NASA Selects 14 Technologies for Development, Suborbital Flight Demonstration

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NASA’s Space Technology Program has picked 14 technologies for development and eventual flight demonstration aboard commercial reusable suborbital launch vehicles, the agency announced July 2.

NASA said the selected proposals will demonstrate new technological approaches active thermal management, advanced avionics, pinpoint landing and advanced in-space propulsion, among other areas. The proposals also are intended to address many of the high-priority technology needs identified in the National Research Council’s Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities report published this year.

“These technology payloads will have the opportunity to be tested on commercial suborbital flights, sponsored by NASA, that fly up to and near the boundary of space,” Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. “The flights will ensure the technology fidelity before they’re put to work in operational systems in the harsh environment of space.”

NASA said it received proposals from NASA centers and other government agencies, federally funded research and development centers, educational institutions, industry and nonprofit organizations. NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program sponsored this solicitation in collaboration with NASA’s Game Changing Development Program.

The selected technologies, once developed, will be made available to the Flight Opportunities Program for pairing with appropriate suborbital reusable launch service provider flights. Of the half-dozen providers included on NASA’s list of commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicles, only one — UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft XL rocket — is listed as operational. Virgin Galactic and Masten Space Systems are “accepting proposals.” Armadillo Aerospace, Whittinghill Aerospace and XCOR Aerospace — the other three operators in NASA’s stable — list their vehicles as “under development.”

NASA expects to spend approximately $3.5 million on the 14 awards, which will be worth $125,000 to $500,000 apiece.

Payloads are expected to fly in 2013 and 2014.

Proposals selected for contract negotiations are:

  • “Demonstration of Vertically Aligned Carbon Nano-tubes for Earth Climate Remote Sensing,” Howard Todd Smith, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
  • “Facility for Microgravity Research and Submicroradian Stabilization Using [Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles],” Scott Green, Controlled Dynamics Inc., Huntington Beach, Calif.
  • “Enhanced Thermal Switch,” Douglas Mehoke, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
  • “Autonomous Flight Manager for Human-in-the-Loop Immersive Simulation and Flight Test of Terrestrial Rockets,” Kevin Duda, Draper Laboratory Inc., Cambridge, Mass.
  • “Armadillo Launch Vehicle Attitude Knowledge Capability Enhancement Using Advanced Micro Sun Sensor,” Sohrab Mobasser, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.
  • “Demonstration of Variable Radiator,” Richard Kurwitz, Texas A&M University, College Station.
  • “Dynamic Microscopy System,” John Vellinger, Techshot Inc., Greenville, Ind.
  • “Design and Development of a Micro Satellite Attitude Control System,” Manoranjan Majji, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • “Suborbital Test of a Robotics-Based Method for In-Orbit Identification of Spacecraft Inertia Properties,” Ou Ma, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.
  • “Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance for Planetary Pinpoint Landing,” Behcet Acikmese, JPL.
  • “SwRI Solar Instrument Pointing Platform,” Craig DeForest, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.
  • “Saturated Fluid Pistonless Pump Technology Demonstrator,” Ryan Starkey, University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • “Electric-hydrodynamic Control of Two-Phase Heat Transfer in Microgravity,” Boris Khusid, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights, N.J.
  • “[Field Programmable Gate Array]-based, Radiation Tolerant, Reconfigurable Computer System with Real Time Fault Detection, Avoidance, and Repair,” Brock LaMeres, Montana State University, Bozeman.