In a step towards developing smarter spacecraft, NASA has
selected three advanced technologies and providers for its
next New Millennium Program test flight project.

The technologies will fly on three different spacecraft
in 2004. They make up the Space Technology 6 project, managed
by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The technologies promise to enable future spacecraft to
have greater control over onboard decision making, allow two
spacecraft to get close and personal, and give a spacecraft
improved ability to autonomously detect its location and
maintain its attitude.

“We are pushing the envelope and pursuing technologies
that have the potential to significantly benefit future space
science missions by providing new capabilities or
significantly reducing the cost of current capabilities,” said
Dr. Christopher Stevens, program manager of the New Millennium
Program at JPL. “We are taking controlled risks now so that
the future first-time users won’t have to.”

The total NASA funding for the Space Technology 6 flight-
validation opportunity is $24.8 million. This includes the
cost for all three technologies and all phases of the project.
The selected technologies and providers are:

— Scientific Systems Company, Inc., Woburn, Mass.–
(Autonomous Rendezvous in Low-Earth Orbit) This high-precision
autonomous rendezvous system will allow two spacecraft to
approach and meet each other in close proximity. This
technology could significantly enhance in-space rendezvous for
future sample return missions. Scientific Systems Company’s
contributing partners include the NASA Mars Program at JPL and
the Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base,
N.M. The technology will be tested on the Air Force’s XSS-11
Microsat, scheduled for launch in 2004.

— Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. — (Autonomous
Sciencecraft Constellation) This software will give a future
spacecraft unprecedented decision-making capabilities,
allowing it to process data onboard, make intelligent
decisions to downlink data that it deems scientifically
important, and choose science observations that appear
interesting. The software will fly on the Air Force’s
TechSat-21 constellation planned for launch in 2004. The Air
Force Research Laboratory will manage TechSat-21.

— The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., Cambridge, Mass.
— (Low Power Avionics Sensor Suite) A miniature star camera
and microscopic gyro will enable a spacecraft to determine its
orientation whether it is spinning or stable. It will also
enable a spacecraft to sense its position and recover its
orientation after a power loss. This ultra-low power and low
weight technology will enable new concepts in development of
nanosatellites and free up room for science instrument
payloads on large or medium class spacecraft. The “Hitchhiker
Canister” payload was selected to carry the technology
experiment aboard a Space Shuttle mission in 2004. NASA’s
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages the
Hitchhiker program.

The New Millennium Program was created in 1994 to
identify, develop and flight-validate advanced technologies
that can lower costs and enable critical performance of
science missions in the 21st century.

A recent success for the program was the Deep Space 1
spacecraft, which snapped the best close-up pictures ever of a
comet as it flew by comet Borrelly last month. Launched in
October 1998, Deep Space 1 completed its New Millennium
Program flight-validation objectives that successfully
demonstrated the capabilities of ion propulsion and 11 other
technologies, including autonomous navigation. The spacecraft
has lived three times its expected lifespan.

Further information on the New Millennium Program is
available at .

The New Millennium Program is managed by JPL for NASA’s
Office of Earth Science and Office of Space Science,
Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California
Institute of Technology in Pasadena.