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In Situ Instruments/Technologies for Planetary Science


Lead Center: JPL

Participating Center(s): ARC, GRC, GSFC, MSFC

Related Subtopic Pointer(s): H2.01

This subtopic solicits development of advanced instrument technologies and components suitable for deployment on in-situ planetary missions. These technologies must be capable of withstanding operation in space and planetary environments, including the expected pressures, radiation levels, launch and impact stresses, and range of survival and operational temperatures. Technologies that reduce mass, power, volume, and data rates for instruments and instrument components without loss of scientific capability are of particular importance. In addition, technologies that can increase instrument resolution and sensitivity or achieve new & innovative scientific measurements are solicited. For example missions, see For details of the specific requirements see the National Research Council’s, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 ( Technologies that support NASA’s New Frontiers and Discovery missions to various planetary bodies are of top priority.


In-situ technologies are being sought to achieve much higher resolution and sensitivity with significant improvements over existing capabilities. In-situ technologies amenable to CubeSats and SmallSats are also being solicited. Atmospheric probe sensors and technologies that can provide significant improvements over previous missions are also sought. Specifically, this subtopic solicits instrument development that provides significant advances in the following areas, broken out by planetary body:


  • Mars - Sub-systems relevant to current in-situ instrument needs (e.g., lasers and other light sources from UV to microwave, X-ray and ion sources, detectors, mixers, mass analyzers, etc.) or electronics technologies (e.g., FPGA and ASIC implementations, advanced array readouts, miniature high voltage power supplies). Technologies that support high precision in-situ measurements of elemental, mineralogical, and organic composition of planetary materials are sought. Conceptually simple, low risk technologies for in-situ sample extraction and/or manipulation including fluid and gas storage, pumping, and chemical labeling to support analytical instrumentation. Seismometers, mass analyzers, technologies for heat flow probes, and atmospheric trace gas detectors. Improved robustness and g-force survivability for instrument components, especially for geophysical network sensors, seismometers, and advanced detectors (iCCDs, PMT arrays, etc.). Instruments geared towards rock/sample interrogation prior to sample return are desired.
  • Venus - Sensors, mechanisms, and environmental chamber technologies for operation in Venus's high temperature, high-pressure environment with its unique atmospheric composition. Approaches that can enable precision measurements of surface mineralogy and elemental composition and precision measurements of trace species, noble gases and isotopes in the atmosphere are particularly desired.
  • Small Bodies - Technologies that can enable sampling from asteroids and from depth in a comet nucleus, improved in-situ analysis of comets. Imagers and spectrometers that provide high performance in low light environments. Dust environment measurements & particle analysis, small body resource identification, and/or quantification of potential small body resources (e.g., oxygen, water and other volatiles, hydrated minerals, carbon compounds, fuels, metals, etc.). Advancements geared towards instruments that enable elemental or mineralogy analysis (such as high-sensitivity X-ray and UV-fluorescence spectrometers, UV/fluorescence systems, scanning electron microscopy with chemical analysis capability, mass spectrometry, gas chromatography and tunable diode laser sensors, calorimetry, imaging spectroscopy, and LIBS) are sought.
  • Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - Components, sample acquisition, and instrument systems that can enhance mission science return and withstand the low-temperatures/high-pressures of the atmospheric probes during entry.
  • The Moon - Note that there is one subtopic, "Lunar Resources (H2.01)" in the HEOMD list. The emphasis of that subtopic is on in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). All proposers are encouraged to submit any proposal related to ISRU to the HEOMD subtopic. However, proposals with pure science objectives and without ISRU application may be submitted to this SMD subtopic. One example is a seismometer.


Proposers are strongly encouraged to relate their proposed development to:


  • NASA's future planetary exploration goals.
  • Existing flight instrument capability, to provide a comparison metric for assessing proposed improvements.


Proposed instrument architectures should be as simple, reliable, and low risk as possible while enabling compelling science. Novel instrument concepts are encouraged particularly if they enable a new class of scientific discovery.


Technology developments relevant to multiple environments and platforms are also desired.


Proposers should show an understanding of relevant space science needs, and present a feasible plan to fully develop a technology and infuse it into a NASA program.

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