NASA is seeking industry input on four in-space flagship technology demonstrations the U.S. space agency plans to launch by 2016 in an effort to reduce the cost and expand the capability of future space exploration activities, according to a NASA request for information released May 17.

Costs to develop the demonstrations would range from $400 million to $1 billion each, excluding launch, with project life times not to exceed five years, the document states. Six technologies targeted for the first set of missions include:

  • Demonstration of a 30-kilowatt multimission solar electric propulsion stage utilizing a next-generation xenon ion propulsion system combined with an advanced array technology to be launched as early as 2014.
  • A 200-day mission that would launch in 2015 to demonstrate a liquid oxygen and methane or liquid oxygen and hydrogen in-space storage and transfer capability as well as autonomous or automated rendezvous and docking.
  • A three- to four-year mission involving lightweight or inflatable modules beginning with a small structure attached to the space station that could be launched as early a 2013 and leading to a 2015 launch of a long-duration module attached to station and inhabited daily by humans.
  • A 13-month Mars mission to demonstrate aerocapture and entry, descent and landing technologies.
  • Development of a vehicle to demonstrate automated or autonomous rendezvous and docking as well as orbital maneuvering capabilities required for other flagship missions.
  • A closed-loop life-support system demonstration aboard the international space station as part of the inflatable module mission.
  • NASA expects to launch the first of the four flagship missions by 2014, with the remaining three to be launched no later than 2016, followed by additional flights every 12 to 18 months.