Five teams are competing for a single flight opportunity under NASA’s New Millennium space technology demonstration program. NASA intends to select one of the five teams in 2006 to develop an in-space demonstration that could be launched by the end of the decade for $130 million. The flight demonstration is intended to validate breakthrough technologies that could find their way into future Earth and space science missions.
NASA announced July 20 that it had selected 11 technology investigators from companies both large and small to join these five teams competing for the flight opportunity.
Ray Taylor, the New Millennium program executive at NASA headquarters here, said the five teams will spend the next year and about $1 million each refining their competing flight demonstration concepts, which run the gamut from a solar sail mission to flying multiple small spacecraft in formation.
The other concepts include aerocapture techniques for putting spacecraft in orbit around planets with atmospheres; a demonstration of large space telescope technologies such as deployable sunshields and mechanical cryogenic coolers to super cool instruments; pinpoint landing and hazard avoidance technology demonstrations to enable future missions to land on the Moon, Mars, Europa, comets, asteroids and other deep space destinations.
Taylor said NASA will select one of the five teams next year to fly in space within the next five years as the Space Technology 9 flight validation mission.
NASA has successfully flown two New Millennium spacecraft and one flight software demonstration since it kicked off the program in 1998 with the highly successful Deep Space 1 solar-electric powered probe. Five other New Millennium projects, not including the five candidates for the Space Technology 9 flight, are still awaiting launch.