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NASA STTR 2019 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.gsfc.nasa.gov/solicitations
Application Due Date:
Available Funding Topics
- Focus Area 1: In-Space Propulsion Technologies
- Focus Area 3: Autonomous Systems for Space Exploration
- Focus Area 4: Robotic Systems for Space Exploration
- Focus Area 5: Communications and Navigation
- Focus Area 6: Life Support and Habitation Systems
- Focus Area 9: Sensors, Detectors and Instruments
- Focus Area 14: In-Space and Advanced Manufacturing
- Focus Area 15: Lightweight Materials Structures and Assembly / Construction
- Focus Area 16: Ground & Launch Processing
- Focus Area 18: Air Vehicle Technology
- Focus Area 23: Digital Transformation for Aerospace
In-Space Propulsion Technologies
NASA is interested in technologies for advanced in-space propulsion systems to reduce travel time, increase payload mass, reduce acquisition costs, reduce operational costs, and enable new science capabilities for exploration and science spacecraft.The future will require demanding propulsive performance and flexibility for more ambitious missions requiring high duty cycles, more challenging environmental conditions, and extended operation.This focus area seeks innovations for NASA propulsion systems in chemical, electric, nuclear thermal and advanced propulsion systems related to human exploration and science missions.Propulsion technologies will focus on a number of mission applications including ascent, descent, orbit transfer, rendezvous, station keeping, and proximity operations.
Advanced Technologies for In-Space Electric Propulsion (EP)
Advanced EP Technologies for Small Spacecraft
NASA seeks new technologies that can be rapidly fielded to drastically decrease mission cost. Small spacecraft (<500 kg) launched as secondary payloads provide such an opportunity; however, sub-kilowatt in-space electric propulsion (EP) systems with high propellant-throughput capability remain immature. Future small spacecraft and constellations of small spacecraft will have high-performance electric propulsion requirements, usually in volume-, mass-, and power-limited envelopes. Furthermore, the cost of electric propulsion systems need to decrease to remain commensurate with the total mission cost of small spacecraft. Toward these ends, proposals must address one of the following specific areas of interest applicable to sub-kilowatt Hall-effect and/or gridded-ion thrusters. Proposers are expected to show an in-depth understanding of the current state-of-the-art (SOA) and quantitatively (not qualitatively) describe improvements over relevant SOA technologies that substantiate investment in the new technology. Proposers must also quantitatively explain the operational benefit of the new technology from the perspective of improving or enabling mission potential. Proposals outside of the scope described below shall not be considered:
- Lower-cost, more compact, heated cathode assemblies, which demonstrate the capability to achieve 10,000 hours of operation and 10,000 cycles with performance and reliability comparable to state-of-the-art flight-heritage cathode assemblies.
- Compact heaterless cathode assemblies capable of reliable ignition below 500 V, and greater than 10,000 hours of operation and 10,000 cycles.
- Innovative high-temperature discharge channel materials and/or designs that permit fabrication of thinner walls, yet still capable of surviving the rigors of launch and repeated thermal cycling.
- Innovative, lower-cost, and reliable xenon flow control systems capable of delivering well-regulated flow rates between 0 and 5 mg/s for Hall-effect or gridded-ion systems. Scale and fault-tolerance are to be consistent with reasonable small spacecraft requirements for a NASA class-D mission.
The Science Mission Directorate (SMD) needs spacecraft with more demanding propulsive performance and flexibility for more ambitious missions requiring high duty cycles, more challenging environmental conditions, and extended operation. Planetary spacecraft need the ability to rendezvous with, orbit, and conduct in-situ exploration of planets, moons, and other small bodies in the solar system. Mission priorities are outlined in the decadal surveys for each of the SMD Divisions (https://science.nasa.gov/about-us/science-strategy/decadal-surveys). Future spacecraft and constellations of spacecraft will have high-precision propulsion requirements, usually in volume-, mass-, and power-limited envelopes.
This subtopic seeks innovations to meet future SMD propulsion requirements in electric propulsion systems related to missions to the moon, Mars, and small bodies (like asteroids, comets, and Near-Earth Objects). Additional electric propulsion technology innovations are also sought to enable low-cost systems for small spacecraft missions. The roadmap for in space propulsion technologies is covered under the NASA Technology Area- TA-02 In Space Propulsion.
The expected TRL of this project is 4 to 5.
Advanced Diagnostics for Electric Propulsion (EP) Testing Facilities
Advancements in electric propulsion and growing demand for long-life and highly reliable electric propulsion systems necessitates new or improved diagnostic tools for ground test facilities. Diagnostics are generally desirable that increase functionality, improve accuracy, increase reliability, accelerate collection time, require fewer resources to implement, lower cost, are non-intrusive, and/or are compatible with novel propellants such as iodine. Toward these ends, proposers must address one of the following areas of interest. Proposers are expected to show an in-depth understanding of the current state-of-the-art (SOA) and quantitatively (not qualitatively) describe improvements over relevant SOA technologies that substantiate investment in the new technology. Proposals outside of the scope described below shall not be considered:
- Species spectrometers for characterizing plasma with charged species that have overlapping energy distribution, such as that of a charge-exchange plasma generated by a Hall thruster. Magnetically-shielded Hall thrusters tend to have a greater fraction of multiply-charged species than traditional Hall thrusters and the distribution function of the multiply-charged species tend to overlap (Hofer, AIAA-2012-3788; Huang, IEPC-2013-057). There are regions in the plume of a magnetically-shielded Hall thruster where the traditional approaches to measuring fractions of multiply-charged species are inadequate.
- An iodine compatible diagnostics package. Iodine properties make it an interesting alternative to xenon propellant; however, iodine is highly corrosive, and damages most modern plasma diagnostics employed in electric propulsion technology development. An innovative diagnostics package is desired that can be demonstrated immune to iodine both under vacuum and in ambient laboratory conditions where the diagnostic might remain contaminated with small amounts of iodine post-test. Proposers should include a development plan that includes both theoretical and experimental evidence that the probes will remain immune from long-term degradation, providing consistent reliable data.
The Science Mission Directorate (SMD) needs spacecraft with more demanding propulsive performance and flexibility for more ambitious missions requiring high duty cycles, more challenging environmental conditions, and extended operation. Planetary spacecraft need the ability to rendezvous with, orbit, and conduct in-situ exploration of planets, moons, and other small bodies in the solar system. Mission priorities are outlined in the decadal surveys for each of the SMD Divisions (https://science.nasa.gov/about-us/science-strategy/decadal-surveys). Future spacecraft and constellations of spacecraft will have high-precision propulsion requirements, usually in volume-, mass-, and power-limited envelopes. The new/improved diagnostics being solicited will aid in verification and validation of these electric propulsion technologies for their anticipated functional environments.
This subtopic seeks innovations to meet future SMD propulsion requirements in electric propulsion systems related to missions to the moon, Mars, and small bodies (like asteroids, comets, and Near-Earth Objects). The roadmap for in space propulsion technologies is covered under the NASA Technology Area- TA-02 In Space Propulsion.
The expected TRL of this project is 4 to 6.
Performance Demonstration of High Payoff Propulsion Technology: Rotating Detonation Engine and Dual Mode Ionic Liquid
NASA is soliciting proposals for performance demonstrations of lower Technology Readiness Level (TRL) high payoff propulsion technology. The objective is to gain performance data to validate previous or concurrent analytical performance predictions of the technology. Conventional propulsion systems are highly mature with diminishing returns for investments in evolutionary steps of higher performance. Proposals only addressing the following focus areas will be considered:
Rotating Detonation Engines - Rocket Applications
New technologies such as the rotating detonation engine (RDE) offers a step function improvement over state-of-the-art alternatives. However, RDE diagnostics and analytical models are limited for system performance characterization and design optimization. This topic has an objective of anchoring either existing or concurrent RDE model validation efforts. The proposals may include novel diagnostic solutions for system characterization in the challenging environment. This topic seeks to advance the capabilities for RDE thermal design, injector design, and pressure loss optimization. Phase II must include hot-fire testing for analytical model validation activities and/or advanced RDE diagnostics performance demonstration.
Dual Mode Propulsion
The government has spent significant resources to mature and demonstrate the non-toxic propellants (e.g., AF-M315E). In addition to anticipated life cycle cost reductions, these non-toxic propulsion systems have comparable or better performance as state-of-the-art alternatives. Today, many spacecraft carry two propulsion options: high thrust propulsion for high acceleration maneuvers (such as orbit insertion) and high specific impulse (low thrust) for station keeping and less time critical maneuvers. Dual mode operation is conventionally flown in two ways: as either a single propellant system, which typically offers lower performance in lieu of cost and packaging advantages or has independent propellant systems (e.g., hydrazine and xenon) to maximize performance. However, AF-M315E has been shown to have acceptable performance for combustion high thrust systems as well as low thrust variants. Near-term investments are anticipated to field both high thrust and low thrust systems. This solicitation seeks innovative solutions for interfacing with a common propellant tank for dual mode operation and validate integrated system performance. The Phase I proposal must include innovative propellant conditioning solutions with breadboard or higher fidelity hardware and the Phase II deliverables must include flight weight and efficient packaging systems that matches the proposed system architecture.
The expected TRL for this project is 3 to 5.
Autonomous Systems for Space Exploration
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 establish a lunar presence, to visit asteroids, to extend human 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, rather than through round-trip communication to Earth mission control. For robotic explorers this will be done through automation, while for human missions this will be done through astronaut-automation teaming.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.Machine learning has made spectacular advances for terrestrial applications, exceeding human capabilities in tasks such as image classification. 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. Machine learning and inferencing calls for new computing paradigms; for space, radiation tolerant processors will be enabling.Subtopics:In order to enable on-board autonomy, both software advances and computing advances need to be addressed.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.Fault management is an integral part of space missions. The fault management subtopic spans the lifecycle of fault management for space missions from design through verification and validation to operations. In the past, the predominant operational approach to detected faults has been to safe the spacecraft, and then rely on Earth mission control to determine how to proceed. New mission concepts require future spacecraft to autonomously decide how to recover from detected anomalies and continue the mission. The fault management subtopic solicits proposals that advance fault management technology across architectures, design tools, verification and validation, and operations.The sustainable habitat subtopic calls for machine learning technology in order to substantially improve diagnostic and prognostic performance for integrated systems health management. This subtopic 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.The Deep Neural Network accelerator and Neuromophic computing subtopic addresses extrapolating new terrestial computing paradigms related to machine learning to the space environment. For machine inferencing and learning computing hardware proposals, metrics related to energy expenditure per operation (e.g., multiply-add) and throughput acceleration in a space environment are especially relevant.The subtopic on swarms of space vehicles addresses technologies for control and coordination of planetary rovers, flyers, and in-space vehicles in dynamic environments. Co-ordinated swarms can provide a more robust and sensor-rich approach to space missions, allowing simultaneous recording of sensor data from dispersed vehicles and co-ordination especially in challenging environments such as cave exploration.
Coordination and Control of Swarms of Space Vehicles
Enabling Technologies for Swarm of Space Vehicles
This subtopic is focused on developing and demonstrating technologies that are enabling to cooperative operation of swarms of space vehicles in a dynamic environment. Primary interest is in technologies appropriate for low-cardinality (4-15 vehicle) swarms of small spacecraft, as well as planetary rovers and flyers (e.g., Mars helicopter); Large swarms and other platforms are of interest if well motivated in connection to NASA’s strategic plan and needs identified in decadal surveys.
The proposed technology should be motivated by a design reference mission presented in the proposal.
Possible areas of interest include but are not limited to:
- High precision relative localization and time synchronization in orbit and on planet surface.
- Coordinated task planning, operation, and execution.
- 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.
- Cooperative manipulation and in-space construction.
- Close proximity operations of spacecraft swarms including sensors required for collision detection and avoidance.
Subtopic technology directly supports NASA Space Technology Roadmap TA-04 regarding Robotics and Autonomous Systems (4.5.4 Multi-Agent Coordination, 4.2.7 Collaborative Mobility, 4.3.5 Collaborative Manipulation) Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan (Core) Robotic and Autonomous Systems: Relative GNC and Supervisory control of an S/C team:
- Multi-robot follow-on to the M2020+Mars Helicopter programs are likely to necessitate close collaboration among flying robots as advance scouts and rovers.
- Pop-Up Flat-Folding Explorer Robots (PUFFERs) are being developed at JPL and promise a low-cost swarm of networked robots that can collaboratively explore lava-tubes and other hard to reach areas on planet surface.
- A convoy of spacecraft is being considered, in which the lead spacecraft triggers detailed measurement of a very dynamic event by the following spacecraft.
- Multiple concepts for distributed space telescopes and distributed synthetic apertures are proposed that rely heavily on coordination and control technologies developed under this subtopic.
Phase I awards will be expected to develop theoretical frameworks, algorithms, software simulation and demonstrate feasibility. The expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range at completion of the project is 2-3. Phase II awards will be expected to demonstrate capability on a hardware test bed. The expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range at completion of the project is 4-6.
NASA has plans to purchase services for delivery of payloads to the Moon through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract. Under this subtopic, proposals may include efforts to develop payloads for flight demonstration of relevant technologies in the lunar environment. The CLPS payload accommodations are yet to be precisely defined, however at least for early missions, proposed payloads should not exceed 15 kilograms in mass and not require more than 8 watts of continuous power. Smaller, simpler, and more self-sufficient payloads are more likely to be accommodated. Commercial payload delivery services may begin as early as 2020 and flight opportunities are expected to continue well into the future. In future years it is expected that payloads of higher mass and with higher power requirements might be accommodated. Selection for award under this solicitation will not guarantee selection for a lunar flight opportunity.
- D. P. Scharf, F. Y. Hadaegh and S. R. Ploen, "A survey of spacecraft formation flying guidance and control (part 1): guidance," Proceedings of the 2003 American Control Conference, 2003., Denver, CO, USA, 2003, pp. 1733-1739.
- D. P. Scharf, F. Y. Hadaegh and S. R. Ploen, "A survey of spacecraft formation flying guidance and control. Part II: control," Proceedings of the 2004 American Control Conference, Boston, MA, USA, 2004, pp. 2976-2985 vol.4.
- Evan Ackerman, "PUFFER: JPL's Pop-Up Exploring Robot; This little robot can go where other robots fear to roll, " https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/space-robots/puffer-jpl-popup-exploring-robot
- "Precision Formation Flying," https://scienceandtechnology.jpl.nasa.gov/precision-formation-flying
- "Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA’s Next Red Planet Rover Mission," https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/mars-helicopter-to-fly-on-nasa-s-next-red-planet-rover-mission
- Miller, Duncan, Alvar Saenz-Otero, J. Wertz, Alan Chen, George Berkowski, Charles F. Brodel, S. Carlson, Dana Carpenter, S. Chen, Shiliang Cheng, David Feller, Spence Jackson, B. Pitts, Francisco Pérez, J. Szuminski and S. Sell. "SPHERES : A Testbed For Long Duration Satellite Formation Flying In MicroGravity Conditions." Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, AAS 00-110, Clearwater, FL, Jan. 2000.
- S. Bandyopadhyay, R. Foust, G. P. Subramanian, S.-J. Chung, and F. Y. Hadaegh, "Review of Formation Flying and Constellation Missions Using Nanosatellites," Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, vol. 53, no. 3, 2016, pp. 567-578.
- S. Kidder, J. Kankiewicz, and T. Vonder Haar. "The A-Train: How Formation Flying is Transforming Remote Sensing," https://atrain.nasa.gov/publications.php
- T. Huntsberger, A. Trebi-Ollennu, H. Aghazarian, P. Schenker, P. Pirjanian, and H. Nayar. "Distributed Control of Multi-Robot Systems Engaged in Tightly Coupled Tasks," Autonomous Robots 17, 79–92, 2004.
- Space Studies Board, "Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box," National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016. http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/CompletedProjects/SSB_160539
Robotic Systems for Space Exploration
"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 provides 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
Develop Information Technologies to Improve Space Robots
Extensive and pervasive use of advanced space robots can significantly enhance exploration and increase crew efficiency, particularly for missions that are progressively longer, complex, and distant. The performance of these robots is directly linked to the quality and capability of the information technologies used to build and operate them. With few exceptions, however, current information technology used for state-of-the-art robotics is designed only to meet the needs of terrestrial applications and environments.
The objective of this subtopic, therefore, is to encourage the adaptation, maturation, and retargeting of terrestrial information technologies for space robotics. Proposals are specifically sought to address the following technology needs:
- Advanced robot user interfaces that facilitate distributed collaboration, geospatial data visualization, summarization and notification, performance monitoring, or 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 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 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.
Information technology for intelligent and adaptive space robotics is highly cross-cutting:
- The technology can be applied to a broad range of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), including both small-scale drones and Predator / Global Hawk type systems. The technology can also be potentially infused into other flight systems that include autonomous capabilities.
- The technology is directly relevant to "caretaker" robots, which are needed to monitor and maintain human spacecraft during dormant/uncrewed periods. The technology can also be used by precursor robots to perform required exploration work prior to the arrival of humans.
- The technology is required for future missions in Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science (including the Moon, icy moons and ocean worlds) that require higher performance and autonomy than currently possible. In particular, missions that must operate in dynamic environments, or measure varying phenomena, will require the technology developed by this subtopic.
- The technology is directly applicable to numerous current mid-TRL (Game Changing Development program) and high-TRL (Technology Mission Development program) R&D activities, including Astrobee, In-space Robotic Manufacturing and Assembly, etc.
Proposers should develop technologies that can be demonstrated with or integrated to existing NASA research robots or projects to maximize relevance and infusion potential. Deliverables:
- Identify scenarios, use cases, and requirements.
- Define specifications.
- Develop concepts and prototypes.
- Demonstrate and evaluate prototypes in real-world settings.
- Deliver prototypes (hardware and/or software) to NASA.
The expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range at completion of the project is 4-5.
- J. Crusan, et al. 2018. "Deep space gateway concept: Extending human presence into cislunar space", In Proceedings of IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT.
- M. Bualat, et al. 2018. "Astrobee: A new tool for ISS operations". In Proceedings of AIAA SpaceOps, Marseille, France.
- T. Fong, et al. 2013. "Smart SPHERES: a telerobotic free-flyer for intravehicular activities in space". In Proceedings of AIAA Space 2013, San Diego, CA.
- M. Diftler, et al. 2011. "Robonaut 2 - The first humanoid robot in space". In Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Shanghai, China.
Communications and Navigation
"NASA seeks proposals to produce high impact developments in communications and navigation technologies to support future space science and exploration missions.Missions are generating ever-increasing data volumes that require increased performance from communications systems while minimizing the impacts to the spacecraft.This requires higher peak data rates from the communications systems, algorithms to increase the overall throughput of the end-to-end communications channel, and lowering the flight system cost, mass, and power per bit transmitted.Effective communications on a non-interference basis are also required in complex RF environments such as inside a launch vehicle fairing.New analysis methods are requested for predicting the RF environment in fairings and spacecraft cavities.Similarly, missions have a need for more precise guidance, navigation, and control to meet their mission objectives.This requires new and more efficient trajectory planning methods, increased onboard autonomous navigation, and increased precision of onboard instrumentation while minimizing cost, mass, and power.This focus area supports development of technologies in optical communications systems, cognitive communications, flight dynamics and navigation, transformational communications technology, electric field prediction methods, and guidance, navigation, and control that will provide a significant improvement over the current state of the art."
Electric field mapping and prediction methods within spacecraft enclosures
NASA Launch Services program is responsible for ensuring the safety of NASA payloads on commercial rockets. This includes prediction and mitigation of hazardous electric fields created within the payload enclosure and similar areas of the rocket. NASA and industry have commonly used approximation methods to determine the average fields in enclosures. In the last decade the Launch Services Program has funded studies to support quantification of electromagnetic field characterization in fairing cavities due to internal and external sources. By accurately predicting these fields, acoustic and thermal blanketing can be optimized for RF attenuation and design changes can be quickly evaluated reducing schedule impacts. Cost savings can also be realized by reducing stringent radiated susceptibility requirements and reliability improved by accurately predicting signal transmission/reception environments within enclosures. This methodology can also improve Human exposure safety limits evaluations for manned vehicle enclosures with transmitting systems.
Initially studies focused on computational methods using the recent advances in computing power and the improved efficiency of matrix-based solutions provided by GPU computing. Results indicate solution of an integrated fairing is deterministic, but sensitive to small variation in structures, materials. As of yet, only the empty or sparse cavity can be reliably solved with 3D computational tools even with large computing systems and the use of non-linear basis functions. Results also indicate that computational approximation methods such as physical optics and multilevel fast multipole are not reliable prediction methods within enclosures of this scale because of the underlying assumption sets that are inconsistent with enclosure boundaries. More recently, LSP has concentrated on statistically formulating a compilation of test/computational results to produce a maximum expected environment. Preliminary results are promising in the area of statistical bounding of the desired solution. The researched methodology should offer the following advantages over 3D computational and standard volume-based approximation methods:
- Predict BOTH statistical Mean AND Maximum Expected E field and/or common mode current.
- Consider the over-moded (electrically large conductive cavities) and under-moded (electrically smaller damped enclosures).
- Consider complex materials with multiple joined enclosures.
- Applications of this prediction methodology are far reaching and include shielding effectiveness and prediction of fields within a cavity enclosure due to internal transmitters and operating avionics.
To enable bounded solutions in electromagnetic environment prediction, proposals are solicited to develop technology that does the following:
- Bounds the expected peak electric field environment inside enclosures such as rocket fairings, and spacecraft enclosures. The method should include the technology required, the technique as well as the necessary verification efforts.
- To develop a numerical or statistically based methodology for characterizing shielding effectiveness of enclosures with associated applicable apertures.
- To develop methods for field enhancement/reduction based on thermal/acoustic blanketing and metal/composite components such as avionics and PAF structures.
- Develop preliminary user-friendly modeling software that can be easily customized to support NASA-specific applications.
Phase I Deliverables - Research, identify and evaluate candidate algorithms or concepts for electromagnetic field mapping of typical spacecraft and rocket enclosures. Demonstrate the technical feasibility and show a path towards a computer model development. It should identify improvements over the current state of the art for both time/resource savings and systems development and the feasibility of the approach in a varied-enclosure environment. Lab-level demonstrations are required. Deliverables must include a report documenting findings.
Phase II Deliverables - Emphasis should be placed on developing usable computer model and demonstrating the technology with under and over moded conditions with testing. Deliverables shall include a report outlining the path showing how the technology could be matured and applied to mission-worthy systems, verification test results, computer model with user’s and other associated documentation. Deliverable of a functional computer model with associated software is expected at the completion of the Phase II contract.
Relevance to NASA
All NASA payloads, particularly those with hardware sensitive to electric fields will benefit from launch and ascent risk reduction.
Expected Electric Field Prediction methods in Fairing/Aircraft and Spacecraft Enclosures:
- Paul G Bremner, Dawn Trout, Gabriel Vazquaz, Neda Nourshamsi, James C.West, and Charles F. Bunting, “Modal Q Factor and Modal Overlap
of Electrically Small Avionics Boxes”, Proc. IEEE Intnl. Symp. EMC, Long Beach, August 2018
- D. A. Hill, “Electromagnetic Fields in Cavities. Deterministic and Statistical Theories” John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey 2009
- J. Ladbury, G. Koepke, and D. Camell, "Evaluation of the NASA Langley Research Center Mode-Stirred Chamber Facility," NIST, Technical Note 1508, 1999.
- A. Schaffar and P. N. Gineste, "Application of the power balance methods to E- field calculation in the ARIANE 5 launcher payloads cavities," Presented at International Symposium on EMC, Long Beach, 2011, pp. 284-289.
- D.H. Trout, "Electromagnetic Environment in Payload Fairing Cavities," Dissertation, University of Central Florida, 2012.
- L. Kovalevsky, R.S. Langley, P. Besnier and J. Sol, “Experimental validation of the Statistical Energy Analysis for coupled reverberant rooms”, Proc. IEEE Intnl. Symp. EMC, Dresden, August 2015
- Bremner, P.G, Vazquez, G., Trout, D.H and Cristiano, D.J., “Canonical Statistical Model for Maximum Expected Imission of Wire Conductor in an Aperture Enclosure”, Proc. IEEE Intnl. Symp. EMC, Ottawa, October 2016
- G.B Tait, C. Hager, M.B. Slocum and M.O. Hatfiled, “On Measuring Shielding Effectiveness of Sparsely Moded Enclosures in a Reverberation Chamber”, IEEE Trans. on EMC, Volume:55, Issue: 2, October 2012
Life Support and Habitation Systems
"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 away from Earth, in deep space and on planetary surfaces, such as Moon and Mars.The focus is on those mission systems and elements that directly support astronaut crews, such as Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Systems and Radiation Protection, as well as systems engineering approaches that enable vehicle and system integration.Environmental Control and Life Support Systems encompass process technologies, equipment and monitoring functions necessary to provide and maintain a livable environment within the pressurized cabin of crewed spacecraft, including environmental monitoring, water recycling, waste management and resource recovery. 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. 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. Because spacecraft may not be tended by crew for long periods, systems must be operable after long periods of dormancy or absence of crew.As we consider human missions beyond earth, new technologies must be compatible with attributes of the environments we encounter, including partial gravity, atmospheric pressure and composition, space radiation, and presence of planetary dust.Portable Life Support System (PLSS) components that require space vacuum, may not operate in the weak carbon dioxide atmosphere on Mars. For astronauts to walk once again on a distant planetary surface, an effective boot must be incorporated into the design of the exploration space suit’s pressure garment. Outside of the protection of the Earth’s magnetosphere, radiation in deep space will be a challenge.Electronic systems, including processors for high performance computing and power converters, for avionics within spacecraft cabins and space suits, will need to be radiation hardened or otherwise tolerant to the radiation environment.There is a wealth of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware that could potentially be used, but only if tested for tolerance to these environments.The current collaborative environment between government, commercial and international sectors will result in the distributed development of human spacecraft elements and systems for human missions of the future, such as Gateway. Their integration may benefit from advances in model based systems engineering approaches.Please refer to the description and references of each subtopic for further detail to guide development of proposals."
Testing of COTS Systems in Space Radiation Environments
The use of COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) parts in space for electronics is a potential significant enabler for many capabilities during a mission. This subtopic is seeking a better understanding of the feasibility of COTS electronics for High Performance Computing (HPC) in space environments which are already heavily shielded. It seeks strategies based on a complete system analysis of HPC COTS that include, but not limited only to, failure modes to mitigate radiation induced impacts to potential HPC systems in those highly shielded space environments.
As background, spacecraft experience exposure to damaging radiation and that amount of exposure from various sources, (e.g., sun and galactic cosmic radiation sources) increases notably as the spacecraft ventures further away from the Earth’s magnetic field, since the magnetic field offers some level of protection. As spacecraft, and their electronic systems, proceed again to the moon and further into deep space, considerable work has and continues to be done to evaluate and determine how to appropriately protect the astronauts and to shield or otherwise protect various spacecraft, habitats, and their electronic systems, depending upon the needs of the missions.
Many of the most protective physical shielding approaches known result in infrastructure which is too heavy for what is considered acceptable for many missions’ intended launch and spaceflight conditions. Therefore, typically lighter infrastructure shielding is presently being used when and where possible. Spacecraft faring deeper into space for fly-by missions (e.g., New Horizons), orbiters (e.g., Mars Orbiter), or landers (e.g., Mars Rover) are examples of such relatively lightly shielded systems. The lighter shielding sacrifices some radiation protection and therefore results in some limitations in what their electronic systems, especially High-Performance Computing (HPC), could do (e.g., more on-board processing which could reduce by orders of magnitude the volume of data needed to be transmitted back and forth to Earth; and increase actual data collection rates for the mission at hand). There are already ongoing projects to upgrade the current radiation workhorse CPU (RAD750) by an order of magnitude, but this is not a COTS item and is expensive to manufacture and to buy. For critical systems that must be operational continuously and which may also have more lightly shielded systems, there is no other option at this time. This subtopic does not seek work of that nature.
Unlike the lightly shielded space environments discussed above, space environments which are highly shielded from radiation, such as is inherently the case for the interiors of manned missions and for habitats where humans live and work, high level radiation hardened systems like the relatively expensive RAD750 may not be as necessary even in deeper space beyond most of the present day LEO (Low Earth Orbit) situations. Instead, a less expensive COTS solution for the HPC system may be acceptable for a number of non-critical tasks that are not harmed by power interruptions, hardware failures, radiation upsets, etc. in those environments over what may have been thought likely. In order to assess the feasibility of a COTS solution for those types of highly shielded space environments, this subtopic is seeking proposals.
Successful Small Business Concern/Research Institution teams would be able to do space radiation modeling and a complete analysis of the COTS related HPC systems (e.g., modelling for an appropriate space relevant environment; destructive testing and analysis; and testing in an appropriate space relevant environment (e.g., in particle beams)). Further, since all parts in these HPC systems cannot be tested, an understanding of what parts are susceptible to radiation damage (e.g., Solid State Drives - SSDs) is crucial so as to create the list of potential test candidates.
Phase I Proposers are expected to develop a plan or strategy that explains and details how they would approach solving the problem that helps NASA mitigate radiation induced failures in the HPC system/components, identify COTS equipment that are likely candidates based on environmentally relevant testing, as well as modeling of interior environment and data analysis of similarly known/used approaches like the Orion vehicle testing (EM-1 when released). They should highlight the innovation in the suggested approach and explain why it would be a better solution over what may presently be used. Additionally, they should also indicate how the proposed strategies could be used commercially if developed. Phase I concept studies are expected raise the TRL to at least a 3/4 when completed. Phase II proposals would use that innovative approach to refine any and conduct further relevant interior environmental modeling and conduct the space radiation relevant testing and analysis on the selected COTS HPC parts/systems which could lead toward creating prototypes of the potential commercial items that come from the analysis. The deliverables from a successful Phase II is expected to raise the TRL to 5/6. Phase III would commercialize those items.
Relevance to NASA
The results from a project addressing this subtopic could be relevant to any NASA mission or project (e.g., as originating out of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate - HEOMD and the Space Technology Mission Directorate - STMD) and any commercial space activity that intends to send humans beyond LEO - Low Earth Orbit with a HPC system for reasons relevant to the mission.
There are many references on each individual aspect of the work involved but very few references on the entire process wanted. For a tool that can model the radiation environment inside a spacecraft:
OLTARIS: On-line Tool for the Assessment of Radiation In Space, NASA/TP-2010-216722, July 2010. R.C.Singleterry, S.R.~Blattnig, M.S.Clowdsley, G.D.Qualls, C.A.Sandridge, L.C.Simonsen, J.W.Norbury, T.C.Slaba, S.A.Walker, F.F.Badavi, J.L.Spangler, A.R.Aumann, E.N.Zapp, R.D.Rutledge, K.T.Lee, R.B.~Norman.
A reference to help understand the radiation testing of powered COTS parts, see:
Correlation of Neutron Dosimetry Using a Silicon Equivalent Proportional Counter Microdosimeter and SRAM SEU Cross Sections for Eight Energy Spectra, IEEE Transaction on Nuclear Science, Vol.~50, No.~6, pp.~2363-2366, Decmeber 2003. B.Gersey, R.Wilkins, H.Huff, R.C.Dwivedi, B.Takala, J.O'Donnell, S.A.Wender, R.C.Singleterry.
Spacecraft Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology Innovations for Spacecraft Water Management Applications
Water recovery from wastewater sources is key to long duration human exploration missions. Without substantial water recovery, life support system launch weights are prohibitively large. Regenerative systems are utilized on the ISS to recycle water from humidity condensate and urine, but the Urine Processor and Water Processor Assemblies contain rotary systems and produce brines (Distillation Assembly), utilize non-regenerable consumables (Multi-Filtration Beds) and operate at high temperature and pressures (Catalytic Reactor). To stabilize urine and protect components from biofouling and precipitation, a toxic pretreatment formula is added to collected urine. Simple measurements of water composition are made during flight, including conductivity, total organic carbon and iodine concentration. For determination of ionic or organic species in water and wastewater, samples must be returned to earth.
This subtopic solicits improvements to reduce complexity, decrease consumable mass, improve safety and reliability, and to achieve a higher degree of autonomy are of interest. In the past decade, technology developers have used nanotechnology to improve capabilities of catalytic oxidation, microbial control, surface fouling, disinfection, water quality monitoring, nano-photonic heating and distillation, selective and reversible removal of trace contaminants, and transport and delivery of treatment systems using nano-carriers. This solicitation deliberately requests for “technology building blocks” that demonstrate new nanotechnology capability which can favorably impact the NASA water recovery application. Because of the interconnected nature of water recovery systems, it is hard to insert new technology into an existing system. When key subsystem technologies are developed and demonstrated, new system level approaches can be implemented.
This solicitation targets three key aspects of water management for human spacecraft. These areas of scope are aligned with the three specific thrusts described within the white paper of the Nanotechnology Signature Initiative (NSI) "Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology". Please see references for additional information, including water quality requirements and guidelines.
Water Recovery from Wastewater: Increasing Water Availability Using Nanotechnology
- NASA is seeking nanotechnology based technologies capable of processing up to 10 liters/day urine, with >95% water recovery, system energy use <300 Watts, and contaminant levels in distillate less than 1.5 mg/l for organics, and less than 0.3 mg/l for ammonia.
- Technologies for water recovery from mixed streams of an exploration wastewater (containing hygiene, clothes wash, etc.) are also of interest.
- Water reuse systems must be capable of operating for 6 months at a time with dormancy periods of up to 2 years in between operations.
- For potential future bioregenerative life support applications involving growth of crop plants for production of food, process water may include agricultural waste waters, and there may be interest in separation of sodium chloride, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other nutrients from waste water for reuse in plant growth systems.
Stabilization of Water and Water Recovery System Hardware - Improving the Efficiency of Water Delivery and Use with Nanotechnology
Biological growth on condensing heat exchanger surfaces and in plumbing lines and tanks (for both potable water and wastewater) is a significant concern in water systems for future manned missions:
- NASA is seeking methods to maintain concentrations of biocidal silver (0.05 – 0.4 mg/L) in potable water including surface treatments that may limit silver loss.
- Biofilm growth can obstruct flow paths in operational wastewater collection and processing systems, especially in tanks where stagnant conditions lead to consistent growth. A greater concern is missions beyond ISS that include dormant periods when the spacecraft is not tended by crew, during which biofilm growth would be even more significant. NASA is currently considering the concept of flushing the wastewater plumbing with potable water to reduce microbial and organic content before dormancy, though additional controls are required to insure biofilm growth does not impact operations once the crew returns to the vehicle. NASA seeks robust design solutions that mitigate (but not necessarily eliminate) biofilm growth in plumbing and tanks during nominal operations and to prepare a system for dormancy. Design solutions must be viable for implementation with minimal crew time (automated concepts are much preferred) and must be compatible with materials typically used in water plumbing (for example viton, Teflon, 316L SS, Inconel 718). Treatments that also reduce scale and solids build up are of interest.
- Alternative pretreatment methods are of interest for urine and wastewater, to inhibit microbial growth and to prevent precipitation of calcium salts and production/evolution of ammonia. Nanotechnology solutions may allow for the elimination of use of pretreatment chemicals classified as toxicity level 2 or higher.
Enabling Next-Generation Water Monitoring Systems with Nanotechnology
- Multi-species analyte measurement capability is of interest that would be competitive to standard water monitoring instruments such as ion-chromatography, inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy, and high-performance liquid chromatography. Components that enable the miniaturization of these monitoring systems, such as microfluidics and small-scale detectors, will be considered.
- NASA is seeking nano-sensors that measure pH, ionic silver (Continuous in-line measurement of ionic silver (range 10 to 1000 ppb), conductivity, TOC (minimum detection level 50 ppb) with >3-year service life and >50% size reduction compared to current SOA.
- Applications exist for monitoring species within regenerated potable water and/or wastewater (potential waste streams: urine, humidity condensate, Sabatier product water, waste hygiene, and waste laundry water).
While NASA is looking for innovative solutions to any aspect of water management as described above, several focused areas are of particular interest. Innovations that target improvements to delivery and maintenance of silver for use as a biocide in potable water, surface treatments and methods that suppress biofilm growth and support system dormancy, multi-analyte species monitoring capability and/or energy efficient distillation, are especially welcome. Expected TRL is from 2 to 4.
- NASA is a collaborating agency with the NTSC Committee on Technology Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology's Nanotechnology Signature Initiative (NSI): "Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology" (Water NSI). For a white paper on the NSI, see https://www.nano.gov/node/1580
- A high-level overview of NASA's spacecraft water management was presented at a webinar sponsored by the Water NSI: "Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology: A Federal Perspective, Oct. 19, 2016" https://www.nano.gov/publicwebinars
- A general overview of the state of the art of spacecraft water monitoring and technology needs was presented at a webinar sponsored by the Water NSI: "Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology: Enabling Next-Generation Water Monitoring Systems, Jan. 18, 2017" located at https://www.nano.gov/publicwebinars
- For a list of targeted contaminants and constituents for water monitoring, see "Spacecraft Water Exposure Guidelines for Selected Waterborne Contaminants" located at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/exposure-guidelines-smacs-swegs
- Technical papers on a wide variety of Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) topics are available at https://www.ices.space/conference-proceedings/
Sensors, Detectors and Instruments
"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 (link is external).Planetary - http://sites.nationalacademies.org/ssb/completedprojects/ssb_065878 (link is external).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
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, which is particularly critical for small spacecraft platforms. This subtopic 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 application 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 a 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.
This subtopic also investigates new science that may be enabled by quantum mechanical technologies in space implemented in a photonic integrated circuit e.g.:
- Space?based atomic and optical clocks.
- Atomic inertial sensors.
- Nitrogen-vacancy diamond (or other) magnetometers.
- Atomic vapor magnetometers.
- Additional quantum sensors that provide an advantage (e.g., sensitivity, SWaP, cost, operating temperature) over present-day sensors.
The expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range at completion of this project is 2 to 4.
There are multiple Mission Directorates within NASA for which this technology is relevant:
- Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) - astronaut health monitoring
- Science Mission Directorate (SMD) - Earth, planetary and astrophysics compact science instrument (e.g., optical and terahertz spectrometers, magnetometers on a chip)
- Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) - game changing technology for small spacecraft communication and navigation (optical communication, laser ranging, gyroscopes)
- STTR - Exponentially increasing interest and programs at universities and start-ups in integrated photonics.
NASA Space Technology Area Roadmaps - 6.2.2, 13.1.3, 13.3.7, all sensors, 6.4.1, 7.1.3, 10.4.1, 13.1.3, 13.4.3, 14.3
- System-on-Chip Photonic Integrated Circuits By: Kish, Fred; Lal, Vikrant; Evans, Peter; et al.
IEEE JOURNAL OF SELECTED TOPICS IN QUANTUM ELECTRONICS Volume: 24 Issue: 1 Article Number: 6100120 Published: JAN-FEB 2018
- Integrated photonics in the 21st century By: Thylen, Lars; Wosinski, Lech
PHOTONICS RESEARCH Volume: 2 Issue: 2 Pages: 75-81 Published: APR 2014
- Photonic Integrated Circuits for Communication Systems By: Chovan, Jozef; Uherek, Frantisek
RADIOENGINEERING Volume: 27 Issue: 2 Pages: 357-363 Published: JUN 2018
- Mid-infrared integrated photonics on silicon: a perspective
By: Lin, Hongtao; Luo, Zhengqian; Gu, Tian; et al.NANOPHOTONICS Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Pages: 393-420 Published: FEB 2018
- Photonic Integrated Circuit Based on Hybrid III-V/Silicon IntegrationBy: de Valicourt, Guilhem; Chang, Chia-Ming; Eggleston, Michael S.; et al.JOURNAL OF LIGHTWAVE TECHNOLOGY Volume: 36 Issue: 2 Special Issue: SI Pages: 265-273 Published: JAN 15 2018
- Silicon Nitride Photonic Integration Platforms for Visible, Near-Infrared and Mid-Infrared Applications By: Munoz, Pascual; Mico, Gloria; Bru, Luis A.; et al. SENSORS Volume: 17 Issue: 9 Article Number: 2088 Published: SEP 2017
- Quantum Sensing, C. L. Degen, F. Reinhard, P. Cappellaro; REVIEWS OF MODERN PHYSICS, VOLUME 89, JULY–SEPTEMBER 2017
Metamaterials and Metasurfaces Technologyfor Remote Sensing Applications
Metamaterials are manmade (synthesized) composite materials whose electromagnetic, acoustic, optical, etc. properties are determined by their constitutive structural materials and their configurations. Metamaterials can be precisely tailored to manipulate electromagnetic waves, including visible light, microwaves, and other parts of the spectrum, in ways that no natural materials can (Kock 1946, 1948; Cotton 2003; Alici et al. 2007). The development of metamaterials continues to redefine the boundaries of materials science. In the field of electromagnetic research and beyond, these materials offer excellent design flexibility with their customized properties and their tunability under external stimuli. The vast possibilities for metamaterial technology to apply to remote sensing applications could apply to various areas across SMD, including Earth, lunar, and planetary science.
Topics of potential interest to explore for NASA’s applications are listed below:
- Antenna beam shaping with metamaterials (at optical as well as microwave wavelengths).
- Reconfigurable metamaterial filters covering microwave to optical frequency bands
- Development of microwave and millimeter-wave metamaterials: radar scanning systems, flat panel antennas, novel magnetic materials and high-performance absorbing and shielding materials for electromagnetic compatibility or interference (EMC/EMI). Single feed horn antennas to cover multiple frequencies, including 10, 18, 36, and 89 GHz (Caloz et al. 2001; Caloz and Itoh 2002).
- Development of fabrication processes for metamaterials with nanoparticles
- Tunable, reconfigurable metamaterials using liquid crystal medium (Applications: IR and Optical spectrometers).
- Development of artificial ferrites and artificial dielectrics using metamaterial concepts to design electrically small, lightweight, and efficient RF components.
- Use of Gradient Indexed Metamaterial (GIM) for on-chip routing of light and THz frequency signals. Design and prototype development of broadband (covering 10 GHz) THz components such as transmission line bends, power splitters, filters, and photonics.
Phase I should provide a comprehensive feasibility study to address an applicable area of interest within the field of metamaterial technology. Phase II Deliverables may include prototypes and demonstration of performance. Expected TRL is from 1 to 3.
Relevance to NASA
Metamaterial technology has the biggest potential to impact the future of spaceborne instrumentation by reducing size, weight, and power (SWaP) as well as the overall cost of future space missions. Due to the nature of metamaterials, there are a multitude of possible applications for this technology. For example, applications of metamaterials for remote sensing include tunability, complex filtering, light channeling/trapping, superbeaming, and determination of optical angular momentum modes via metamaterials. For additional information regarding SMD technology needs, please review https://science.nasa.gov/about-us/science-strategy/decadal-surveys.
- Alici, Kamil Boratay; Özbay, Ekmel (2007). "Radiation properties of a split ring resonator and monopole composite". Physica status solidi (b). 244 (4): 1192–96. Bibcode:2007PSSBR.244.1192A. doi:10.1002/pssb.200674505.
- Brun, M.; S. Guenneau; and A.B. Movchan (2009-02-09). "Achieving control of in-plane elastic waves". Appl. Phys. Lett. 94 (61903): 1–7. arXiv:0812.0912?Freely accessible. Bibcode:2009ApPhL..94f1903B. doi:10.1063/1.3068491.
- Caloz, C.; Chang, C.-C.; Itoh, T. (2001). "Full-wave verification of the fundamental properties of left-handed materials in waveguide configurations" (PDF). J. Appl. Phys. 90 (11): 11. Bibcode:2001JAP....90.5483C. doi:10.1063/1.1408261.
- Caloz, C.; Itoh, T. (2002). "Application of the Transmission Line Theory of Left-handed (LH) Materials to the Realization of a Microstrip 'LH line'". IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society International Symposium. 2: 412. doi:10.1109/APS.2002.1016111. ISBN 0-7803-7330-8.
- Cotton, Micheal G. (December 2003). "Applied Electromagnetics" (PDF). 2003 Technical Progress Report (NITA – ITS). Boulder, CO: NITA – Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. Telecommunications Theory (3): 4–5. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
- Eleftheriades, G.V.; Iyer A.K. & Kremer, P.C. (2002). "Planar Negative Refractive Index Media Using Periodically L-C Loaded Transmission Lines". IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques. 50 (12): 2702–12. Bibcode:2002ITMTT..50.2702E. doi:10.1109/TMTT.2002.805197.
- Kock, W. E. (1946). "Metal-Lens Antennas". IRE Proc. 34 (11): 828–36. doi:10.1109/JRPROC.1946.232264.
- Kock, W.E. (1948). "Metallic Delay Lenses". Bell. Sys. Tech. Jour. 27: 58–82. doi:10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb01331.x.
- Mohammadreza Khorasaninejad, Wei Ting, Chen,Robert C. Devlin,, Jaewon Oh, Alexander Y. Zhu, Federico Capasso, Metalenses at visible wavelengths: Diffraction-limited focusing and subwavelength resolution imaging, Science 03 Jun 2016: Vol. 352, Issue 6290, pp. 1190-1194, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf6644
- Rainsford, Tamath J.; D. Abbott; Abbott, Derek (9 March 2005). Al-Sarawi, Said F, ed. "T-ray sensing applications: review of global developments". Proc. SPIE. Smart Structures, Devices, and Systems II. Conference Location: Sydney, Australia 2004-12-13: The International Society for Optical Engineering. 5649 Smart Structures, Devices, and Systems II (Poster session): 826–38. Bibcode:2005SPIE.5649..826R. doi:10.1117/12.607746.
- Wei Ting Chen, Alexander Y. Zhu, Vyshakh Sanjeev, Mohammadreza Khorasaninejad, Zhujun Shi, Eric Lee & Federico Capasso, A broadband achromatic metalens for focusing and imaging in the visible, Nature Nanotechnology volume 13, pages 220–226 (2018)
- Zouhdi, Saïd; Ari Sihvola; Alexey P. Vinogradov (December 2008). Metamaterials and Plasmonics: Fundamentals, Modelling, Applications. New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 3–10, Chap. 3, 106. ISBN 978-1-4020-9406-4.
In-Space and Advanced Manufacturing
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.
In-situ Curing of Thermoset Resin Mixtures
NASA has a need to significantly improve the manufacturing processes of Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) used in human rated spacecraft with the intention of reducing cost and improving quality and system performance. The fabrication and installation of current TPS are labor intensive, cost prohibitive, and result in many seams between the segments. Future human missions to Mars will require the landing of large-mass payloads on the surface, and these large entry vehicles will require large areas of TPS to protect the structure. In order to reduce the cost and complexity of these vehicles, new TPS materials and compatible additive manufacturing techniques are being developed such that the thermoset-resin based materials can be deposited, bonded and cured on spacecraft structures. Typically, thermoset resin mixtures require thermal cycles at elevated temperatures to be cured and commonly that is done in ovens or autoclaves. Technologies are sought that cure thermoset resin mixtures deposited on the flight structure without placing the structure into large ovens. Instead, the material would be cured in-situ on the structure shortly after deposition.
This subtopic seeks to develop a cost effective and modular method of curing TPS materials on Earth that could be incorporated into additive manufacturing processes. The design concept and process should be able to support curing/setting of high-temperature thermoset resin based materials deposited on composite structures. The goal deliverable for Phase II would be to demonstrate a prototype of the system.
Both Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEO) and Science Mission Directorate (SMD) would benefit from this technology. All missions that include a spacecraft that enters a planetary atmosphere require TPS to protect the structure from the high-heating associated with hypersonic flight. Improved performance and lower cost heat shields benefit the development and operation of these spacecraft. Human missions to the moon and Mars would benefit from this technology. Commercial Space programs would also benefit from TPS materials and manufacturing processes developed by NASA.
It is desired that the Phase II deliverable be the engineering design and working prototype of the system. If the solution involves the development of a new self-curing material that meets TPS requirements, a sample or proof of concept will be required.
Expected TRL for this project is 2 to 3.
- https://techcollaboration.center/workshops/advanced-manufacturing-carbon-materials-workshop/ (See presentation on Technical Challenges with 3D Printing Heat Shields)
Lightweight Materials Structures and Assembly / Construction
"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
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 of structures.
Thin-ply composites are attractive for a number of applications in both aeronautics and space as they have the potential for significant weight savings over the current state-or-the-art standard-ply materials due to improved performance. 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. In particular, there is substantial interest in proposals that address manufacturability and production of composite structures utilizing thin-ply composites that at minimum develop the process and plan for the production of one prototype in Phase I and demonstrate reproducibility of prototype manufacturing and key parameter validation of repeated samples in Phase II. Another area requiring development is in new testing methods adapted for thin-ply, high strain composites for folded and rolled structures. The Phase II deliverables will depend on the aspect addressed, but in general will be documentation of the analytical foundation and process, maturing 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.
Relevance to NASA
The most applicable ARMD program is AAVP, and within that is Advanced Air Transport Tech. (AATT). Additional projects within AAVP that could leverage this technology Commercial Supersonic Tech. (CST), Hypersonic Technology (HT), and Revolutionary Vertical Lift Tech. (RVLT). Projects within TACP could also benefit. That is, any project in need of lightweight structures can benefit from the thin-ply technology development. Within STMD, projects with deployable composite booms, landing struts, and other very lightweight structures can benefit from the thin-ply technology.
Ground & Launch Processing
"Ground processing technology development prepares the agency to test, process and launch the next generation of rockets and spacecraft in support of NASA’s exploration objectives by developing the necessary ground systems, infrastructure and operational approaches.This topic seeks innovative concepts and solutions for both addressing long-term ground processing and test complex operational challenges and driving down the cost of government and commercial access to space. Technology infusion and optimization of existing and future operational programs, while concurrently maintaining continued operations, are paramount for cost effectiveness, safety assurance, and supportability.A key aspect of NASA’s approach to long term sustainability and affordability is to make test, processing and launch infrastructure available to commercial and other government entities, thereby distributing the fixed cost burden among multiple users and reducing the cost of access to space for the United States.Unlike previous work focusing on a single kind of launch vehicle such as the Saturn V rocket or the Space Shuttle, NASA is preparing common infrastructure to support several different kinds of spacecraft and rockets that are in development. Products and systems devised at a NASA center could be used at other launch sites on earth and eventually on other planets or moons.Specific emphasis to substantially reduce the costs and improve safety/reliability of NASA's test and launch operations includes development of ground test and launch environment technology components, system level ground test systems for advanced propulsion, autonomous control technologies for fault detection, isolation, and recovery, including autonomous propellant management, and advanced instrumentation technologies including Intelligent wireless sensor systems."
Intelligent Sensor Systems
Advanced Instrumentation for Rocket Propulsion Testing
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 or inaccessible measurement locations, all while eliminating cabling and auxiliary power. It is focused on near-term products that augment and enhance proven, state-of-the-art propulsion test facilities. 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 wireless 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. Nanotechnology enhanced sensors are desired where applicable to provide a reduction in scale, increase in performance, and reduction of power requirements.
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.
- 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.).
- Sensors are needed with capability to function reliably in extreme environments, including rapidly changing ranges of environmental conditions, such as those experienced in 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.
- The proposed innovative systems must lead to improved safety and reduced test, and space flight costs by allowing 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 with capability for in-place calibrations.
- The system design should consider an ultimate use of space flight qualified sensor systems, which could be used for multi-vehicle use.
Subtopic is relevant to the development of liquid propulsion systems and verification testing in support of the Human Exploration and Mission Operations Directorate. Supports all test programs at Stennis Space Center (SSC) and other propulsion system development/test and launch facilities. Potential advocates are the Rocket Propulsion Test (RPT) Program Office and all rocket propulsion test programs at SSC.
The expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range at completion of the project is 3-6.
- Fernando Figueroa, Randy Holland, David Coote, "NASA Stennis Space Center integrated system health management test bed and development capabilities," Proc. SPIE 6222, Sensors for Propulsion Measurement Applications, 62220K (10 May 2006);
- J. Schmalzel ; F. Figueroa ; J. Morris ; S. Mandayam ; R. Polikar, "An architecture for intelligent systems based on smart sensors," IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement ( Volume: 54 , Issue: 4 , Aug. 2005)
- S. Rahman, R. Gilbrech, R. Lightfoot, M. Dawson, "Overview of Rocket Propulsion Testing at NASA Stennis Space Center," NASA Technical Report SE-1999-11-00024-SSC
- David J. Coote, Kevin P. Power, Harold P. Gerrish, and Glen Doughty. "Review of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Ground Test Options", 51st AIAA/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum, (AIAA 2015-3773)
- H. Ryan, W. Solano, R. Holland, W. Saint Cyr, S. Rahman, "A future vision of data acquisition: distributed sensing, processing, and health monitoring," IMTC 2001. Proceedings of the 18th IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference. Rediscovering Measurement in the Age of Informatics (Cat. No.01CH 37188)
Air Vehicle Technology
This focus area includes tools and technologies that contribute to both the Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP) and the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP) encompassing technologies in all six Strategic Thrusts within the NASA Aeronautics Mission Directorate (ARMD). AAVP studies, evaluates and develops technologies and capabilities for new aircraft systems, and also explores far-future concepts that hold promise for revolutionary air-travel improvements. Innovative AAVP design concepts for advanced vehicles integrate technologies focus on fuel burn, noise, emissions and intrinsic safety. The goal: to enable new aircraft to fly safer, faster, cleaner, quieter, and use fuel far more efficiently. Partnering with industry, academia, and other government agencies, AAVP pursues mutually beneficial collaborations to leverage opportunities for effective technology transition. TACP encourages revolutionary concepts, creates the environment for researchers to experiment with new ideas, performs ground and small-scale flight tests, and drives rapid turnover into potential future concepts to enable aviation transformation. Research is organized to aggressively engage both the traditional aeronautics community and non-traditional partners. Although TACP focuses on sharply focused studies, the program provides flexibility for innovators to assess new-technology feasibility and provide the knowledge base for radical aeronautics advance.ion noise reduction technology.
Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) Vehicles toward Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and Regional Airliners
Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) aircraft employ multiple electric propulsors to achieve unprecedented performances in air vehicles. The propulsors could be ducted/un-ducted fans, propellers, cross-flow fans, etc. Some of the benefits identified using this propulsion system are reductions in fuel burn/energy usage, noise, emissions, and/or field length. A focus on full vehicle performance; stability and control prediction; and safe, efficient operation is considered a high priority. Addressing NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD’s) Strategic Thrust #3 (Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles) and #4 (Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion), innovative approaches in designing and analyzing DEP-enabled Urban Air Mobility (UAM) aircraft are investigated and encouraged. In support of these two Strategic Thrusts, the following DEP aircraft research areas are to be considered under this subtopic:
- Explore DEP-enabled UAM aircraft concepts and designs - passenger-carrying UAM vehicles will be required to operate safely and efficiently within an urban airspace setting. The study shall include vehicle system level assessment including feasibility, design, benefits, predicted performance, concept of operations and/or failure assessments.
- Develop tools and methods to assess DEP-enabled UAM aircraft and its operation - assessing a feasibility of UAM vehicle concept and operation requires reliable analytical, computational, experimental, and/or simulation tools and methods for safe and efficient operation. The study shall include computational, experimental, and/or simulation tools and methods in addressing safe and efficient operation of DEP-enabled UAM vehicles. The approach to validation of tools and methods should be discussed.
- Develop low-noise DEP-enabled UAM aircraft - community noise associated with UAM aircraft operating in an urban setting is very challenging and needs to be addressed from the system and component perspectives. The study shall address the noise problems of the UAM aircraft through vehicle design, noise reduction technologies and vehicle operations strategy. Effectiveness of proposed noise reduction approaches should be validated through reliable noise assessment tools and methods.
- Develop ride quality and gust load alleviation technologies for safe operation of UAM aircraft - dynamic gust encounters and wake vortices from neighboring aircraft can pose a very challenging problem for UAM operation. The ride quality of small UAM can suffer during gust or wake encounters. Structural loads on these aircraft could experience large excursions that could cause safety concerns. The study shall address relevant vehicle flight dynamics in the presence of gust and wake encounters and associated flight control technologies that could improve ride quality and gust load alleviation for UAM aircraft.
The expected outcome (Technology Readiness Level range: 2 to 3) of Phase I awards include but are not limited to:
- DEP-enabled UAM aircraft concept definition and system level assessment
- Initial development of analytical/computational/experimental/simulation tools and methods in assessing DEP enabled UAM aircraft and its operation; definition of approach to validate tools and methods
The expected outcome (Technology Readiness Level range: 4 to 6) of Phase II awards include but are not limited to:
- Detailed feasibility study and demonstration of the subscale hardware
- Refinement of tools and methods in assessing DEP-enabled UAM aircraft and its operation; validation of tools and methods developed in Phase I
- Experimental (e.g., wind tunnel, flight demo) results that assess the validity of the DEP aircraft concept
This research area is of particular interest to the following NASA programs:
- ARMD/Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP)
- ARMD/Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP)
- NASA Aeronautics Strategic Implementation Plan, 2017 Update: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/sip-2017-03-23-17-high.pdf
- NASA ARMD – Advanced Air Transport Technology (AATT) Project: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aavp/aatt
- NASA ARMD – Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) Project: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aavp
- NASA ARMD – Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS) Project: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/tacp/cas
- NASA ARMD article on Urban Air Mobility (UAM): https://www.nasa.gov/aero/nasa-embraces-urban-air-mobility
Electrified Aircraft Propulsion Energy Storage
Proposals are sought for the development of enabling rechargeable batteries (or other types of energy storage) for Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP). Two paths to improved battery performance are sought:
- Innovative thermal, structural, and electrical integration that reduce the mass fraction added when scaling from a battery cell to an integrated battery.
- Battery chemistry improvements that substantially enhance useable energy density, cycle life, life cycle cost, and safety.
This subtopic seeks technologies in the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range 1 to 4 via partnerships between academic institutions and small businesses. Small businesses interested in proposing TRL 3-6 energy storage ideas should apply to SBIR subtopic A1.04 - Electrified Aircraft Propulsion.
Batteries and other energy storage systems with some combination of some or all of the following performance levels at the integrated battery pack level are sought (see below for additional details on these metrics):
- Specific energy > 400Whr/kg at the system level.
- Cycle life > 10,000 cycles.
- Prime flight quality and safety.
- Cost effective enough to close electric air services at a profit.
Battery pack level energy density means the amount of useable energy after derating for depth of discharge, cycle life, C rate limits, thermal constraints, and any other applicable limit to energy that can be used during the mission divided by the mass of the battery package (including the structure, safety devices, battery management system, and thermal management parts that are mounted to the battery). This will typically require cell level energy densities in the range to 600-800 W-hr/kg along with an innovative combination of those cells into a battery system. Alternate electrical energy storage approaches will also be considered.
All-electric conventional and vertical takeoff research vehicles that can carry one or two people have been demonstrated. In order to achieve commercial viability, improvements in batteries are required for the aircraft to have sufficient range, safety, and operational economics for regular service. Markets needs span urban air mobility (UAM), thin/short haul aviation, and commercial air transport vehicles which use EAP. Hybrid electric and all electric power generation as well as distributed propulsive power have been identified as candidate transformative aircraft configurations with reduced fuel consumption/energy use and emissions.
- Specific Energy: Approximately a factor of 2 improvement is needed. Current assessment of battery specific energy requirements for all-electric operations are in the 300-400 Wh/kg at the installed/pack level (installed means after derating for depth of discharge limit, cycle life, battery management, packaging, and thermal environment). This assumes the ability to quickly recharge between flights. Current state of the art (SOA) is about ? 160-170 Wh/kg (pack level). Li-ion batteries are nearing practical maximums so new chemistry(s) or energy storage types are likely required to meet all-electric UAM mission needs. All electric helicopters and regional passenger aircraft will likely need 600Wh/kg and 500-700Wh/kg (cell level) respectively. Approximately 30-40% Wh/kg is lost when cells are integrated into packs and installed.
- Cycle Life: A substantial improvement is needed. Current SOA is 1500-3000 cycles which lasts about 3 months for UAM.
- Prime Flight Quality and Safety: The expected reliability of an aviation system is probably a few orders of magnitude higher than an automotive application and safety considerations are a more significant driver – including time needed to get passengers out of danger. Discuss features and plans to ensure reliability.
- Cost: Justify features of the technology and implementation, including comparisons to SOA alternatives, which aid in ensuring that the vehicle concept and overall operations can close profitably.
EAP is an area of strong and growing interest in NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). Energy storage is an enabling technology for the UAM and Thin Haul segments of the effort. There are emerging vehicle level efforts in UAM/On-Demand Mobility like the X-57 electric airplane being built to demonstrate EAP advances applicable to thin and short haul aircraft markets, and an ongoing technology development subproject to enable EAP for single aisle aircraft.
NASA Projects working in the vehicle aspects of EAP include: Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP)/Advanced Air Transport Technology (AATT) Projects, Integrated Aviation Systems Program (IASP)/ Flight Demonstrations & Capabilities (FDC) Project, AAVP/Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) Project, and Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP)/Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS) Projects.
Key outcomes NASA intends to achieve in this research area are:
- Outcome for 2015-2025: Markets will begin to open for electrified small aircraft.
- Outcome for 2025-2035: Certified small aircraft fleets enabled by EAP will provide new mobility options. The decade may also see initial application of EAP on large aircraft.
- Outcome for > 2035: The prevalence of small-aircraft fleets with EAP will provide improved economics, performance, safety, and environmental impact, while growth in fleet operations of large aircraft with cleaner, more efficient alternative propulsion systems will substantially contribute to carbon reduction.
Deliverables most likely will include prototypes of energy storage units along with research and analysis addressing safety and cost considerations. In some cases, test data for safety may be a deliverable. Ideally, proposals would identify a technology pull area (with a market size estimate), how the proposed idea address the needs of the technology pull area, and then deliver a combination of analysis and prototypes that substantiate the idea's merit.
- Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) is called out as a key part of Thrust 4 in the ARMD strategic plan: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/strategy
- NASA Urban Air Mobility (UAM): https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20170006235
- NASA X-57 Project: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/X-57/technical/index.html
Digital Transformation for Aerospace
"Digital Transformation is the strategic transformation of an organization's processes and capabilities, driven and enabled by rapidly advancing and converging digital technologies, to dramatically enhance the organization's performance and efficiency. These advancing digital technologies include cloud computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, mobile access, Internet of Things, agile software development and processes, social media, and others. Their convergence is producing major transformations across industries — media and entertainment, retail, advertising, software, publishing, health care, travel, transportation, etc.Through digital transformation, organizations seek to gain or retain their competitive edge by becoming more aware of and responsive to both customer and employee interests, more agile in testing and implementing new approaches, and more innovative and prescient in pioneering the next wave of products and services. Central to the success digital transformation is the pervasive (and often transparent) gathering of data about everything that impacts success--the organization's processes, activities, competencies, products and services, customers, partners, industry, and so on. Organizations can mine this massive, complex, and often unstructured data to develop accurate insights into how to improve organizational performance and efficiency.An organization may also use this data to train machine learning algorithms to automate processes, provide recommendations, or enhance customer experiences. The digital technologies listed above are essential to generate, collect, transform, mine, analyze, and utilize this data across the enterprise.NASA is undertaking a digital transformation journey to enhance mission success and impact. NASA intends to leverage digital transformation to:* boost innovation and creation of new knowledge,* reduce cost and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of processes for everything from human resources to science and engineering,* reduce the time to develop and mature new technologies,* facilitate efficient design and development of advanced aerospace vehicles,* ensure that increasingly complex missions are both cost-efficient and safe,* achieve data-driven insights and decisions,* increase autonomy in aerospace vehicles and ground facilities,* engage an enthusiastic and talented workforce, and* maintain worldwide leadership in aerospace.Through this topic, NASA is seeking to help explore and develop technologies that may be critical to the Agency's successful digital transformation. Specific innovations being sought in this solicitation are:* blockchain for aerospace applications, including its use in distributed space missions and in model-based systems engineering;* intelligent digital assistants that reduce the cognitive workload of NASA personnel, from scientists and engineers to business and administrative staff.Details about these applications of digital transformation technologies are in the respective subtopic descriptions."
Distributed Digital Ledger for Aerospace Applications
Blockchain solutions can benefit all NASA Mission Directorates and functional organizations. NASA activities could be dramatically more efficient and lower risk through Blockchain support of more automated creation, execution, and completion verification of important agreements, such as international, supply chain, or data use.
A Blockchain is a decentralized, online record keeping system, or ledger, maintained by a network of computers that verify and record transactions using established cryptographic techniques. A Blockchain is a data structure that makes it possible to create a consistent, digital ledger of data and share it among a network of independent parties. Blockchain distributed ledger technology may become a key enabler of digital transformation, enabling peer to peer transactions without requiring intermediaries or pre-established trust. Blockchain was originally developed to support digital currency transactions. Now, application of Blockchain is being explored for other financial services, software security, Internet of Things, parts tracking (supply chain), asset management, smart contracts, identify verification, and much more.
NASA is seeking innovative solutions involving Blockchain that would greatly enhance operational efficiency by providing a single, immutable "source of truth", viewable by all authorized parties, and usable by automated reporting and verification systems. In Phase I, expectations are to document a concept study for a Blockchain-based solution to one of the NASA challenges described. This must include a clear explanation of the benefits of a Blockchain solution over alternative solutions. In Phase II, the goal is to deliver a prototype system. In this call, NASA is seeking Blockchain-based solutions for only the following two NASA-specific challenges:
- Model Based System Engineering (MBSE) - A significant challenge in MBSE is knowing that the system model being used is the current (or intended) version, since various aspects evolve through the system development and operations lifecycle. Further, because systems are becoming increasingly complex, tracking the vast number of changes that occur needs to be automated and efficient. Blockchain solutions may enable a single, real-time source of truth for system models, to eliminate several sources of error and inefficiency in MBSE. These issues become more pronounced when considering an ecosystem involving distributed collaboration among multiple entities, a scenario that will emerge more frequently as MBSE becomes the standard of doing business. For example, the government has already begun moving towards model-based acquisition programs (see GBSD and SET references). In any such environment, trust and security, especially relating to intellectual property, become a significant concern. Blockchain technology may be able to play a central role in enabling such a paradigm.
- Distributed space mission management - To accomplish complex space mission and Earth observation objectives, constellations of distributed satellites are often the most cost-effective approach. These constellations share key consolidated resources such as ground stations, a space network, communication networks, onboard processes, etc. Schedulers manage the changes to these resources, and may get overloaded when changes occur, especially when a project or agency does not control all of the assets. Users tend to overbook resources to assure they do not run short of communication resources and then release those resources unused at the last minute. These unused resources cannot be reallocated by central planners due to insufficient time. Blockchain could help to solve this problem by the use of smart contracts which rapidly allow other users to claim those resources in a distributed, automated way. Thus, as a preliminary concept, this allows cost-effective federation of resources, even in a federated system in which NASA does not control all resources. There are many other potential examples in which a combination of a distributed and automated management system coupled with a central planning system, with distributed ledgers and smart contracts, can maintain the responsiveness and cost-effectiveness of future distributed spacecraft mission operations. Specifically, a Blockchain solution to managing distributed space missions should enable collaboration in a partially trusted environment and increase responsiveness, reliability, and availability of both spacecraft and ground resources, while enabling strong security that thwarts hacking attempts. The management functions enhance flexibility (e.g., reduce overhead for components to join and leave constellations), and enhance automation (e.g., automate resource outage alerts, facilitate localized re-planning, enable a constellation level model-based diagnostics). To accomplish this, proposed solutions much overcome the slow transaction rate, large file sizes, and concurrency issues of some blockchain implementations.
The expected TRL for this project is 3 to 5.
- Mandl; "Bitcoin, Blockchains and Efficient Distributed Spacecraft Mission Control”. https://sensorweb.nasa.gov/Bitcoin%20Blockchains%20and%20Distributed%20Satellite%20Management%20Control%209-15-17v12.pdf
- Heber, D. and Groll, M. “Towards a Digital Twin: How the Blockchain Can Foster E/E-Traceability In Consideration of Model-Based Systems Engineering.” 21st International Conference on Engineering Design. 21-25 August, 2017.
- Hsun Chao, Apoorv Maheshwari, Varun Sudarsanan, Shashank Tamaskar, and Daniel A. DeLaurentis. "UAV Traffic Information Exchange Network", 2018 Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations Conference, AIAA AVIATION Forum, (AIAA 2018-3347) https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2018-3347.
- IEEE Blockchain Initiative, https://blockchain.ieee.org/.
- 2018 Global Blockchain Survey, https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/energy-and-resources/articles/gx-innovation-blockchain-survey.html.
- David J. Israel, Christopher J. Roberts, Robert M. Morgenstern, Jay L. Gao, and Wallace S. Tai. "Space Mobile Network Concepts for Missions Beyond Low Earth Orbit", 2018 SpaceOps Conference, May 28 - June 1, 2018, Marseille, France. https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2018-2423
- Christopher J. Roberts, Robert M. Morgenstern, David J. Israel, John M. Borky, and Thomas H. Bradley. "Preliminary Results from a Model-Driven Architecture Methodology for Development of an Event-Driven Space Communications Service Concept", IEEE International Conference on Wireless for Space and Extreme Environments (WiSEE), October 10-12, 2017. Concordia University, Montréal, Canada.
- Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). Solicitation Number: FA8219-16-R-GBSD-1. https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=e0855eeb5673a4dea7218bf398da944c&_cview=1.
- Systems Engineering Transformation (SET) Initiative. Solicitation Number: N00421-2515-SET-RFI-INDUSTRY-DAY. https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=2f0f48d6bc44292bef8eef?728b58100f&tab=core&_cview=1.
Digital Assistants for Science and Engineering
NASA is seeking innovative solutions that combine modern digital technologies (e.g., natural language processing, speech recognition, machine vision, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and virtual reality and augmented reality) to create digital assistants. These digital assistants can range in capability from low-level cognitive tasks (e.g., information search, information categorization and mapping, information surveys, semantic comparisons), to expert systems, to autonomous ideation. NASA is interested in digital assistants that reduce the cognitive workload of its engineers and scientists so that they can concentrate their talents on innovation and discovery. Digital assistant solutions can target tasks characterized as research, engineering, operations, data management and analysis (of science data, ground and flight test data, or simulation data), business or administrative. Digital assistants can fall into one of two categories: productivity multipliers and new capabilities. Productivity multipliers reduce the time that the engineer or scientists spend on tasks defined by NASA policies, procedures, standards and handbooks, on common and best practices in science and engineering domains within the scope of NASA's missions, or on search and transformation of scientific and technical information. Proposals for productivity multipliers should demonstrate an in-depth understanding of NASA science and engineering workflows or NASA's information needs. New capabilities are disruptive transformations of the engineering and science environments that enable technological advances infeasible or too costly under current paradigms. Proposals for new capabilities should show clear applicability to NASA's missions. Examples of useful digital assistants include but are not limited to:
- A digital assistant that can formulate candidate designs (of components or systems) from a concept of operations, a set of high-level requirements, or a performance specification. Such an agent may use a combination of technologies (e.g., reinforcement learning, generative-adversarial networks) to autonomously ideate solutions.
- A digital assistant that uses the semantic, numeric, and graphical content of engineering artifacts (e.g., requirements, design, verification) to automate traces among the artifacts and to assess completeness and consistency of traced content. For example, the digital agent can use semantic comparison to determine whether the full scope of a requirement may be verified based on the description(s) of the test case(s) traced from it. Similarly, the digital assistant can identify from design artifacts any functional, performance, or non-functional attributes of the design that do not trace back to requirements. Currently, this work is performed by project system engineers, quality assurance personnel, and major milestone review teams as defined in NASA governing documents for engineering such as NPR 7123.1 Systems Engineering.
- A digital assistant that can recommend an action in real-time to operators of a facility, vehicle, or other physical asset. Such a system could work from a corpus of system information such as design artifacts, operator manuals, maintenance manuals, and operating procedures to correctly identify the current state of a system given sensor data, telemetry, component outputs, or other real-time data. The digital assistant can then use the same information to autonomously recommend a remedial action to the operator when it detects a failure, to warn the operator when their actions will result in a hazard or loss of a mission objective, or to suggest a course of action to the operator that will achieve a new mission objective given by the operator.
- A digital assistant that can identify current or past work related to an idea by providing a list of related government documents, academic publications, and/or popular publications. This is useful in characterizing the state-of-the-art when proposing or reviewing an idea for government funding. Currently, engineers and scientists accomplish this by executing multiple searches using different combinations of keywords from the idea text, each on a variety of search engines and databases; then the engineers read dozens of document returns to establish relevance. This example imagines a digital assistant that accomplish a substantial portion of this work given the idea text.
- A digital assistant that can highlight lessons learned, suggest reusable assets, highlight past solutions or suggest collaborators based on the content that the engineer or scientist is currently working on. This example encourages digital solutions that can parse textual and/or graphical information from an in-progress work product and search Agency knowledge bases, project repositories, asset repositories, and other in-progress work products in the Agency to identify relevantly similar information or assets. The digital assistant can then notify the engineer of the relevant information and/or its author (potential collaborator).
- A digital assistant that understands system dependencies and, when presented with a design change, can assist (or autonomously perform) selection, modification, and execution of engineering analyses to be updated.
- A digital assistant that can autonomously subset, transform, analyze, and visualize large science datasets in response to a user query.
This subtopic targets terrestrial uses of digital assistive technologies in science and engineering environments. For application of digital assistive technologies for in-space applications, see subtopic H168-H6.03 Spacecraft Autonomous Agent Cognitive Architectures for Human Exploration.
Further, this subtopic is related to technology investments in the NASA Technology Roadmap, Technical Area 11 Modeling, Simulation, Information Technology, and Processing under sections 220.127.116.11 Cognitive Computer, 18.104.22.168 Onboard Data Capture and Triage Methodologies, and 11 .4 .1 .5 Real-time Data Triage and Data Reduction Methodologies. This subtopic is seeking similar improvements in computer cognition but more generally applied to the activities performed by engineers and scientists and made more easily accessible through technologies like speech recognition.
The expected TRL for this project is 3 to 5.
- CIMON "Crew Interactive Mobile Companion"
- NASA TM–2016-219361 Big Data Analytics and Machine Intelligence Capability Development at NASA Langley Research Center: Strategy, Roadmap, and Progress https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20170000676.pdf
- NASA/TM-2016-219358 Machine Learning Technologies and Their Applications for Science and Engineering Domains Workshop – Summary Report