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Sensors, Detectors and Instruments


Focus Area 9: Sensors, Detectors and Instruments

Lead MD: SMD

Participating MD(s): STTR


NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) ( 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:

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.

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