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Sensors, Detectors, and Instruments


NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), encompasses research in the areas of Astrophysics, Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science. The National Academies 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

A major objective of SMD instrument development programs is to implement science measurement capabilities with smaller or more affordable aerospace platforms 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 capable of making measurements across the electromagnetic spectrum is essential to achieving this objective. For Earth Science needs, in particular, the subtopics reflect a focus on remote sensing (active and passive) and in situ instrument development for space-based, airborne, and uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms.  A strong focus is placed on reducing the size, weight, power, and cost of remote and in situ instruments to allow for deployment on a more affordable and wider range of platforms. Astrophysics has a critical need for sensitive detector arrays with imaging, spectroscopy, and polarimetric capabilities, which can be demonstrated on the 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 2022 program year, we are continuing to update the included subtopics. Please read each subtopic of interest carefully. We continue to emphasize Ocean Worlds and solicit the 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 continue as two subtopics, one focused on active microwave remote sensing and the second on passive systems such as radiometers and microwave spectrometers. NASA has an additional interest in advancing quantum sensing technologies to enable wholly new quantum sensing and measurement techniques focused on the development and maturation towards space application and qualification of atomic systems that leverage their quantum properties.  Furthermore, photonic integrated circuit technology is sought to enable size, weight, power, and cost reductions, as well as improved performance of science instruments, subsystems, and components which is particularly critical for enabling the use of affordable small spacecraft platforms.

A key objective of this SBIR Focus Area 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 the 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 toward a Phase II prototype demonstration. The following subtopics are concomitant with these objectives and are organized by technology.

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