space), perception algorithms and software. Proposals for small size, weight, and power (SWAP) systems are particularly encouraged.
- Robot software systems that support system-level autonomy, instrument/sensor targeting, downlink data triage, and activity planning. The primary objective is to facilitate the creation, extensibility and maintenance of complex robot systems for use in the real-world. Proposals that address autonomy for planetary rovers operating in rough terrain or performing non-traditional tasks (e.g., non-prehensile manipulation) are particularly encouraged.
Proposers are encouraged to target the demonstration of these technologies to existing NASA research robots or current projects in order to maximize relevance and potential for infusion.
Deliverables to NASA:
- Identify scenarios, use cases, and requirements.
- Define specifications based on design trades.
- Develop concepts and prototypes.
- Demonstrate and evaluate prototypes in real-world settings.
Deliver prototypes (hardware and/or software) to NASA.
Life Support and Habitation Systems
Focus Area 6: Life Support and Habitation Systems
Lead MD: HEOMD
Participating MD(s): STTR
The Life Support and Habitation Systems Focus Area seeks key capabilities and technology needs encompassing a diverse set of engineering and scientific disciplines, all which provide technology solutions that enable extended human presence in space. Functions include Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Systems, Advanced Food Technology and Biological Life Support.
Habitation systems encompass process technologies, equipment and monitoring functions necessary to provide and maintain a livable environment within the pressurized cabin of crewed spacecraft, including human accommodations, atmosphere revitalization, water recycling, waste management and resource recovery. Vehicle outfitting provides the equipment necessary for the crew to perform mission tasks as well as provide a comfortable and safe habitable volume. A capability for integrated system health management for these sustainable habitats is of interest. Providing cost effective, efficient and reliable carbon dioxide removal for human space applications has been a challenge, with improvements applicable to both Spacecraft ECLSS and EVA portable life support systems. Furthermore, as we consider human missions to planetary surfaces, such as to Earth’s moon and to the surface of Mars, new technologies may be required that are compatible with attributes of these environments, including partial gravity or reduced pressure atmosphere. Needs for EVA also include development of tinting and coatings for spacesuit visors and considerations for commercial space suit systems.
For future crewed missions beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO) and into the solar system, regular resupply of consumables and emergency or quick-return options will not be feasible. Technologies are of interest that enable long-duration, safe and sustainable deep-space human exploration with advanced extra-vehicular capability. Special emphasis is placed on developing technologies that will fill existing gaps, reduce requirements for consumables and other resources, including mass, power, volume and crew time, and which will increase safety and reliability with respect to the state-of-the-art. Biological systems, including plant growth systems and microbial bioreactors may be useful to regeneratively recycle wastes into consumables, including fresh foods, chemicals and new materials for in situ manufacturing. A system for preparing fresh fruits and vegetables for use in meals is also of interest, including washing
Please refer to the description of each subtopic for further detail to guide development of proposals.
Innovative Solutions to Carbon Dioxide Removal for Spacecraft, Surface Systems, and EVA Systems
Lead Center: JSC
Participating Center(s): ARC, MSFC
Technology advancements in Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) and spacecraft cabin life support systems are required to enable forecasted microgravity and planetary human exploration mission scenarios and to support potential extension of the International Space Station (ISS) mission beyond 2020.
Providing cost effective, efficient and reliable carbon dioxide removal for human space applications has been a challenge. The state-of-the-art zeolite-based system currently in use in for closed-loop atmosphere revitalization on the ISS has suffered from the production of fines, resulting in the need for frequent maintenance. Vacuum-based swing bed systems for potential use in the Portable Life Support Systems (PLSS) used in EVA space suits will not be effective in the Mars surface environment due to the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the Mars atmosphere. Both solutions become less efficient if the inlet partial pressure of CO2 from the crew environment is reduced. Novel solutions are sought for applications including Spacecraft, Surface Systems, and EVA Systems.
Advanced Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU)
Technologies are sought for continuous CO2 and relative humidity removal capability that can operate within space vacuum and Martian atmospheres (0.6 kPa, or 4.5 torr). Examples of advancements sought include:
- Improvements in sorbent CO2 and H2O uptake leading to smaller, more efficient beds.
- Providing for independent control and selectivity for CO2 and water vapor.
- Consideration for alternative process technologies, including but not limited to metal organic frameworks, ionic liquids, other liquid sorbents and supported structures, or selective permeable membranes.
- Novel systems integration and enhancements, such as using efficient boost compressors that may enable pressure swing operation in the Martian atmosphere, or temperature swing cycles that do not place a large power burden on the EMU.
Systems for Spacecraft Cabin and Surface Systems
Currently state-of-the-art CO2 removal systems are large and power intensive. Alternative systems have been proposed, including but not limited to, metal organic frameworks, ionic liquids and liquid sorbents, structured or other alternative solid sorbents, selective membranes, electrochemical separation, etc. Many of these novel alternative technologies are at a low TRL and require additional research and development to prove the concepts, especially at the low partial pressures required for use in the cabin environment. Improvements are sought in the following areas:
- Improvements in sorbent CO2 capacity and selectivity leading to smaller, more efficient components, lower energy consumption and operation at lower CO2 partial pressures.
- Increases in the robustness of sorbent materials to mechanical stresses, temperature and humidity changes, or poisoning.
- Advanced and novel methods to increase the efficiency of temperature and pressure swing adsorption processes.
- Innovations and improvements in capillary structures and gravity insensitive frameworks for containment and management of ionic liquids and liquid sorbents.
NASA is especially interested in systems that can be incorporated into closed loop life support systems that recycle CO2 and humidity, and could achieve the following performance targets. These parameters address the full system, including fans, valves, heat exchangers, etc.):
- Removal rate of 4.16 kg/day (a four-person load).
- Operate in an environment with 2.0 mmHg ppCO2 for cabin applications (based on the daily average ppCO2).
- System size ≤0.3 cubic meters for the 4-person load.
- System power use ≤500 watts of power for the 4-person load.
- System mass of ≤100 kilograms for the 4-person load.
- Effectively separate out water vapor (less than 100 ppm water vapor in the CO2 product is desired).
- Effectively separate out oxygen and nitrogen (less than 1% O2 and 2% N2 by volume in the CO2 product is desired).
Phase I Deliverables - Detailed analysis, proof of concept test data, and predicted performance (mass, volume, thermal performance) addressing inlet partial pressures of CO2 below and above 2 mmHg, with description of regeneration requirements, especially relationship to Mars atmosphere vacuum. Deliverables should clearly describe and predict performance over the state of the art.
Phase II Deliverables - Delivery of technologically mature components/subsystems that demonstrate functional performance with appropriate interfaces are required. Prototypes should be at least at a 1-crewmember scale.
Advanced Bioreactor Development for In Situ Microbial Manufacturing
Lead Center: ARC
NASA's future long-duration missions require a high degree of materials recovery and recycling as well as the ability to manufacture required mission resources in situ. While physico-chemical methods offer potential advantages for the production of many products, biological systems are able to manufacture a wide range of materials that are not yet possible with abiotic systems. Microbial systems are currently being developed by academic institutions, industry, and government agencies to produce a wide array of products that are applicable to space missions. Relevant mission resources include, but are not limited to, food, nutrients, pharmaceuticals, polymers, fuels and various chemicals.
While current space-based research involves engineering of organisms to produce targeted compounds as well as the in-situ production of microbial media to support larger scale operations, additional enabling research is needed to develop specialized bioreactors that are highly efficient, reliable, low volume and mass, and that otherwise meet the unique rigors of space.
Advanced bioreactor research and development has been primarily focused on terrestrial applications, particularly pharmaceutical, food and chemical production systems. Some space bioreactor work regarding flight experiments and life support applications has been conducted, such as algal reactors for CO2/O2 management. However, little to no effort has been conducted on the bioreactor design and operations that are required to enable in-situ microbial manufacturing. Therefore, innovations are sought to provide:
- Bioreactors that minimize mass, power and volume, maintenance, process inputs and waste production.
- Bioreactors that are capable of operating on the surface of Mars or potentially in-flight scenarios.
- Bioreactors that incorporate novel microbial biomass separation/harvesting/purification methods, materials recycling/recovery and ease of cleaning.
- High-density bioreactors that are capable of producing extremely high levels of microbial biomass and/or product.
- Advanced bioreactor monitoring and control systems, including oxygen, temperature, pH, nutrients.
- Experimental bioreactors that exhibit the ability to scale upwards.
- Bioreactors that maximize reliability, component miniaturization, materials handling ability, gas management and overall performance.
Overall, proposals should focus on advancing bioreactor development for space applications, rather than the production of a particular product or microorganism. The Phase I STTR deliverable should include a Final Report that captures any scientific results and processes as well as details on the technology identified. The Final Report should also include a Feasibility Study which defines the current technology readiness level and proposes the maturation path for further evolution of the system. Opportunities for commercial and government infusion should be addressed. Other potential deliverables include bioreactor system designs, hardware components and prototypes, and system control approaches and software.
Space Exploration Plant Growth
Lead Center: KSC
Participating Center(s): JSC
Producing food for crew consumption is an important goal for achieving Earth independence and reducing the logistics associated with future exploration missions. NASA seeks innovative technologies to enable plant growth systems for food production for in-space and planetary exploration missions.
- Regolith to Soil - Cultivation of crops for a Mars surface mission could be done hydroponically, or in combination with solid media generated from mineral regolith found near the landing site. NASA is interested in testing and developing concepts for generating "soil" media from Mars-like regolith to support food crop growth and allow uptake of essential minerals. Consideration should be given to improving water and nutrient retention characteristics, and remediation of potentially toxic perchlorate compounds common to Mars regolith.
- CO2 Control for Plant Chambers - More advanced plant chambers for space typically manage their internal atmosphere separately, which allows recycling of transpired humidity. But this requires the use of consumable, compressed CO2 sources for controlling the plant chamber. Cabin air typically has high CO2 levels and technologies are sought to scavenge or adsorb cabin CO2 from cabin air and allow careful, controlled additions of the CO2 to the plant chamber.
- Cultivation and Growth Systems - Spacecraft systems are constrained to utilize minimal volume and require minimal crew time for management and operation. Future systems may even require autonomous start-up and operation prior to crew arrival. NASA seeks innovative systems for plant growth and cultivation that are volume efficient, flexible for a range of plant types and sizes (examples: tomatoes, wheat, beans, and potatoes).
Technologies should be adaptive for the entire life cycle (from seeding, to managing plant growth and spacing, through harvest), and reusable across multiple harvests. Concepts need to address integration with watering and nutrient/fertilizer systems (whether soil/media based, hydroponic, or aeroponic). Systems should address whether they are microgravity compatible, surface gravity compatible, or both.
Sensors, Detectors and Instruments
Focus Area 9: Sensors, Detectors and Instruments
Lead MD: SMD
Participating MD(s): STTR
NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) (http://nasascience.nasa.gov/) encompasses research in the areas of Astrophysics, Earth Science, Heliophysics and Planetary Science. The National Academy of Science has provided NASA with recently updated Decadal surveys that are useful to identify technologies that are of interest to the above
science divisions. Those documents are available at the following locations:
- Astrophysics - http://sites.nationalacademies.org/bpa/BPA_049810.
- Planetary - http://sites.nationalacademies.org/ssb/completedprojects/ssb_065878.
- Earth Science - http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/decadal-surveys/.
- Heliophysics the 2014 technology roadmap can be downloaded here: http://science.nasa.gov/heliophysics/.
A major objective of SMD instrument development programs is to implement science measurement capabilities with smaller or more affordable spacecraft so development programs can meet multiple mission needs and therefore make the best use of limited resources. The rapid development of small, low-cost remote sensing and in situ instruments is essential to achieving this objective. For Earth Science needs, in particular, the subtopics reflect a focus on instrument development for airborne and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms. Astrophysics has a critical need for sensitive detector arrays with imaging, spectroscopy, and polarimetric capabilities, which can be demonstrated on ground, airborne, balloon, or suborbital rocket instruments. Heliophysics, which focuses on measurements of the sun and its interaction with the Earth and the other planets in the solar system, needs a significant reduction in the size, mass, power, and cost for instruments to fly on smaller spacecraft. Planetary Science has a critical need for miniaturized instruments with in situ sensors that can be deployed on surface landers, rovers, and airborne platforms. For the 2018 program year, we are restructuring the Sensors, Detectors and Instruments Topic, adding new, rotating out, and retiring some of the subtopics. Please read each subtopic of interest carefully. We continue to emphasize Ocean Worlds and solicit development of in situ instrument technologies and components to advance the maturity of science instruments focused on the detection of evidence of life, especially extant of life, in the Ocean Worlds. The microwave technologies subtopic was split last year into two subtopics one focused on active microwave remote sensing and the second on passive systems such as radiometers and microwave spectrometers. A key objective of this SBIR topic is to develop and demonstrate instrument component and subsystem technologies that reduce the risk, cost, size, and development time of SMD observing instruments and to enable new measurements. Proposals are sought for development of components, subsystems and systems that can be used in planned missions or a current technology program. Research should be conducted to demonstrate feasibility during Phase I and show a path towards a Phase II prototype demonstration. The following subtopics are concomitant with these objectives and are organized by technology.
Photonic Integrated Circuits
Lead Center: GSFC
Participating Center(s): GRC, JSC
Integrated photonics generally is the integration of multiple lithographically defined photonic and electronic components and devices (e.g., lasers, detectors, waveguides/passive structures, modulators, electronic control and optical interconnects) on a single platform with nanometer-scale feature sizes. The development of photonic integrated circuits permits size, weight, power and cost reductions for spacecraft microprocessors, communication buses, processor buses, advanced data processing, free space communications and integrated optic science instrument optical systems, subsystems and components. This is particularly critical for small spacecraft platforms. This topic solicits methods, technology and systems for development and incorporation of active and passive circuit elements for integrated photonic circuits for:
- Integrated photonic sensors (physical, chemical and/or biological) circuits: NASA applications examples include (but are not limited to): Lab-on-a-chip systems for landers, Astronaut health monitoring, Front-end and back-end for remote sensing instruments including trace gas lidars Large telescope spectrometers for exoplanets using photonic lanterns and narrow band filters. On chip generation and detection of light of appropriate wavelength may not be practical, requiring compact hybrid packaging for providing broadband optical input-output and also, as means to provide coupling of light between the sensor-chip waveguides and samples, unique optical components (e.g., Plasmonic waveguides, microfluidic channel) may be beneficial. Examples: Terahertz spectrometer, Optical spectrometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, urine/breath/blood analysis.
- Integrated Photonic Circuits for Analog RF applications: NASA applications include new methods due to Size, Weight and Power improvements, passive and active microwave signal processing, radio astronomy and Terahertz spectroscopy. As an example, integrated photonic circuits having very low insertion loss (e.g., ~1dB) and high spur free dynamic range for analog and RF signal processing and transmission which incorporate, for example, monolithic high-Q waveguide microresonators or Fabry-Perot filters with multi-GHz RF pass bands. These components should be suitable for designing chip-scale tunable opto-electronic RF oscillator and high precision optical clock modules. Examples: Ka, W, V band radar/receivers.
- Integrated photonic circuits for very high-speed computing and free space communications: Advanced computing engines that approach Teraflop per second computing power for spacecraft in a fully integrated combined photonic and electronic package. Free space communications downlink modems at the > 1 Terabit per second level for Near-Earth (Low-Earth Orbit to ground) and > 100 Mbls for > 1 AU distances. Examples: Transmitters, receivers, microprocessors.
Entry, Descent, and Landing Systems
Focus Area 12: Entry, Descent, and Landing Systems
Lead MD: STMD
Participating MD(s): HEOMD, SMD, STTR
The SBIR focus area of Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) includes the suite of technologies for atmospheric entry as well as descent and landing on both atmospheric and non-atmospheric bodies. EDL mission segments are used in both robotic planetary science missions and human exploration missions beyond Low Earth Orbit, and some
technologies have application to commercial space capabilities.
Robust, efficient, and predictable EDL systems fulfill the critical function of delivering payloads to planetary surfaces through challenging environments, within mass and cost constraints. Future NASA missions will require new technologies to break through historical constraints on delivered mass, or to go to entirely new planets and moons. Even where heritage systems exist, no two planetary missions are exactly “build-to-print,” so there are frequently issues of environmental uncertainty, risk posture, and resource constraints that can be dramatically improved with investments in EDL technologies. New capabilities and improved knowledge are both important facets of this focus area.
Because this topic covers a wide area of interests, subtopics are chosen to enhance and or fill gaps in the existing technology development programs. Future subtopics will support one or more of four broad capability areas, which represent NASA’s goals with respect to planetary Entry, Descent and Landing:
- High Mass to Mars Surface.
- Precision Landing and Hazard Avoidance.
- Planetary Probes and Earth Return Vehicles.
- EDL Data Return and Model Improvement.
A cross-cutting set of disciplines and technologies will help mature these four capability areas, to enable more efficient, reliable exploration missions. These more specific topics and subtopics may include, but are not limited to:
- Thermal Protection System materials, modeling, and instrumentation.
- Deployable and inflatable decelerators (hypersonic and supersonic).
- Guidance, Navigation, and Control sensors and algorithms.
- Aerodynamics and Aerothermodynamics advances, including modeling and testing.
- Precision Landing and Hazard Avoidance sensors.
- Multifunctional materials and structures.
This year the Entry, Descent and Landing focus area is seeking innovative technology for:
- Deployable Decelerator Technologies.
- EDL Sensors, including those embedded in thermal protection systems and those used for proximity operations and landing.
- Hot Structure Technology for Atmospheric Entry Vehicles.
- Lander Systems Technology.
The specific needs and metrics of each of these specific technology developments are described in the subtopic descriptions.
Lander Systems Technology
Lead Center: MSFC
Participating Center(s): GRC, JSC, LaRC
Related Subtopic Pointer(s): Z10.02
Lander Components and Affordable/Sustainable Development
Lander systems require many components that will need to advance beyond their current capability to meet the needs of lander missions. A lander is essentially a system of components and each must be developed to enable mission success. Several components for lander systems have been identified as weak points or long lead development and/or qualification concerns that necessitate advancement. These include the following:
- Additive manufacturing for LOX/Methane and other propulsion components. Additional development in the area of additive manufacturing for propulsion components will continue to open up the trade space for lander systems.
- Testbed and hardware-in-the-loop testing systems that allow rapid hardware development and permit parallel design and test efforts.
- Less expensive methods for qualifying Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) components as well as flight developed components.
- Developments to improve mission design and simulation tools. With advancing Technology Readiness Level (TRL) components, better mission design and simulation tools will be needed to capture and model the changing lander systems in order to leverage improvements.
- Avionics and flight software development is needed for proper lander systems control, navigation, propulsion operation.
- Lander systems scalability studies to facilitate larger payloads.
- Deep Space Engine capability; particularly in Monomethylhydrazine (MMH) and Mixed Oxides of Nitrogen (MON-25) development which allow lower propellant temperatures.
LOX/Methane Propulsion Technology (see also Z10.02)
LOX/Methane propulsion remains attractive to lander systems and will require further advancements to leverage its full potential. LOX/Methane Propulsion Technology is focused on propulsion systems and engine components development that increase durability, reliability, and capability, while reducing the mass of the component or the overall system. These technologies include the following:
- Integrated propulsions systems that reduce duplication of systems to support main engines and Reaction Control Systems (RCS).
- 25lbf to 100 lbf thrust Reaction Control Systems (RCS) to enable higher payloads and manned missions.
- Engine components designed for 1000 lbf to 4000 lbf thrust LOX/Methane systems.
- Low leakage valves that minimize propellant loss over long duration missions. With missions to Mars taking years, low leakage valves are essential to conserve propellant that will be needed for ascent and maneuvers.
- Reliable, low actuator load valves designed to operate and be compatible with cryogenic propellants (such as Methane). Low actuator loads keep power and mass requirements to a minimum which is of particular importance for long duration lander missions.
- LOX/Methane Engine components compatible with In-Situ Resource Utilization capabilities that reduce launch mass.
- Design and test demonstration of Integrated Main Propulsion System (MPS) Reaction Control with LOX/Methane.
- Large scale nozzle and nozzle extension technology (> 40” dia) using novel processing techniques that reduce fabrication costs and schedule.
- High temperature (>2600° F) nozzle material development to support in-space, ultra-light weight applications in a methane environment. This includes but is not limited to Carbon-Carbon (C-C) and refractory metal nozzles that are regeneratively or radiatively-cooled.
In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) Compatible Propulsion
ISRU compatible propulsions systems will be essential to make long-term manned missions possible with landers. ISRU compatible propulsion technologies include the following:
- Liquefaction system design and testing.
- Liquefaction subsystem development that demonstrates the performance required for a Mars ISRU plant.
- Integrated liquefaction and propulsion system concepts.
- Tanking and Cryogenic Fluid Management (CFM) capabilities for ISRU applications.
- Insulation systems for ISRU propulsion.
Lander Systems of Interest
Additional lander systems are needed to develop capabilities and open trade spaces for further concepts. Other lander systems of interest include the following:
- Reduced toxicity hypergolic thrusters and components.
- Multi-engine architecture with distributed avionics.
- Long duration wetted seals for MON-25 propulsion.
- Engine cooling technologies.
- Variable Conductance Heat Pipes (active and/or passive).
- Alternate Reaction Control System (RCS) pressurization capability.
- Valve drivers for high speed valves.
- Guidance, Navigation, and Control senor studies and development.
- Propellant vapor pressure studies.
- Tank slosh management.
Flight computers and flight software development.
In-Space and Advanced Manufacturing
Focus Area 14: In-Space and Advanced Manufacturing
Lead MD: HEOMD
Participating MD(s): STMD, STTR
NASA is seeking technological innovations that will accelerate development and adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies supporting a wide range of NASA Missions. NASA has an immediate need for more affordable and more capable materials and processes across its unique missions, systems, and platforms. Cutting-edge manufacturing technologies offer the ability to dramatically increase performance and reduce the cost of NASA’s programs. This topic is focused on technologies for both the ground-based advancements and in-space manufacturing capabilities required for sustainable, long-duration space missions to destinations such as Mars. The terrestrial subtopic areas concentration is on research and development of advanced metallic materials and processes and additive manufacturing technologies for their potential to increase the capability and affordability of engines, vehicles, space systems, instruments and science payloads by offering significant improvements over traditional manufacturing methods. Technologies should facilitate innovative physical manufacturing processes combined with the digital twin modeling and simulation approach that integrates modern design and manufacturing. The in-space manufacturing subtopic areas which focus on the ability to manufacture parts in space rather than launch them from Earth represents a fundamental paradigm shift in the orbital supply chain model for human spaceflight. In-space manufacturing capabilities will decrease overall launch mass, while increasing crew safety and mission success by providing on-demand manufacturing capability to address known and unknown operational scenarios. In addition, advances in lighter-weight metals processing (on ground and in-space) will enable the delivery of higher-mass payloads to Mars and beyond. In order to achieve necessary reliabilities, in-situ process assessment and feedback control is urgently needed. Research should be conducted to demonstrate technical feasibility and prototype hardware development during Phase I and show a path toward Phase II hardware and software demonstration and delivering an engineering development unit for NASA testing at the completion of the Phase II that could be turned into a proof-of-concept system for flight demonstration.
Extensible Modeling of Metallurgical Additive Manufacturing Processes
Lead Center: JPL
The subtopic of modeling of additive processes is highly relevant to NASA as NASA is currently on a path to implement additive processes in space flight systems with little or no ability to model the process and thereby predict the results. In order to reliably use this process with a variety of materials for space flight applications, NASA has to have a much deeper understanding of the process. NASA is currently considering these processes for MOXIE, SHERLOC, ion engines and other spacecraft structural and multifunctional applications.
Additive manufacturing of development and flight hardware with metallic alloys is being developed by NASA and its various partners for a variety of spacecraft applications. These components are expected to see extreme environments coupled with a need for high-reliability (e.g., manned spaceflight), which requires a deeper understanding of the manufacturing processes. Modeling of the additive processes to provide accurate dimensional designs, preferred microstructures and defect-free is a significant challenge that would dramatically benefit from a joint academic-industry approach. The objective would be to create process models that are compatible with current alloys systems and additive manufacturing equipment which will provide accurate prediction of outcomes from a variety of additive manufacturing process parameters and materials combinations. The primary alloys of interest to NASA at this time include: Inconel 625 & 718, stainless steels, such as 304 and 316, Al10SiMg, Ti-6Al-4V, and copper alloys (GrCop-84). It is desired that the modeling approach address a focused material system, but be readily adaptable to eventually accommodate all of these materials. Therefore, the model should incorporate modest parameter changes coupled with being easily extensible for future alloys of interest to NASA. NASA is interested in modeling of the Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Electron Beam Melting (EBM) and Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) processes.
Lightweight Materials Structures and Assembly / Construction
Focus Area 15: Lightweight Materials Structures and Assembly / Construction
Lead MD: STMD
Participating MD(s): HEOMD, STTR
As NASA strives to explore deeper into space than ever before, lightweight structures and advanced materials have been identified as a critical need. The Lightweight Materials, Structures, Advanced Assembly and Construction focus area seeks innovative technologies and systems that will reduce mass, improve performance, lower cost, be more resilient and extend the life of structural systems. Reliability will become an enabling consideration for deep space
travel where frequent and rapid supply and resupply capabilities are not possible.
Improvement in all of these areas is critical to future missions. Applications include structures and materials for launch, in-space and surface systems, deployable and assembled systems, integrated structural health monitoring (SHM) and technologies to accelerate structural certification. Since this focus area covers a broad area of interests, specific topics and subtopics are chosen to enhance and or fill gaps in the space and exploration technology development programs as well as to complement other mission directorate structures and materials needs.
Specific interests include but are not limited to:
- Improved performance and cost from advances in composite, metallic and ceramic material systems as well as nanomaterial and nanostructures.
- Improved performance and mass reduction in innovative lightweight structural systems, extreme environments structures and multifunctional/multipurpose materials and structures.
- Improved cost, launch mass, system resiliency and extended life time by advancing technologies to enable large structures that can be deployed, assembled/constructed, reconfigured and serviced in-space or on planetary surfaces.
- Improved life and risk mitigation to damage of structural systems by advancing technologies that enhance nondestructive evaluation and structural health monitoring.
- Improved approaches that provide the development of extreme reliability technologies.
The specific needs and metrics for this year’s focus technology needs are requested in detail in the topic and subtopic descriptions.
Thin-Ply Composite Technology and Applications
Lead Center: LaRC
The use of thin-ply composites is one area of composites technology that has not yet been fully explored or exploited. Thin-ply composites are those with cured ply thicknesses below 0.0025 in. and commercially available prepregs are now available with ply thicknesses as thin as 0.00075 in. By comparison, a standard-ply-thickness composite would have a cured ply thickness of approximately 0.0055 in. or greater. Thin-ply composites hold the potential for reducing structural mass and increasing performance due to their unique structural characteristics, which include (when compared to standard-ply-thickness composites):
- Improved damage tolerance.
- Resistance to microcracking (including cryogenic-effects).
- Improved aging and fatigue resistance.
- Reduced minimum-gage thickness.
- Thinner sections capable of sustaining large deformations without damage.
- Increased scalability.
These characteristics can make thin-ply composites attractive for a number of applications in both aeronautics and space. For example, preliminary analyses show that the notched strength of a hybrid of thin and standard ply layers can increase the notched tensile strength of composite laminates by 30%. Thus, selective incorporation of thin plies into composite aircraft structures may significantly reduce their mass. There are numerous possibilities for space applications. The resistance to microcracking and fatigue makes thin-ply composites an excellent candidate for a deep-space habitation structure where hermeticity is critical. Since the designs of these types of pressurized structures are typically constrained by minimum gage considerations, the ability to reduce that minimum gage thickness also offers the potential for significant mass reductions. For other space applications, the reduction in thickness enables: thin-walled, deployable structural concepts only a few plies thick that can be folded/rolled under high strains for launch (and thus have high packaging efficiencies) and deployed in orbit; and greater freedom in designing lightweight structures for satellite buses, landers, rovers, solar arrays, and antennas. For these reasons, NASA is interested in exploring the use of thin-ply composites for aeronautics applications requiring very high structural efficiency, for pressurized structures (such as habitation systems and tanks), for lightweight deep-space exploration systems, and for low-mass high stiffness deployable space structures (such as rollable booms or foldable panels, hinges or reflectors). There are many needs in development, qualification and deployment of composite structures incorporating thin-ply materials – either alone or as a hybrid system with standard ply composite materials.
The particular capabilities requested for in a Phase I proposal in this subtopic are:
- New processing methods for making repeatable, consistent, high quality thin-ply carbon-fiber prepreg materials, (i.e., greater than 55% fiber density with low degree of fiber twisting, misalignment and damage, low thickness non-uniformity and minimal gaps in the material across the width). Prepreg product forms of interest have areal weights below 60 g/m2 for unidirectional tape with tape widths between 6 and 100 mm wide, and below 130 g/m2 for woven/braided prepreg materials. Matrices of interest include both toughened epoxy resins for aeronautics applications, and resins qualified for use in space.
- Initial process development in using thin-ply prepregs for component fabrication using automated tape layup or other robotic technologies.
- Contributing to the development of the design and qualification database though testing and interrogation of the structural response and damage initiation/progression at multiple scales including evaluation of environmental durability and ageing.
- Analysis and design tool validation and calibration to ensure that the technology to appropriately design, identify any application-specific shortcomings with suggested improvements, and certify thin-ply composite components is matured sufficiently to be used for NASA applications.
- Micromechanics models for spread-tow woven/braided laminates, including viscoelastic response.
- Development of testing methods adapted for thin-ply high-strain composite materials and structures, with particular interest to dedicated large deformation bending and creep tests.
- Engineering viscoelastic behavior of thin-ply laminates for controlled deployment of space structures.
The intention of a Phase II follow-on effort would be to develop or to further mature the necessary design/analysis codes, and to validate the approach though design, build, and test of an article representative of the component/application of interest to NASA.
Air Vehicle Technology
Focus Area 18: Air Vehicle Technology
Lead MD: ARMD
Participating MD(s): STTR
This focus area includes tools and technologies that contribute to meeting metrics derived from a definitive set of Technical Challenges responsive to the goals of the National Aeronautics Research and Development (R&D) Policy and Plan, the National Aeronautics R&D Test and Evaluation (T&E) Infrastructure Plan (2011), and the NASA Aeronautics Strategic Implementation Plan (2017). In 2012 ARMD introduced more focused solicitations by rotating some of the subtopics every other year. The reduction in the scope of some of our solicitations does not imply a change in interest in a given year. For example, in 2014 we solicited proposals for quiet performance with an emphasis on propulsion noise reduction technology, then in 2015 we focused our quiet performance subtopic on airframe noise reduction. In 2016, we returned to quiet performance – propulsion noise reduction technology.
Aircraft Design, Optimization, and Scaled Model Test
Lead Center: AFRC
Participating Center(s): ARC, LaRC
This subtopic addresses an advanced aeroelastic design concept for dynamic elastic flight systems. Methods include prototype design and optimization and scaled model design, optimization, manufacturing, and ground and flight (or wind tunnel) tests. Both a baseline configuration (using traditional approach) and a new (or state-of-art) design concept aircraft should be studied to demonstrate the innovation. The followings are recommended as candidate flight systems to be designed, optimized, and tested:
- Demonstration of new design concept:
- Test articles designed using advanced design concept.
- Or application of state-of-art design concept:
- NASA X-plane: such as hybrid wing body aircraft, low-boom supersonic commercial transport aircraft, etc.: https://www.nasa.gov/aero/nasa-moves-to-begin-historic-new-era-of-x-plane-research.
- Unmanned aerial vehicles: https://www.nasa.gov/subject/9566/unmanned-aircraft/ & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle.
- Mars plane, & etc.: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/features/mars_airplane.html.
This subtopic also addresses capabilities enabling design solutions for performance and environmental challenges of future air vehicles. Research in revolutionary aerospace configurations include lighter and more flexible materials, improved sonic boom performance on the ground, and improved propulsion systems. This subtopic targets efficiency and environmental compatibilities requiring performance challenges and novel structural optimization for aeroelastic considerations which are gaining prevalence in advanced flight vehicles.
Technical elements for the Phase I proposals may also include:
- Introduction of new innovative or state-of art design concept for higher performance flight systems.
- Initial conceptual design (mainly for application of state-of-art design concept):
- Define own design requirement.
- Outer-mold-line shape.
- Target flight envelope for prototype.
- Number of passenger (if needed).
- Aircraft configuration, etc.
Proposals should assist in revolutionizing improvements in performance to empower a new generation of air vehicles to meet the challenges of subsonic and supersonic flight concerns with novel concepts and technology developments in systems analysis, integration and evaluation. Higher performance measures include energy efficiency to reduce fuel burn and operability technologies that enable information network decompositions that have different characteristics in efficiency, robustness, and asymmetry of information and control with tradeoff between computation and communication.
Technical elements for the Phase I results and deliverables should be as follows:
- Structural finite element models of the prototype should be delivered (at least preliminary design quality):
- Baseline shape (use classical approach).
- New (or state-of-art) design shape (use innovative approach).
- Show performance improvement between the baseline configuration and the new (or state-of-art) design concept configuration with structural optimization:
- Stress/strain distribution under the critical design load condition with margin of safety information.
- Primary buckling characteristics and buckling shape.
- Natural frequencies and mode shapes of prototype models.
- Flutter boundary information with proposed flight envelope.
- Sonic boom noise level information on the ground (if used); & etc.
- Computer programs developed during Phase I:
- Source codes.
- Executable codes.
- Quick user guide; & etc.
Technical elements for the Phase I listed above can be performed by small business and research institution as follows:
A sample recommendation
- Develop tools or modeling methodology that can be used in initial design of baseline shape and new design shape.
- Develop tools (if needed) that incorporate stress/strain and modal analyses of initial design.
- Design and build test articles.
- Design tools (if needed) that allow optimization of baseline shape and new design shape.
- Perform optimization of baseline shape and new design shape.
- Design tools or a way to model buckling, flutter, and sonic boom (if needed) analyses of initial design to support small business.
- Perform ground based testing.
Technical elements for the Phase II proposals should include followings:
- Scaled model development plan:
- Detailed description about scaling technique.
- Finite element model development plan.
- Manufacturing plan about scaled model hardware.
- Ground test plan:
- Static test.
- Ground vibration test.
- Flight (or wind-tunnel) test plan:
- Detailed description about flight (or wind-tunnel) test plan.
- Flight (or wind-tunnel) test will be performed if awarded for Phase III.
Technical elements for the Phase II results and deliverables should be as follows:
- Test articles (scaled models) developed under Phase II (baseline configuration and new (or state-of-art) design concept configuration).
- Ground test data should be delivered.
- CAD model of the test articles should be delivered.
- Validated (with respect to ground test data) structural finite element model of the test articles should be delivered.
- Stress/strain distribution under the critical design load condition with margin of safety information;
Primary buckling characteristics and buckling shape.
- Natural frequencies and mode shapes of the scaled model.
- Flutter boundary information with proposed flight envelope.
- Sonic boom noise level information on the ground (if used).
- Comparisons and discussions of results between prototype vs. scaled model are needed.
- Computer programs developed during Phase II: source codes; executable codes; quick user guide; & etc.
Links to program/project websites:
- ARMD's Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP): https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aavp.
- ARMD's Flight Demonstrations and Capabilities (FDC) project under the
Integrated Aviation Systems Program (IASP): https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/iasp/fdc.
Small Spacecraft Technologies
Lead MD: STMD
Participating MD(s): SMD
The concept of distributed spacecraft missions (DSM) involves the use of multiple spacecraft to achieve one or more science mission goals. Small distributed spacecraft acting in cooperation can execute science and exploration missions that would be impossible by traditional large spacecraft operating alone, and offer the potential for new concepts in mission design. The goal of this topic is to develop enabling technologies for small spacecraft DSM configurations operating over large distances beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).
The term DSM or “swarm” refers to a group of cooperatively distributed spacecraft, scalable up to 100s of spacecraft, in a specific configuration, which has three distinct characteristics. First, as opposed to a constellation, where spacecraft are distributed across multiple orbits, a DSM is comprised of small spacecraft orbiting relatively close to one another, with intersatellite ranges on the order of tens to hundreds of kilometers. Second, the DSM requires inter-spacecraft communications where each spacecraft is capable of sharing data and relative position information so that all swarm members are aware of the overall topology. The swarm topology would be dependent on the spatial and temporal distribution, orbit, ground reference, or other requirements of the science mission. Third, the swarm is commanded from the ground as an entity rather than each spacecraft individually. Thus, the swarm has inherent autonomous capabilities to control individual or complete swarm topology redistribution depending or requirements or in response to commands.
Small spacecraft, for the purpose of this solicitation, are defined as those with a mass of 180 kilograms or less and capable of being launched into space as an auxiliary or secondary payload. Small spacecraft are not limited to Earth orbiting satellites but might also include interplanetary spacecraft, planetary re-entry vehicles, and landing craft.
Specific innovations being sought in this solicitation will be outlined in the subtopic descriptions. Proposed research may focus on development of new technologies but there is particular interest in technologies that are approaching readiness for spaceflight testing. NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program will consider promising SBIR technologies for spaceflight demonstration missions and seek partnerships to accelerate spaceflight testing and commercial infusion. Some of the features that are desirable for small spacecraft technologies across all system areas are the following:
- Simple design.
- High reliability.
- Tolerant of extreme thermal and/or radiation environments.
- Low cost or short time to develop.
- Low cost to procure flight hardware when technology is mature.
- Small system volume or low mass.
- Low power consumption in operation.
- Suitable for rideshare launch opportunities or storage in habitable volumes (minimum hazards).
- Able to be stored in space for several years prior to use.
- High performance relative to existing system technology.
The following references discuss some of NASA’s small spacecraft technology activities:
Another useful reference is the Small Spacecraft Technology State of the Art Report at:
Affordable Nano/Micro Launch Propulsion Stages
Lead Center: MSFC
Participating Center(s): AFRC
NASA is recognizing a growing demand for dedicated, responsive small spacecraft launch systems and seeks to facilitate the establishment of a robust launch service provider market sector. The movement toward small spacecraft missions is largely driven by rising development/launch costs associated with conventional spacecraft, which poses severe threats to future science/commercial mission cadence, and by rapidly evolving miniaturization innovations that are revolutionizing small spacecraft platform capabilities. This topic seeks innovative technologies, subsystems, and efficient streamlined processes that will support the development of affordable small spacecraft launch systems having a 5-180 kg payload delivery capacity to 350 to 700 km at inclinations between 28 to 98.2 degrees to support both CONUS and sun synchronous operations. Affordability objectives are focused on reducing launch costs below $1.5M/launch for payloads ranging up to 50 kg or below $30,000/kg for payloads in excess of 50 kg. It is recognized that no single enabling technology is likely to achieve this goal and that a combination of multiple technologies and production practices are likely to be needed. Therefore, it is highly desirable that disparate but complementary technologies formulate and use standardized plug-and-play interfaces to better allow for transition and integration into small spacecraft launch systems.
- subtopic seeks to mature innovative ideas providing a pipeline of components, processes, technologies, propellants, and materials that enhance propulsive performance or that enable adequate propulsive performance at a significant cost savings. Innovations submitted under this subtopic must focus on meeting the affordability objectives. Each innovation must be linked to an existing or proposed launch architecture and operational paradigm. A develop path must be outlined that defines the current development state of the innovation(s) and outlines the improvements sought that will enable a launch system to meet the affordability objectives.
Proposed ideas must lead to a proof of concept test during Phase II. The test results should provide measurements of the propulsive performance required for the proposed launch architecture. Test article costs must be disclosed and linked to the affordability objectives.
The pipeline is meant to feed SBIR topic Z9.01, Small Launch Vehicle Technologies and Demonstrations.
Technology areas of specific interest from Z9.01 are as follow:
- Innovative Propulsion Technologies & Prototype Stages.
- Affordable Guidance, Navigation & Control.
- Manufacturing Innovations for Launch Vehicle Structures & Components.
- Reusability Innovations.
- Dual Use Hypersonic Flight Testbeds.
Proof of concept testing that mature technologies for inclusion in these areas of interest are specifically sought.