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MUREP Partnership Learning Annual Notification 2024

MPLAN Awards provide resources to MSIs to further develop ideas, facilitate research and development, and engage stakeholders.
stage:
prize:
Multiple planned awards of up to $50,000
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Mission Directorate Topics
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Eligibility and Rules
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Teams95
About

Overview

 

Interested in learning more about NASA MPLAN?  Register HERE to attend our informational webinar on February 22nd at 2PM EST.

 

NASA invites Principle Investigators (PIs) from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to apply for an exciting program with awards up to $50,000 per PI to engage in research and work with NASA to prepare for larger funding opportunities.

This program consists of 2 phases:

  • Phase 1: MSIs submit proposals based on various topics provided by NASA MUREP and the Mission Directorates.
  • Phase 2: Awarded MSIs are invited to meet with NASA researchers and MUREP representatives. The meetings will focus on fostering collaboration, enhancing technical skills, and providing insights into future NASA opportunities.

The NASA MUREP Partnership Learning Annual Notification (NASA MPLAN) will offer PIs the opportunity to:

  • Engage in a research project directly with NASA
  • Participate in monthly virtual workshops on fostering collaboration, enhancing technical skills, proposal writing, and preparing for future NASA opportunities.
  • Gain insight into NASA priorities for future proposals.
  • Attend a two day in-person workshop to network with NASA and other institutions

By the end of the program, PIs will be better prepared for future funding opportunities such as:

The overarching goal of NASA MPLAN is to stimulate creative engagements for MSI researchers, leading to increased participation from MSIs in the development of new technologies that support NASA's mission and commercial market development. Ultimately, NASA MPLAN establishes viable partnerships that can compete in other NASA funding opportunities and open doors to new possibilities and growth.

 

What institutions are eligible? NASA MPLAN awards are available to PIs from approved Minority Serving Institutions, as listed on the NASA MSI Exchange. They include:

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Predominantly Black Institutions
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions
  • Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions
  • American Indian Tribally-Controlled Colleges and Universities
  • Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions

Who is sponsoring NASA MPLAN?

NASA MPLAN is administered by the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) through NASA's Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM).


Guidelines

NASA is soliciting research proposals that fall within the 2024 topic areas that represent a subset of pertinent mission areas for NASA.

  • In Phase 1, PIs submit a proposal to one of the topic areas by April 15, 2024. 
  • In Phase 2, NASA facilitates communication and meetings between Phase 1 awardees, Mission Directorate representatives, and subject matter experts. Selected PIs and their partners (if applicable) will have the opportunity to participate in a kickoff meeting, a two-day in-person workshop, engage monthly with NASA researchers, identify opportunities with NASA, and network with other PIs. These sessions are expected to occur between June and December 2024. 

 

It is highly encouraged that awardees participate in Phase 2 meetings to exchange information and receive the full benefits of this program.

 

Award

NASA MPLAN Awards provide resources to MSIs to further develop ideas, facilitate research and development, and engage stakeholders. Successful proposals result in awards with a maximum amount of $50,000.

NASA intends for winning solvers to utilize their prize funds for various purposes such as staff support, student experiences, professional development, travel, meetings, focus groups, research, evaluation, consultants, specialized resources, technical expertise, and support needed to develop and implement proposed strategies and approaches. 

NASA MPLAN Awards are prizes, not grants or cooperative agreements. There are no formal reporting requirements on the use of funds, no restrictions on how the funds can be used and no period of performance by which they must be used by. However, NASA will provide support in Phase 2 up to December, 2024.

Awards are anticipated to be dispersed to MSIs within 45 days of the winner announcement, pending the on time submission of the award documents by the MSI.

MSIs may submit to any of the topics found here

 

Roles and Responsibilities

Each recipient appoints a Principal Investigator (PI) in support of its award. It is suggested that PIs assume primary responsibility for implementing, operating, and managing the project as described in their original proposal. The PI may want to consider taking on some or all of the following tasks:

  • Leading, administering, and evaluating the project and its activities;
  • Collaborating with university leadership to promote Underrepresented Minority (URM) advancement in engineering;
  • Supervising project staff and ensuring compliance with policies and laws;
  • Using research-based best practices for the project;
  • Managing project budgets and complying with funding guidelines;
  • Participating in meetings and delivering progress reports in a timely manner;
  • Participating in performance assessment and evaluation activities aligned with federal government's priorities.

Proposals

Each proposal must include a completed submission form and budget.

Proposals should not include any proprietary information. Proposals should only include information that can be made publicly available without compromising any intellectual property or proprietary rights.

NASA MPLAN proposals are intended to be short, concise, and lower effort than grant applications.

Submission Form

Award proposals should be written at a conceptual big picture level, focusing on the overall goals and objectives of the award as detailed in the submission form:

  1.  MSI Information:
    1. Name of institution
    2. Address of primary campus of institution
    3. Name and email of Principal Investigator and their role at the institution
    4. Optional: Name and role of any other key participants from the MSI, including their level of support in the planning effort.
    5. Zip folder containing the CVs of the Principal Investigator and, if applicable, CVs of any other key participants from the MSI.

       
  2. Team Members and Partners
    You may provide information for up to 5 additional team members and/or partners, beyond the Principal Investigator. Submitters may have more than 5 additional team members/partners, but will only be able to provide information for up to 5. 

    Team members and partners are optional, except for topic areas under the MUREP Small Business Technology Transfer (mSTTR) topic in the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), which require a small business partner.
    1. For each team member:
      1. Role: select one of Co-Principal Investigator, Small Business Concern/Partner, Other University Team Member, or Other Partner (not small business)
      2. Name and email
      3. Partner capabilities (CV, slick sheet, capabilities statement, etc. PDF upload)

         
  3. The Proposal:
    1. Topic selection: select one topic from the list here 
    2. Intended or desired start date of the proposed project or activity (after June 1, 2024)
    3. Intended or desired start date of the proposed project or activity (there is no set period of performance for the funds; however, we recommend a proposal end date on or around December 2024 to correspond with the end date of NASA support)
    4. Total amount of funds needed for the proposed project or activity, including all anticipated expenses and costs.
    5. Executive summary: High level overview of the proposed technology or activity, including the problem being addressed. (max 1200 characters)
    6. Project objectives: What are the desired outcomes of your project or activity? (max 1200 characters)
    7. Approach to Research/Technical Innovation: A description of the proposed technology or activity, the degree of innovativeness, potential approaches to developing the technology, and key risks and mitigation strategies. (max 2700 characters)
    8. Potential Applications to NASA: Potential NASA applications or missions which might benefit from developed technology, potential commercialization opportunities. (max 1300 characters)
    9. Attach a completed budget for your proposed project or activity, using the budget template provided here.
    10. Optional: Background and Literature Review: A review of the work done in the field, emphasizing the problem and attempts to tackle it. (max 2000 characters)

 

Budget

Applicants submit a budget using the budget template (view a sample budget here). Budget details are provided to allow for assessment of the type of skills/expertise engaged in this effort and the number of hours committed.

Requirements:

  • Use of Government facilities or contracted technical support should not be included in the budget submission. 
  • At least 50% of the budget must go to the MSI.
  • Proposed projects should not begin until June 1, 2024.
  • The budget requested for this award cannot exceed $50,000.

Recommendations:

  • Budget proposals should cover activities up to December 2024. 
  • Consider allocating funds for travel for up to two in-person meetings within the United States, as there may be opportunities to engage with your Mission Directorate cohort.
  • As this is a prize and not a grant, we recommend that no indirect costs be included in the budget.
  • Materials and supplies budget not exceed 10% of the total funding.

Timeline

  • Open for submissions: February 12, 2024 
  • Pre-proposal information session: February 22, 2024 at 2:00 pm ET
  • Submission deadline: April 15, 2024 at 5:00 pm ET
  • Selection Announcement: May 17, 2024
  • Round 2: June 2024 - December 2024 (6 months)
    • Kickoff Meeting: July 11, 2024, 2 pm ET
    • Week of August 5 2024: In-Person Workshop (two days)
    • Cohort meeting/ SME session 1: September 5, 2024, 2pm ET
    • Cohort meeting/SME session 2: October 10, 2024, 2pm ET
    • Cohort meeting/SME session 3: November 7, 2024, 2pm ET
    • Cohort meeting/Close out session: December 5, 2024, 2pm ET

Judging Criteria

NASA selects proposals for award that offer the most advantageous research and development (R&D), deliver technological innovation that contributes to NASA’s missions, provides societal benefit, and grows the U.S. economy. In evaluating proposals, NASA prioritizes the scientific and technical merit of the proposal, as well as its feasibility and potential benefit to NASA's interests (as described in the judging criteria below). NASA strives for a balanced project award portfolio that takes into account diverse factors, including but not limited to, different types of institutional representation, participation by individuals traditionally underrepresented in STEM studies and careers, and geographic diversity.

Each proposal is evaluated and scored on its own merits using the evaluation factors for award described below:

Section DescriptionOverall Weight
Scientific/Technical Merit 
  • Evaluation of proposed R&D effort on innovative and feasible technical approach to NASA problem area;
  • Demonstration of relevance to one or more NASA missions and/or programmatic needs;
  • Clear presentation of specific objectives, approaches, and plans for developing and verifying innovation;
  • Demonstration of clear understanding of the problem and current state of the art;
  • Assessment of understanding and significance of risks involved in the proposed innovation.
50%
Experience, Qualifications, and Facilities
  • Evaluation of technical capabilities and experience of Principal Investigator (PI), project manager, key personnel, staff, consultants, and subcontractors;
  • Assessment of consistency between research effort and level of support from involved parties;
  • Demonstration of adequate instrumentation or facilities required for the project;
  • Detailed consideration of any reliance on external sources, such as Government-furnished equipment or facilities.
25%
Feasibility & Reasonableness
  • Evaluation of whether the proposed plan, schedule, and budget is appropriate for the project/activity
25%
Mission Directorate Topics

Mission Directorate Topics

MPLAN features topic areas from three NASA Mission Directorates. Select the Mission Directorate below to view their topic areas, or scroll to explore all three.

 

Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD)

NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) is responsible for enabling sustained human exploration missions and operations in our solar system. SOMD manages NASA’s current and future space operations in and beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO), including commercial launch services to the International Space Station.

 

SOMD topics originated from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and the Human Research Program (HRP). See the individual sections with drop-down items below for a full description of each topic area:

Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH)

NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) partners with external entities in researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA’s Journey to Mars. One of these partnerships is the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), a cooperative agreement with a consortium led by Baylor College of Medicine and includes the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The mission of the TRISH is to lead a national effort in translating cutting edge emerging terrestrial biomedical research and technology development into applied space flight human risk mitigation strategies for human exploration missions.

Translational research is an interdisciplinary model of research that focuses on translating fundamental research concepts into practice, with appreciable health outcomes. The TRISH implements a “bench-to-spaceflight” model, moving results or methods from laboratory experiments or clinical trials to point-of-care astronaut health and performance applications. The goal of the research is to produce promising new approaches, treatments, countermeasures or technologies that have practical application to spaceflight.

The TRISH’s primary objectives are:

  • Work cooperatively with the NASA Human Research Program to develop and manage the implementation of a relevant research and technology portfolio of single- and multi-disciplinary teams that will lead to the identification and translation to NASA of novel knowledge and methodologies (across all biomedical, human performance and associated technological disciplines) directly applicable to human health and performance risk reduction strategies for long-duration human exploration of space and planetary bodies
  • Promote and provide the means for active collaboration with academic, not-for profit, for-profit, government, military and international entities to create innovative solutions to reducing spaceflight-associated human health and performance risks
  • Provide training and development opportunities for scientists, postdoctoral fellows or physicians looking to apply their expertise to solving NASA issues
  • Implement a “best value” research program for the available resources, insuring minimal investment in overhead, while maximizing investments in research, collaborations, and technology maturation

Currently astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have relatively quick access to many medical supplies and the ability to talk to health care professionals on the ground. This will not as easily be the case for future missions beyond low earth orbit (LEO). Astronauts will be required to bring everything that they might need for medical care with them on an exploration mission. Medical technologies that are low footprint and easy to use and transport are ideal for spaceflight. This would mean a technology that has low mass and requires minimal volume and power to operate. All projects should be focused on learning how advances in space health can impact and improve health delivery on Earth are appropriate and thus, making connections between space and terrestrial health is encouraged. If applicants are interested they may be able to discuss access to already collected tissue samples, animal data or de-identified astronaut lifetime monitoring data for analysis. This topic is tied to TRISH’s Medical Systems Architecture initiative discussed at greater length in the Broad Institute Announcement

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  • Conduct a short proof-of-concept experiment for existing techniques or technologies that are developed for Earth but may be useful in space and used as justification for future studies and grant applications;
  • Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future grant application;  
  • Conduct a literature review to familiarize the investigator team with NASA’s perspective and the framing of a “risk.” This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply in space health and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication where applicable. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

It is expected that the applicant plan to attend 1-2 workshops or conferences. It is recommended that funds are protected for these networking possibilities. One workshop of interest is; (1) The NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop in late January or early February in Galveston, TX (required).

We often study disease states here on Earth but space presents a unique opportunity to study very healthy individuals that are impacted by an extremely unique and stressful environment in which some symptoms of disease states manifest but often do not continue upon return to Earth. It would be of interest to understand the health state of a patient before the actual disease presents itself. This type of understanding will help us to better understand these, somewhat, transient effects of spaceflight and how to minimize and prevent them. All projects should focused on learning how advances in space health can impact and improve health delivery on Earth are appropriate and thus, making connections between space and terrestrial health is encouraged. Applicants are encouraged to explore unique uses of technology such as tissue chips. If applicants are interested they may be able to discuss access to already collected tissue samples, animal data or de-identified astronaut lifetime monitoring data for analysis. This topic is tied to TRISH’s Science ENterprise to INform Exploration Limits (SENTINEL) initiative discussed at greater length in the Broad Institute Announcement.

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  • Conduct a short proof-of-concept experiment for existing techniques or technologies that are developed for Earth but may be useful in space and used as justification for future studies and grant applications;
  • Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future grant application;  
  • Conduct a literature review to familiarize the investigator team with NASA’s perspective and the framing of a “risk.” This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply in space health and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication where applicable. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

It is expected that the applicant plan to attend 1-2 workshops or conferences. It is recommended that funds are protected for these networking possibilities. One workshop of interest is; (1) The NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop in late January or early February in Galveston, TX (required).  

Crewmembers on space flights are faced with multiple environmental, physiological and psychosocial stressors including but not limited to: microgravity, disrupted circadian rhythms, elevated exposure to radiation, increased carbon dioxide levels, and separation from friends and family. Careful selection of naturally resilient individuals and rigorous training prepares the crew for such stresses and most adapt well, performing adeptly despite suboptimal conditions. However, deep space exploration missions will require the crew to contend with such stresses for 30 months without the possibility of immediate return to Earth. NASA has considered the inclusion of psychoactive medications for this purpose; however, drug expiration dates shorter than the mission lengths and the pharmacokinetics of drug administration in microgravity is poorly understood making a non-pharmacological methods for maintaining health and cognitive performance under stressful conditions desirable. All projects should focused on learning how advances in space health can impact and improve health delivery on Earth are appropriate and thus, making connections between space and terrestrial health is encouraged. If applicants are interested they may be able to discuss access to already collected tissue samples, animal data or de-identified astronaut lifetime monitoring data for analysis. This topic is tied to both TRISH’s Medical Systems Architecture initiative and the SENTINEL initiative discussed at greater length in the Broad Institute Announcement.

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  • Conduct a short proof-of-concept experiment for existing techniques or technologies that are developed for Earth but may be useful in space and used as justification for future studies and grant applications;
  • Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future grant application;  
  • Conduct a literature review to familiarize the investigator team with NASA’s perspective and the framing of a “risk.” This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply in space health and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication where applicable. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

It is expected that the applicant plan to attend 1-2 workshops or conferences. It is recommended that funds are protected for these networking possibilities. One workshop of interest is; (1) The NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop in late January or early February in Galveston, TX (required).

Remote environments, such as spaceflight, lack access to fresh foods. Pre-packaged foods are known not to be as healthy as fresh foods that we can get here on Earth. Understanding how to access healthy food in food deserts, a term used on Earth but which applies to remote environments, can lend useful information to how to access healthy food in space. All projects should focused on learning how advances in space health can impact and improve health delivery on Earth are appropriate and thus, making connections between space and terrestrial health is encouraged. If applicants are interested they may be able to discuss access to already collected tissue samples, animal data or de-identified astronaut lifetime monitoring data for analysis. This topic is tied to TRISH’s Biology Engineered for Exploration of Space (BEES) initiative discussed at greater length in the Broad Institute Announcement.

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  • Conduct a short proof-of-concept experiment for existing techniques or technologies that are developed for Earth but may be useful in space and used as justification for future studies and grant applications;
  • Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future grant application;  
  • Conduct a literature review to familiarize the investigator team with NASA’s perspective and the framing of a “risk.” This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply in space health and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication where applicable. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

It is expected that the applicant plan to attend 1-2 workshops or conferences. It is recommended that funds are protected for these networking possibilities. One workshop of interest is; (1) The NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop in late January or early February in Galveston, TX (required). 

Kennedy Space Center (KSC)

Kennedy Space Center, one of 10 NASA field centers, is a premier multiuser spaceport with more than 90 private-sector partners and nearly 250 partnership agreements. The presence of commercial companies at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is larger than ever before, enabling us to embark on a new era of space exploration. Although Kennedy is the agency’s main launch site, the center also is home to facilities that research and develop innovative solutions that government and commercial space ventures need for working and living on the surfaces of the Moon and other bodies in our solar system.

Problem Statement:

Simulating microgravity on Earth is a complicated process. We are looking for proposals to improve how this is accomplished, using devices currently utilized at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida

Methodology: 

Perform an extensive analysis, utilizing the Ansys software (or other similar software package), to determine:

  • Are the devices utilized in the MSSF accurately simulating microgravity? Are there others that are better? The software package can be utilized to simulate the devices and observe the effects upon various test subjects
  • Is the software package accurately simulating the microgravity devices? Should a different software package even be utilized for this task?
  • Compare and contrast the results between the software package and the KSC devices. What adjustments/modifications (if any) should be implemented to ensure the reliability of the methodologies employed?
  • List of Simulation Devices at KSC: Random Positioning Machines (RPMs); 2-D and 3-D Clinostats; Rotating Wall Vessel Bioreactors
  • List of Test Subjects (to name a few): Plants; seeds; stem cells

Background:

NASA is currently investigating microgreens as a fresh food source to supplement key nutrients in the astronauts’ packaged food diet that have been shown to degrade over time. The current method for growing crops on the ISS utilizes plant pillows inside the Veggie plant growth chamber. To initiate growth, astronauts must manually inject water into the plant pillows using a syringe which requires a considerable amount of crew time. This approach inherently poses challenges to plant health and causes variable growth due to irregular fluid mechanics in microgravity that often result in over-watering or drought. Secondly, microgravity simulation studies for testing microgreen cultivation on Earth have proven to be challenging due to the use of nutrient solutions where leaks pose the risk of damaging hardware and introducing microbial contamination, raising food safety concerns.

Problem Statement:  

We are looking for studies and/or proven concepts for:

  • Developing soilless substrates that can support the cultivation of microgreens without flowing water
  • Hardware development that can safely secure microgreens grown in soilless substrates while rotating in microgravity simulating devices
  • Technologies or devices that safely deploy seeds or harvest microgreens in microgravity settings

Background:  

Programs such as the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM-1), Gateway, and others within the DoD have found that the optimization of performing a liquid or gas vent into space lacks an available accurate, end-to-end analytical model.  Operational changes could be used for vent optimization such as starting pressure and temperature along with design techniques such as orifice sizing and vent nozzle design.  This sort of model would enable optimization to minimize mission risk as well as reduce required ground testing to develop the hardware.

Problem Statement: 

We are looking for studies or proven concepts of the development of a fluid dynamics model for ejecting a liquid or gas into the space environment (vacuum and microgravity).  

  • For Example, a model could include the coupling of a typical Navier-Stokes continuum fluid dynamics model with a Monte-Carlo model for the rarefied region.  

Background: 

There’s a high barrier to entry into the small satellite market.  From having a general understanding of what it takes to produce an idea, design it, build it, test it, launch it and subsequently operating the small sat to obtaining university departments on board to help with the associated engineering and science disciplines and in the process with the small sat design/build. In addition, university departments tend to work within their disciplines, where a small sat is really a systems engineering problem (e.g., engaging many engineering and science disciplines in its life cycle, for instance: power, propulsion, guidance navigation and control, structures, material and mechanisms, thermal control, command and data handling, communications, integration, launch and deployment, ground data systems and operations, and passive deorbit devices).  

Problem Statement:  

We are looking for the following: 

  • Development of a learning approach/methodology that can be used to help university researchers and students to quickly come up to speed in all aspects associated of designing/building a small sat (e.g., a comprehensive set of training modules, video lectures, PowerPoint presentations, etc.),  
  • Development of a proposed architecture within a university engineering and science departments that would aid in leveraging all the expertise to help in the small sat development.
  • Material developed will be expected to be published as to disseminate the material to others.

Human Research Program (HRP)

About the Space Radiation Element

The Space Radiation Element (SRE) is one of five scientific elements of the Human Research Program (HRP) charged with understanding and mitigating the human health risks of spaceflight. Specifically, the mission of SRE is to characterize and facilitate the management of the human health outcomes associated with space radiation exposure to protect astronaut health and wellbeing, as well as enable human space exploration.

Connecting SRE to these Topics

Constant exposure the space radiation environment is one of numerous hazards astronauts encounter during spaceflight that impact human health. High priority research topics are related to health outcomes expected to be associated with space radiation exposure including carcinogenesis, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and changes to the central nervous system (CNS) that impact astronaut health and performance. While terrestrial research demonstrates impacts to these systems, little human data exists to robustly characterize these impacts in the space radiation environment. The space radiation environment differs from that present on Earth (e.g. x- and gamma-rays) due to the presence of high-energy particles including protons, heavy ions, and neutrons. Particles produce densely ionizing tracks and impart clustered damage difficult for cells to repair and current animal and cellular research suggests damage induced by particle radiation could increase health effects compared to x- or gamma-rays.

Differences in the response to radiation is observed between sexes across a variety of biological outcomes associated with carcinogenesis, cardiovascular disease, and changes to the central nervous system (CNS) that may impact astronaut health and performance. To better characterize the health risks associated with space radiation exposure, it is necessary to explore and define the mechanisms underlying sexual dimorphism following exposure to space radiation. Of particular interest are translational biomarkers or bioindicators relevant to changes in cognitive and/or behavioral performance, cardiovascular function, and the development of carcinogenesis in non-sex-specific organs.

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  1. Conduct a technique or technology demonstration that demonstrates utility for space radiation research applications either in ground-based experiments or for spaceflight and can be used as justification for future studies and/or HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant applications.
  2. Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant application which can include tissue and/or data sharing opportunities with research collaborators.
    1. Samples available from NASA flight and ground studies can be identified here (approval for tissue release following award selection is required): https://nlsp.nasa.gov/search/?q=all&pagesize=20&group=Biospecimen-P 
    2. Tissue samples can include, but are not limited to, samples that have already been, or are in the process of, being collected and stored as well as tissues from other external archived banks (e.g., http://janus.northwestern.edu/janus2/index.php). 
    3. Relevant tissue samples and data from other externally funded (e.g., non-NASA) programs and tissue repositories/archives for comparison with high linear energy transfer (LET), medical proton, neutron and other exposures can be proposed.
  3. Conduct a literature review of the topic to familiarize the investigator team with the state of the relevant research, NASA’s perspective, current research gaps, and opportunities to further the state of the science. This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply to relevant SRE research gaps and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal as an open access publication. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

 

It is expected that the applicant budget for and plan to attend two (2) workshops or scientific conferences to showcase their work and network with thought leaders within the relevant scientific fields. Specifically, it is expected that the applicant will submit an abstract to the 2025 NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop which will be held in January or February 2025, in Galveston, TX (required), and at least one additional scientific conference relevant to the selected topic.

Strategies to develop countermeasures against terrestrial radiation exposure typically revolve around agents either that 1) alter the physical interactions of normal tissues to direct exposure (i.e., scavenging the reactive oxygen species generated by the radiolysis of water) or 2) mitigate the downstream biological processes following exposure (i.e., reducing the radiation-induced inflammatory response). Clinical radioprotectors are administered before a planned therapeutic exposure(s) to reduce the likelihood and severity of undesirable side effects. To date, Amifostine is the only FDA-approved radioprotector, but the potential side effects, including severe anaphylactic reactions, reduce the operational utility for spaceflight.  Radiomitigators are given following and unexpected exposure such as a terrorist attack or an accidental occupational exposure. Space radiation exposures differ from terrestrial exposures both in the type of radiation experienced and the rates at which those exposures occur. The quality and dose rate of radiation experienced in the deep space environment present unique challenges in terms of replicating them on the ground, estimating health risks from such exposures and developing strategies to counteract those risks. Traditional in vivo strategies to assess interventional countermeasure efficacy require long-term follow up and large animal cohorts, which limit feasible throughput. Time and resource constraints limit the number of compounds that can be tested using these strategies prior to a Mars mission where the exposure to space radiation exceeds NASA’s permissible exposure limits (PELs). Therefore, strategies that accelerate countermeasure identification, prioritization, and validation need to be developed to improve likelihood of success. New high-throughput screening and informatics technologies to pursue large-scale agnostic countermeasure identification in combination with more targeted, informational approaches represent an attractive comprehensive strategy. These approaches would require the identification of relevant surrogate biomarkers for initiation of long-term health outcomes that could confidently predict disease in models appropriate for this “big science” approach. Proposals are sought to identify and/or develop screening techniques to assess compound-based countermeasure efficacy in modulating biological responses to radiation exposure relevant to the high priority health risks of cancer, CVD, and/or CNS. Techniques that can be translated into high-throughput screening protocols are highly desired, however high-content protocols will also be considered responsive. Countermeasures and screening techniques focused on acute radiation effects rather than the priority long-term health impacts listed above will not be considered responsive. 

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  1. Conduct a technique or technology demonstration that demonstrates utility for space radiation research applications either in ground-based experiments or for spaceflight and can be used as justification for future studies and/or HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant applications.
  2. Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant application which can include tissue and/or data sharing opportunities with research collaborators.
    1. Samples available from NASA flight and ground studies can be identified here (approval for tissue release following award selection is required): https://nlsp.nasa.gov/search/?q=all&pagesize=20&group=Biospecimen-P 
    2. Tissue samples can include, but are not limited to, samples that have already been, or are in the process of, being collected and stored as well as tissues from other external archived banks (e.g., http://janus.northwestern.edu/janus2/index.php). 
    3. Relevant tissue samples and data from other externally funded (e.g., non-NASA) programs and tissue repositories/archives for comparison with high linear energy transfer (LET), medical proton, neutron and other exposures can be proposed.
  3. Conduct a literature review of the topic to familiarize the investigator team with the state of the relevant research, NASA’s perspective, current research gaps, and opportunities to further the state of the science. This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply to relevant SRE research gaps and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal as an open access publication. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

 

It is expected that the applicant budget for and plan to attend two (2) workshops or scientific conferences to showcase their work and network with thought leaders within the relevant scientific fields. Specifically, it is expected that the applicant will submit an abstract to the 2025 NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop which will be held in January or February 2025, in Galveston, TX (required), and at least one additional scientific conference relevant to the selected topic. 

Although innate inflammatory immune responses are necessary for survival from infections and injury, dysregulated and persistent inflammation is thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of various acute and chronic conditions in humans, including CVD. A main contributor to the development of inflammatory diseases involves activation of inflammasomes. Recently, inflammasome activation has been increasingly linked to an increased risk and greater severity of CVD. Characterization of the role of inflammasome-mediated pathogenesis of disease after space-like chronic radiation exposure can provide evidence to better quantify space radiation risks as well as identify high value for countermeasure development. Proposals are sought to explore and evaluate the role of the inflammasome in the pathogenesis of radiation-associated cardiovascular disease (CVD), carcinogenesis, and/or central nervous system (CNS) changes that impact behavioral and cognitive function.

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  1. Conduct a technique or technology demonstration that demonstrates utility for space radiation research applications either in ground-based experiments or for spaceflight and can be used as justification for future studies and/or HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant applications.
  2. Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant application which can include tissue and/or data sharing opportunities with research collaborators.
    1. Samples available from NASA flight and ground studies can be identified here (approval for tissue release following award selection is required): https://nlsp.nasa.gov/search/?q=all&pagesize=20&group=Biospecimen-P 
    2. Tissue samples can include, but are not limited to, samples that have already been, or are in the process of, being collected and stored as well as tissues from other external archived banks (e.g., http://janus.northwestern.edu/janus2/index.php). 
    3. Relevant tissue samples and data from other externally funded (e.g., non-NASA) programs and tissue repositories/archives for comparison with high linear energy transfer (LET), medical proton, neutron and other exposures can be proposed.
  3. Conduct a literature review of the topic to familiarize the investigator team with the state of the relevant research, NASA’s perspective, current research gaps, and opportunities to further the state of the science. This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply to relevant SRE research gaps and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal as an open access publication. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

It is expected that the applicant budget for and plan to attend two (2) workshops or scientific conferences to showcase their work and network with thought leaders within the relevant scientific fields. Specifically, it is expected that the applicant will submit an abstract to the 2025 NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop which will be held in January or February 2025, in Galveston, TX (required), and at least one additional scientific conference relevant to the selected topic. 

One of the threats to astronaut health associated with Mars missions is the distance from Earth. Unlike ISS or Lunar missions, the ability to return crew for robust medical treatment is impossible. The capability to assess an astronaut’s individual susceptibility prior to flight, monitor astronaut health in-mission, predict and monitor astronaut health post-flight, and provide an avenue for early detection of high-risk cancers and other degenerative effects like cardiovascular disease or neurodegeneration across astronaut lifespan is important to minimize the long-term health consequences of space radiation exposure and inform standard of care. Therefore, identification and validation of new and emerging biomedical approaches for early detection and treatment of pre-malignant tissues is necessary for the surveillance of astronaut health over their lifetimes (including pre-flight, in-mission, and post-flight) and assessment of risks to long term health pre-flight, in-mission, and post-flight remains a paramount endeavor. 

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  1. Conduct a technique or technology demonstration that demonstrates utility for space radiation research applications either in ground-based experiments or for spaceflight and can be used as justification for future studies and/or HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant applications.
  2. Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant application which can include tissue and/or data sharing opportunities with research collaborators.
    1. Samples available from NASA flight and ground studies can be identified here (approval for tissue release following award selection is required): https://nlsp.nasa.gov/search/?q=all&pagesize=20&group=Biospecimen-P 
    2. Tissue samples can include, but are not limited to, samples that have already been, or are in the process of, being collected and stored as well as tissues from other external archived banks (e.g., http://janus.northwestern.edu/janus2/index.php). 
    3. Relevant tissue samples and data from other externally funded (e.g., non-NASA) programs and tissue repositories/archives for comparison with high linear energy transfer (LET), medical proton, neutron and other exposures can be proposed.
  3. Conduct a literature review of the topic to familiarize the investigator team with the state of the relevant research, NASA’s perspective, current research gaps, and opportunities to further the state of the science. This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply to relevant SRE research gaps and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal as an open access publication. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

It is expected that the applicant budget for and plan to attend two (2) workshops or scientific conferences to showcase their work and network with thought leaders within the relevant scientific fields. Specifically, it is expected that the applicant will submit an abstract to the 2025 NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop which will be held in January or February 2025, in Galveston, TX (required), and at least one additional scientific conference relevant to the selected topic. 

The uncertainties in how low-dose-rate exposures to particle radiation affect the risk of radiation-associated adverse health outcomes are a major contributor to overall uncertainty in risk estimates. Current risk estimates are primarily based on human epidemiological evidence from the Life Span Study (LSS) of atomic bomb survivors who experienced a single, acute dose of radiation composed primarily of γ-rays with a contribution from neutrons. However, astronauts are exposed to a chronic low-dose-rate space radiation environment. Therefore, risk estimates from acute exposures are scaled using a dose and dose-rate effectiveness factor (DDREF) to reflect the chronic nature of space radiation. The current NASA model applies a central estimate for the DDREF of 1.5 to solid cancer risk estimates that was selected based on the BEIR VII report, which assessed terrestrial human epidemiological and animal data. The uncertainty distribution around the central estimate (95% CI: 0.83 to 2.67) is based on terrestrial human epidemiological data, animal data, and cellular data. Both relative increases and decreases in carcinogenesis-related outcomes have been correlated with changes in dose-rate, dependent on examined endpoints, radiation type, and total dose. Additionally, the interaction between radiation quality, total dose and dose-rate has not been fully established. Limited human epidemiological data is available that may provide a more relevant description of the effects of the chronic or protracted low dose-rate exposures in the context of astronaut risk. It is important to note that particle radiation does not deliver dose at a low dose-rate in a conventional (averaged over a volume) context because particles deposit energy as discrete, clustered ionization events, highlighting the importance of micro-dosimetry. Technological limitations in ground-based accelerator design and capability have largely limited the generation of large experimental data sets that address dose-rate effects for particle exposures. Additionally, no data currently exists to provide understanding for the role of dose-rate in a mixed particle radiation field approximating space. Therefore, more data is necessary to characterize the role of dose-rate in radiation carcinogenesis for chronic space radiation exposures. Research proposals are sought to identify and/or develop novel in vitro human research models specifically to assess the role of low-dose rate space radiation-like exposure on human cancer risk

Respondents can propose the following types of activities: 

  1. Conduct a technique or technology demonstration that demonstrates utility for space radiation research applications either in ground-based experiments or for spaceflight and can be used as justification for future studies and/or HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant applications.
  2. Obtain relevant preliminary data that can be used in a future HRP OMNIBUS or FLAGSHIP grant application which can include tissue and/or data sharing opportunities with research collaborators.
    1. Samples available from NASA flight and ground studies can be identified here (approval for tissue release following award selection is required): https://nlsp.nasa.gov/search/?q=all&pagesize=20&group=Biospecimen-P 
    2. Tissue samples can include, but are not limited to, samples that have already been, or are in the process of, being collected and stored as well as tissues from other external archived banks (e.g., http://janus.northwestern.edu/janus2/index.php). 
    3. Relevant tissue samples and data from other externally funded (e.g., non-NASA) programs and tissue repositories/archives for comparison with high linear energy transfer (LET), medical proton, neutron and other exposures can be proposed.
  3. Conduct a literature review of the topic to familiarize the investigator team with the state of the relevant research, NASA’s perspective, current research gaps, and opportunities to further the state of the science. This work will be helpful to identify how the team’s current research could apply to relevant SRE research gaps and be used to inform a future grant application. It is encouraged that this effort culminates in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal as an open access publication. It is recommended that funds are protected for this purpose.

It is expected that the applicant budget for and plan to attend two (2) workshops or scientific conferences to showcase their work and network with thought leaders within the relevant scientific fields. Specifically, it is expected that the applicant will submit an abstract to the 2025 NASA HRP Investigators’ Workshop which will be held in January or February 2025, in Galveston, TX (required), and at least one additional scientific conference relevant to the selected topic.

Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

Technology drives exploration and the space economy. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) aims to transform future missions while ensuring American leadership in aerospace. As NASA embarks on the next era of space exploration with Artemis, STMD is advancing technologies and testing new capabilities at the Moon. Many of the same systems will prove critical at Mars. STMD’s portfolio spans a range of discipline areas and technology readiness levels.


STMD bolsters and funds diverse ideas from entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators across the country. Space technology research and development occurs at NASA centers, universities, national labs, and small businesses. STMD leverages partnerships with other government agencies and commercial partners to quickly advance and demonstrate cross-cutting capabilities.

 

MSIs interested in submitting to an STMD topic area require a small business partner where the MSI is the lead in the application.

 

STMD topics originated from the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), Space Technology Research Grants (STRG), and Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). See the individual sections with drop-down items below for a full description of each topic area:

 

Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs within STMD provides opportunities for small, high technology companies and research institutions to participate in government-sponsored research and development (R&D) efforts in key technology areas. These highly competitive awards-based program enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provide the incentive to profit from the commercialization of innovations. The STTR program specifically requires the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution. 

 

The focus area seeks to foster collaborations between Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Small Business Concerns (SBCs) to enhance the opportunities provided through the STTR program. The goal is to develop mutually beneficial relationships that result in new technologies supporting the NASA mission and commercial market development. Grants are intended to address challenges and barriers faced by the MSI research community in developing collaborative opportunities. Funding enables universities and SBCs to engage in substantive conversations along mutual areas of interest, goals, and long-term outcomes. The desired result is to enable viable partnerships for competing in the annual STTR solicitation.

 

The STTR solicitation is comprised of multiple subtopics identified by the Agency as priority areas for research which could be satisfied by a small business with assistance from a research institution. Proposed research must indicate which STTR subtopic area the proposed research is aligned with to be considered responsive this announcement.

 

Below is a listing of the 2024 STTR Subtopics:
 

While there are clear market demands and commercial interest for rapid infusion of Rotating Detonation Rocket Engines (RDREs), there is very limited literature available on thermal-structural environments and also uncooled rocket engine approaches using higher temperature materials to inform the range of rocket engine design approaches. Gaps in traditional approaches are known, with clear evidence the traditional Bartz approximation is not adequate for RDRE systems. Additional modeling, experimental testing, and validation are required to reduce design iterations to optimize performance and operability. 

 

Alternative Materials Impacting Design 

 

Scope Description: 

Detonation engines have achieved significant recent milestones for mission-relevant duration testing, but current designs are highly dependent on active cooling with copper alloys. This limits the impact of the thermal-structural environment but also reduces overall performance by increasing propellant temperature at injection, which decreases detonative pressure rise and increases parasitic deflagration. Cooled systems also add complexity and weight. Higher temperature materials will simplify designs by eliminating active cooling and will additionally allow for higher performance. Candidate materials and design solutions will result in fundamentally different designs and enable higher performance innovative system concepts. Furthermore, these materials can operate in more severe thermal-structural environments and will not require active cooling for simplified operational flight solutions. In order to demonstrate one or more successful uncooled RDRE designs, it is expected that the development team will conduct thermal-structural design and analysis to identify theoretically attractive designs, perform subscale testing to validate the designs, and conduct full-scale testing to demonstrate the designs. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 4 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 01 Propulsion Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 01.1 Chemical Space Propulsion 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems, and Manufacturing 
  • Level 2: TX 12.1 Materials 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I: Deliver theoretical designs with supporting calculations and fabrication of simple demonstration hardware. 

Phase II: Final hardware designs, lab-scale testing results, and results of testing of the RDRE(s) in a relevant environment. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

The majority of RDRE designs implement inner and outer bodies that are copper alloys and require active cooling for extended duration testing (longer than 3-5 sec). This not only limits the impact of the thermal-structural environment but also reduces overall performance by increasing propellant temperature at injection, which decreases detonative pressure rise and increases parasitic deflagration. Cooled systems also add complexity and weight. Advanced refractory materials have been demonstrated for solid rocket motors in aggressive highly aluminized, high-pressure solid rocket motors. These materials require innovative design solutions and compatible materials. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

This investment is highly relevant to fundamental design, fabrication, and optimization of high heat flux and high-frequency cyclic combustion devices. 

The downstream applications are targeting lander propulsion systems (lunar and martian), small launch concepts, and large in-space propulsion maneuvers.

 

Defining Thermal-Structural Environments 

 

Scope Description: 

The scope of this effort includes obtaining heat transfer data by calorimetry or other methods for various fuels/oxidizers of interest and developing a time-efficient means of calculating thermal-structural loads to be utilized for accurately evaluating existing and new materials/designs. Of particular interest are approaches that obtain time-resolved as well as time-averaged measurements. The scope should include literature search, heat transfer measurements, enabling diagnostic tools/capabilities to measure in this aggressive environment, and dynamic thermal-structural modeling to guide and validate the proposed innovative approach. This effort is necessary to characterize and understand detonation behavior and apply it to enable high-fidelity simulations of transient heat transfer and stress analysis to predict the performance of innovative and new materials and designs. Also of interest, is enabling window technology to support efforts with improved diagnostics capability. 

 

For clarification, it is entirely insufficient and noncompliant to simply take more calorimetry data for different RDREs. While the approach is left for the proposer to identify, controlled experiments coupled to thermal/fluid models are anticipated for an improvement to the traditional Bartz equation for high-frequency cyclic combustor/nozzle flows. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 4 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 01 Propulsion Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 01.1 Chemical Space Propulsion 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems, and Manufacturing 
  • Level 2: TX 12.1 Materials 

 

Tertiary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 13 Ground, Test, and Surface Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 13.2 Test and Qualification 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 
  • Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description:

Phase I: Improved empirical expressions and analytical models for thermal-structural loads for limited fuels/oxidizers as a function of hot wall temperature and feasibility studies on thermal shock tolerant windows. 

Phase II: Expand for additional fuels/oxidizers and for increased parameter ranges and continue development of window technology. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

The community has limited ability to quantify and qualify theoretical values for thermal-structural loads (time and spatial variations of heat flux and pressure) in the detonation chamber necessary for high-fidelity finite element simulations (transient heat transfer and structural analyses). Current computational fluid dynamic (CFD) methodologies are difficult to implement and burdened withsolution times that can be on the order of months. It is of interest to gather calorimetry data for various fuels/oxidizers of interest and develop a time-efficient means to calculate thermal-structural loads to be utilized for accurately evaluating existing and new materials/designs. Additionally, enabling technology to improve diagnostics is also of great interest, e.g., improving the thermal shock resistance of windows for lasers. This will also support the technology development goals by enabling improved diagnostics capability. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

This investment is highly relevant to fundamental design, fabrication, and optimization of high heat flux and high-frequency cyclic combustion devices. 

The downstream applications are targeting lander propulsion systems (lunar and martian), small launch concepts, and large in-space propulsion maneuvers.

The objective of this topic is to provide reliable, high-performing secondary battery technologies for sustained operation and survivability in low-temperature lunar conditions. The harsh, low-temperature environment of the lunar surface presents unique challenges for providing reliable surface power [1]. Advanced cells with lower temperature capability reduce the need for ancillary thermal management, which would reduce system mass and volume, enable longer mission durations, and enhance our capabilities throughout a sustained human presence on the lunar surface. These same technologies will also benefit both NASA’s Moon to Mars initiative and planetary science missions to the outer solar system. 

 

Advanced Low-Temperature Secondary Batteries 

 

Scope Description: 

This solicitation topic specifically seeks proposals to address the following development area:

 

  • Cell-level technologies including chemistry, materials, and packaging improvements that allow for improved performance and cycling at a C/20 rate at -80 °C and below. 

 

Component developments must be demonstrated at a full-cell level and projections must be included for cell performance in a hard-cased, 2 amp-hr cell size. In addition, battery-level approaches for furthering low-temperature operation are desirable. Proposals offering to develop only a single enabling component (e.g., electrolyte, anode, and cathode) are not requested and will be deemed noncompliant. Products achieving the following performance metrics are desired: 

 

  • Cell charge and discharge demonstrated in environments at -80 °C or below at a C/20 rate. 
  • >300 Wh/kg at the cell level at C/5 discharge rate (measured at 20 °C with a minimum of 100 charge/discharge cycles). 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 03 Aerospace Power and Energy Storage 
  • Level 2: TX 03.2 Energy Storage 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Research should be conducted to demonstrate technical feasibility in a final report for Phase I and show a path toward a Phase II, and when possible, deliver a demonstration unit for NASA testing at the completion of the Phase II contract. Phase II emphasis should be placed on developing and demonstrating the technology under as many relevant test conditions as feasible within Phase II resources. Additionally, a path should be outlined that shows how the technology could be commercialized or further developed into science-worthy systems. 

 

  • Phase I: Test Reports and Technology Development Plan. 
  • Phase II: Prototype hardware with test reports and an updated Technology Development Plan. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Existing battery technologies, if employed on the lunar surface or other cold environments, would require significant thermal management [1,2]. By extending the lower effective operating temperature range of the battery cells, the need for thermal management will be reduced. State-of-the-art secondary cells are limited to 100-150 Wh/kg at -30 °C. Previous and ongoing Space Technology Research Grants (STRG)-funded research [3,4] have highlighted some of the low-TRL approaches to enable low-temperature battery operations and lunar hibernation survivability in these ranges. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

These batteries are applicable over a broad range of exploration and science missions. Low-temperature batteries are needed to enable science and exploration missions aligned with Artemis, including supporting science missions such as Commercial Lunar Payload Services and Lunar Quest. These batteries may also serve for potential NASA decadal missions to ocean worlds (Europa, Enceladus, and Titan) and the icy giants (Neptune and Uranus). Low-temperature batteries developed under this subtopic would enhance these missions and could be enabling, particularly for missions that are highly mass, or volume limited.

This subtopic is intended to encourage and attract innovations at a prototype system level to address both the integrated extraction and repurposing of atmospheric carbon and/or the production of non-fossil-based fuels that when used, displace the production of greenhouse gases. The subtopic is intended to establish a direct, synergistic link between NASA's evolving in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) capability requirements to produce power and propulsion consumables from lunar and martian carbon- or hydrogen-containing resources and terrestrial imperatives to address climate concerns through reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. The subtopic focuses on system-level approaches and seeks innovative approaches to components and subsystems that provide significant reductions in end-to-end system size, weight, energy consumption, and cost; and also addresses the performance of integrated systems in the challenging environments of the Moon and Mars, including reduced gravity and temperature extremes. Current scopes of the subtopic involve integrated extraction and transformation of atmospheric CO2 into stable end-use products and integrated systems for the production of hydrogen from water, not fossil-based, sources. 

 

The subtopic description makes clear note of the significant research and development that is ongoing in these areas in academic and entrepreneurial environments but intends to specifically seek true innovation in both unit process and integrated systems that result in the desired reductions in end-to-end size, weight, energy consumption, environmental compatibility, and cost. 

 

Sustainable Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Extraction and Transformation 

 

Scope Description: 

Component and subsystem technologies are sought to demonstrate sustainable, energy-efficient extraction of carbon dioxide (CO2) from a defined planetary or habitable atmosphere that are fully integrated through this effort with CO2 transformation into one or more ambient stable products such as (but not limited to) manufacturing feedstock polymers or readily storable, noncryogenic propellants or fuels. This scope is intended to incentivize revolutionary, dual-use technologies that may lead to reduced dependence of sustainable space exploration activity on terrestrial supplies of carbon-containing resources and also lead to products with commercial promise for repurposing terrestrial atmospheric CO2. At the core of this scope is a requirement for integrated technology solutions that dramatically reduce mass, volume, and end-to-end energy consumption of highly integrated CO2 collection and transformation. 

 

Proposals must specifically and clearly describe all of the following: (1) physical and/or chemical processes to be implemented for both CO2 collection and transformation, including reference to the current state of the art; (2) specific engineering approaches to be used in dramatically reducing mass, volume, and end-to-end energy consumption per mass of product carbon content mass; (3) validated performance estimates of high-cycle utilization of any sorption, catalytic, or other unconsumed materials used in the CO2 collection or transformation processes; (4) suitability or adaptability of the proposed CO2 capture approach for operation in various ambient CO2 mixture and partial pressure environments (i.e., ambient Mars atmosphere to ambient Earth atmosphere conditions); (5) substantiated estimates of the mass conversion efficiency of ingested carbon to product carbon; and (6) estimated total end-to-end energy consumption per unit mass of product carbon. 

 

The scope specifically excludes: (1) evolutionary improvements in mature CO2 collection technologies that do not provide large reductions in mass, volume, and end-to-end energy consumption; (2) CO2 collection approaches that employ CO2 absorbing materials that require frequent replenishment or replacement (e.g., greater than 50% reduction in absorption efficiency after 500 cycles); (3) technologies considered as life support systems including air revitalization, water processing, or waste processing; (4) biological or biology-based components or subsystems of any kind; and (5) CO2 transformation products that are not readily stored or utilized at approximately Earth-ambient conditions such as cryogenic propellants. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 07 Exploration Destination Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 07.1 In-Situ Resource Utilization 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 03 Aerospace Power and Energy Storage 
  • Level 2: TX 03.2 Energy Storage 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Prototype 
  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Hardware 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

The minimum desired Phase I deliverable is a detailed feasibility study that clearly defines the specific technical innovation and estimated performance of CO2 collection and transformation into products, identifying critical development risks anticipated in a Phase II effort. Technology feasibility evaluation should address the scope proposal elements including: (1) process descriptions; (2) results of engineered mass, volume, and energy consumption efficiency designs; (3) cyclic performance of participating unconsumed process materials; (4) adaptability to different atmospheric CO2 mixtures and partial pressures; (5) ingested atmosphere throughput and carbon conversion efficiency to product carbon, and (6) estimated total end-to-end energy consumption per unit mass of product carbon. Phase I feasibility deliverables should include laboratory test results that demonstrate the performance of unit processes, components, or subsystems against these metrics. 

 

Phase II deliverables are to include matured feasibility analysis provided in Phase I, and matured laboratory prototype components or subsystems integrated into an end-to-end CO2 collection and transformation prototype system, including design drawings. Component, subsystem, and integrated system performance test data is a specific deliverable and must include: (1) cyclic performance; (2) ingested atmosphere throughput and carbon conversion efficiency to product carbon; (3) evaluated properties of products; and (4) the results of engineered mass, volume, and energy consumption efficiency designs including measured end-to-end energy consumption per unit mass of product carbon. Analysis deliverables for Phase II should address a credible path toward maturation of the technology and approaches to scaling the technologies to larger processing capacities. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

This subtopic is intended to solicit innovative technologies with clear dual use: (1) adoption by NASA for infusion into long-term mission capabilities enabling mission scale in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) use of the martian atmosphere and (2) commercialization and the potential formation of a terrestrial industry to meet potentially significant future demand for terrestrial atmospheric CO2 extraction and repurposing. Additionally, if or as a viable industry associated with terrestrial applications of these technologies emerges, commercial competition may continue to drive innovation and contribute over the long term to improved NASA mission capability. Early-stage innovations in this topic are anticipated from teams of small businesses and research institutions, which can demonstrate feasibility and readiness for accelerated maturation. 

 

Well-developed and mature technologies for atmospheric CO2 capture have been flown and operated on NASA spacecraft, based on phase change (freezing) of ambient gas; accepting the power requirements and efficiency levels of both the refrigeration and heating devices in a freeze/thaw-based collection cycle. The NASA operational collection of CO2 from habitable atmospheres is performed using flow-through beds of sorption materials driven to saturation followed by either desorption processes or discarding of the sorption material and the collected CO2. Similarly, CO2 processing based on electrochemical reduction of CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO) has been flown demonstrating production of oxygen from atmospheric sources. However, the collected carbon is a disposable byproduct. Significantly, these systems are not developed nor optimized for recovery and repurposing of considerable process heat drawn from spacecraft power sources, nor for repurposing of the collected carbon. Recent literature suggests emerging laboratory research of both efficient CO2 capture and repurposing processes is occurring and may be well positioned for development into components and subsystems suitable for longer-term infusion by NASA into ISRU systems and an emerging terrestrial industry. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

The quantification of resources on Mars suitable for the local production of a variety of mission consumables, manufactured products, and other mission support materials has become much better understood through recent in situ measurements and introductory technology demonstrations. Evolving mission scenarios for expanded robotic and human exploration of Mars uniformly depend on the utilization of these resources to dramatically reduce the cost and risks associated with these exploration goals. In order to reduce the broad goal of utilizing the CO2 of the martian atmosphere as a source of both carbon and oxygen to practical, full-scale reality, substantial improvements in system mass, volume, and power requirements are needed. This solicitation is intended to incentivize these innovations in the service of future NASA missions. 

 

Additionally, there are increasing demonstrations of the planet-wide consequences of accumulating CO2 in the terrestrial atmosphere. Technologies that advance NASA's Mars ISRU aspirations may be created with the necessary energy efficiencies to support scaling up to terrestrial industrial capacity large enough to begin to reduce or reverse atmospheric CO2 accumulation.

 

Sustainable Production of Hydrogen for Transportation and Energy Storage Applications 

 

Scope Description: 

Component and subsystem technologies are sought to demonstrate sustainable, energy-efficient production of hydrogen from water and organic materials other than extracted fossil fuel sources. Dual-use technologies are sought that may reduce dependence of sustainable space exploration activity on terrestrial supplies of hydrogen-containing resources, provide a source of advanced aviation and surface transportation fuels, provide advanced energy storage capabilities for aerospace or terrestrial power systems, or may be integrated into production of derivative products including structural materials, manufacturing feedstock, or other condensed-phase products. Dual use of hydrogen production capability extends to a focus for NASA applications on substantial reductions in size, weight, and energy consumption and improved utilization efficiencies, and applying those efficiencies to terrestrial implementations with opportunities for scale up to commercial hydrogen production. This scope is therefore intended to strongly emphasize significant overall efficiencies in size, weight, and energy consumption and utilization. The scope is intended to encourage alternative chemical, electrochemical, photocatalytic, and other alternative production pathways that may offer significant efficiencies in system size, weight, and energy consumption. This scope includes improvements in existing water electrolysis technologies only to the extent that large efficiency improvements are an outcome of the proposed effort. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1: TX 03 Aerospace Power and Energy Storage 
  • Level 2: TX 03.2 Energy Storage 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 07 Exploration Destination Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 07.1 In-Situ Resource Utilization 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Research 
  • Hardware 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I Deliverable is defined as a detailed feasibility study that clearly defines the specific technical innovations in hydrogen production. Technology feasibility evaluation should include persuasive rationale showing process conversion effectiveness, approaches to minimization of specific mass and volume (i.e., per mass and volume of hydrogen produced), and substantial innovation in the utilization and minimization of total specific energy consumption. Phase I feasibility deliverables should include laboratory test results that demonstrate the performance of unit processes, components, or subsystems against these metrics. 

 

Phase II Deliverables are to include matured feasibility analysis and laboratory prototype components or subsystems integrated into an end-to-end hydrogen production system at a laboratory scale of maturity, and performance testing data that address metrics including process conversion effectiveness, specific mass and/or volume, energy utilization, and product properties. Analysis deliverables for Phase II should address a credible path toward maturation of the delivered technology and approaches to scaling the technologies to larger processing capacities. Phase II hardware delivery may possibly be deferred or waived to enable well-secured follow-on technology maturation support. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

This subtopic is intended to solicit innovative technologies with clear dual use including: (1) adoption by NASA for infusion into long-term mission capabilities enabling quasi-industrial scale ISRU and energy storage use of indigenous water resources and (2) commercialization and the potential formation of a terrestrial industry to encourage then meet potentially significant future demand for hydrogen for energy storage, advanced aviation and surface transportation fuels, and as feedstock for manufactured products. Additionally, if or as a viable industry associated with terrestrial applications of these technologies emerge, a commercial competition may continue to innovate and contribute over the longer term to improved NASA mission capability. Early-stage innovations in this topic are anticipated from teams of small businesses and research institutions, which can demonstrate feasibility and readiness for accelerated maturation. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

The application of compact, energy-efficient hydrogen production technologies will occur in future power and energy storage and ISRU implementations on the Moon and on Mars, which are currently constrained by the use of conventional water electrolysis approaches. Technology stemming from alternative hydrogen production pathways or large efficiency improvements in existing methods that successfully addresses size, mass, and energy consumption constraints for spaceflight applications will enable the utilization of those efficiencies as the basis for scaling up to commercial production for terrestrial applications at far larger production volumes than needed for spaceflight applications. This solicitation is intended to incentivize these innovations in the service of future NASA missions.

Quantum Sensing and Measurement calls for proposals using quantum systems to achieve unprecedented measurement sensitivity and performance, including quantum-enhanced methodologies that outperform their classical counterparts. Shepherded by advancements in our ability to detect and manipulate single quantum objects, the so-called Second Quantum Revolution is upon us. The emerging quantum sensing technologies promise unrivaled sensitivities and are potentially game changing in precision measurement fields. Significant gains include technology important for a range of NASA missions such as efficient photon detection, optical clocks, gravitational wave sensing, ranging, and interferometry. Proposals focused on atomic quantum sensors and clocks and quantum communication should apply to those specific subtopics and are not covered in this Quantum Sensing and Measurement subtopic.

 

Quantum communications seeks proposals that develop technologies to support quantum communications between satellites and ground stations. Key aspects of these components are high performance, the ability to support free-space quantum communication between moving nodes, as well as low size, weight, and power (SWaP). 

 

Quantum Sensing and Measurement 

 

Scope Description: 

Specifically identified applications of interest include quantum sensing methodologies achieving the optimal collection light for photon-starved astronomical observations, quantum-enhanced ground-penetrating radar, and quantum-enhanced telescope interferometry.

 

  • Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID) systems for enhanced multiplexing factor reading out of arrays of cryogenic energy-resolving single-photon detectors, including the supporting resonator circuits, amplifiers, and room temperature readout electronics. 
  • Quantum light sources capable of efficiently and reliably producing prescribed quantum states including entangled photons, squeezed states, photon number states, NOON states, Holland-Burnett states, and broadband correlated light pulses. Such entangled sources are sought for the visible infrared (vis-IR) and in the microwave entangled photons sources for quantum ranging and ground-penetrating radar. 
  • On-demand single-photon sources with narrow spectral linewidth are needed for system calibration of single-photon counting detectors and energy-resolving single-photon detector arrays in the midwave infrared (MIR), near infrared (NIR), and visible. Such sources are sought for operation at cryogenic temperatures for calibration on the ground and aboard space instruments. This includes low SWaP quantum radiometry systems capable of calibrating detectors' spectroscopic resolution and efficiency over the MIR, NIR, and/or visible. 

 

Quantum Sensing and Measurement includes: Quantum Metrology and Radiometry (absolute radiometry without massive blackbody cryogenic radiometer or synchrotron), Quantum Sources (prepare prescribed quantum states with high fidelity), Quantum Memories (storage and release of quantum states), and Quantum Absorbers and Quantum Amplifiers (efficiently absorption and detection of quantum states). 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 4 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 08 Sensors and Instruments 
  • Level 2: TX 08.X Other Sensors and Instruments 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

NASA is seeking innovative ideas and creative concepts for science sensor technologies using quantum sensing techniques. The proposals should include results from designs and models, proof-of-concept demonstrations, and prototypes showing the performance of the novel quantum sensor. 

 

Phase I does not need to include a physical deliverable to the government but it is best if it includes a demonstration of feasibility through measurements. This can include extensive modeling, but a stronger proposal will have measured validation of models or designs that support the viability of the planned Phase II deliverable. 

 

Phase II should include prototype delivery to the government. (It is understood that this is a research effort, and the prototype is a best effort delivery where there is no penalty for missing performance goals.) The Phase II effort should be targeting a commercial product that could be sold to the government and/or industry. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

Quantum Entangled Photon Sources: 

Sources for generation of quantum photon number states. Such sources would utilize high detection efficiency photon energy-resolving single-photon detectors (where the energy resolution is used to detect the photon number) developed at NASA for detection. Sources that fall in the wavelength range from 20 μm to 200 nm are of high interest. Photon number state generation anywhere within this spectral range is also highly desired including emerging photon-number quantum state methods providing advantages over existing techniques (Stobińska, et al., Sci. Adv. 5 (2019)). Proposal-generating Holland-Burnett states (Phy Rev. Let 71, 1355 (1993)) is also of interest. 

 

Quantum dot source produced entangled photons with a fidelity of 0.90, a pair generation rate of 0.59, a pair extraction efficiency of 0.62, and a photon indistinguishability of 0.90, simultaneously (881 nm light) at 10 MHz. (Wang, Phys. Rev. Lett. 122, 113602 (2019)). Further advances are sought. 

Spectral brightness of 0.41 MHz/mW/nm for multimode and 0.025 MHz/mW/nm for single-mode coupling (Jabir: Scientific Reports. 7, 12613 (2017)). 

 

Higher brightness and multiple entanglement and heralded multiphoton entanglement and boson sampling sources. Sources that produce photon number states or Fock states are also sought for various applications including energy-resolving single-photon detector applications. 

 

For energy-resolving single-photon detectors, current state-of-the-art multiplexing can achieve kilopixel detector arrays, which with advances in microwave SQUID, multiplexing can be increased to megapixel arrays (Morgan, Physics Today. 71, 8, 28 (2018)). 

 

Energy-resolving detectors achieving 99% detection efficiency have been demonstrated in the NIR. Even higher quantum efficiency absorber structures are sought (either over narrow bands or broadband) compatible with transition-edge sensor (TES) detectors. Such ultra-high- (near-unity-) efficiency absorbing structures are sought in the ultraviolet, vis-IR, NIR, mid-infrared, far infrared, and microwave. 

 

Quantum memories with long coherence times >30 ms to several hours and efficiency coupling. Want to show a realistic development path capable of highly efficient coupling to photon number resolving detectors. 

 

Absolute detection efficiency measurements (without reference to calibration standards) using quantum light sources have achieved detection efficiency relative uncertainties of 0.1% level. Further reduction in detection efficiency uncertainty is sought to characterize ultra-high-efficiency absorber structures. Combining calibration method with the ability to tune over a range of different wavelengths is sought to characterize cryogenic single-photon detector's energy resolution and detection efficiency across the detection band of interest. For such applications, the natural linewidth of the source lines must be much less than the detector resolution (for NIR and higher photon energies, resolving powers R = E/ΔEFWHM = λ/ΔλFWHM much greater than 100 are required). Quantum sources operating at cryogenic temperatures are most suitable for cryogenic detector characterization and photon number resolving detection for wavelengths of order 1.6 μm and longer. 

 

For quantum sensing applications that would involve a squeezed light source on an aerospace platform, investigation of low SWaP sources of squeezed light would be beneficial. From the literature, larger footprint sources of squeezed light have demonstrated 15 dB of squeezing (Vahlbruch, et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 11, 110801 (2016)). For a source smaller in footprint, there has been a recent demonstration of parametric downconversion in an optical parametric oscillator (OPO) resulting in 9.3 dB of squeezing (Arnbak, et al., Optics Express. 27, 26, 37877-37885 (2019)). Further improvement of the state-of-the-art light squeezing capability (i.e., >10 dB), while maintaining low SWaP parameters, is desired. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

Quantum technologies enable a new generation in sensitivities and performance and include low baseline interferometry and ultraprecise sensors with applications ranging from natural resource exploration and biomedical diagnostic to navigation. 

 

Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD)—Astronaut health monitoring. 

 

Science Mission Directorate (SMD)—Earth, planetary, and astrophysics including imaging spectrometers on a chip across the electromagnetic spectrum from x-ray through the infrared. 

 

Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)—Game-changing technology for small spacecraft communication and navigation (optical communication, laser ranging, and gyroscopes). 

 

Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)—Rapid increased interest. 

Space Technology Roadmap 6.2.2, 13.1.3, 13.3.7, all sensors 6.4.1, 7.1.3, 10.4.1, 13.1.3, 13.4.3, 14.3.3.

 

Quantum Communications 

 

Scope Description:

NASA seeks to develop quantum networks to support the transmission of quantum information for aerospace applications. This distribution of quantum information could potentially be utilized in secure communication, sensor arrays, and quantum computer networks. Quantum communications may provide new ways to improve sensing the entangling of distributed sensor networks to provide extreme sensitivity for applications such as astrophysics, planetary science, and Earth science. Technologies of interest are components to support the communication of quantum information between quantum computers, or sensors, for space applications or supporting linkages between free space and terrestrial fiber-optic quantum networks. Technologies that are needed include quantum memory, entanglement sources, quantum interconects, quantum repeaters, high-efficiency detectors, as well as Integrated Quantum Photonics that integrate multiple components. A key need for all of these are technologies with low SWaP that can be utilized in aerospace applications. Some examples (not all inclusive) of requested innovation include: 

 

  • Photonic waveguide integrated circuits for quantum information processing and manipulation of entangled quantum states requires phase stability, low propagation loss, i.e., 100 MHz incidence rate, and 1-sigma time resolution of 50% at the highest incidence rate. 
  • Quantum memory with high buffering efficiency ( >50%), storage time (>10 ms), and high fidelity (>0.9), including heralding capability as well as scalability. 
  • Stable narrow-band filters for connecting to quantum memory and atomic interferometers. Narrow band (100 MHz or less for spectral bandwidth per channel) has >50 dB extinction and >90% coupling efficiency for either NIR or C-band. 
  • Very narrow wavelength division multiplexing (~30 GHz channels) with high coupling efficiency. 
  • High-efficiency and high-speed optical switches. 
  • High rate and fidelity quantum entangled photon source. Source should produce entangled pairs of rate >1 MHz and rate of multi-pair down rate a factor reduced by at least a factor of 1,000. This could be accomplished through a single source or array of sources. 
  • Integrated quantum spectrometer. This may utilize a WDM architecture with high coupling efficiency to external sources. 
  • Quantum sensor with quantum photonic output for quantum sensor network. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 4 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 05 Communications, Navigation, and Orbital Debris Tracking and Characterization Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 05.5 Revolutionary Communications Technologies 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I research should (highly encouraged) be conducted to demonstrate technical feasibility with preliminary hardware (i.e., beyond architecture approach/theory; a proof-of-concept) being delivered for NASA testing, as well as show a plan toward Phase II integration.

 

Phase II new technology development efforts shall deliver components at 4 to 6 TRLs with mature hardware and preliminary integration and testing in an operational environment. Deliverables are desired that substantiate the quantum communication technology utility for positively impacting the NASA mission. The quantum communication technology should impact one of three key areas: information security, sensor networks, and networks of quantum computers. Deliverables that substantiate technology efficacy include reports of key experimental demonstrations that show significant capabilities, but in general, it is desired that the deliverable include some hardware that shows the demonstrated capability. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Quantum communications is called for in the 2018 National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Act, which directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE) to pursue research, development, and education activities related to Quantum Information Science. Applications in quantum communications, networking, and sensing, all proposed in this subtopic, are the contributions being pursued by NASA to integrate the advancements being made through the NQI. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

This technology would benefit NASA communications infrastructure as well as enable new capabilities that support its core missions. For instance, advances in quantum communications would provide capabilities for added information security for spacecraft assets as well as provide a capability for linking quantum computers on the ground and in orbit. In terms of quantum sensing arrays, there are a number of sensing applications that could be supported through the use of quantum sensing arrays for dramatically improved sensitivity.

It is envisioned that some of the first possible lunar infrastructure will be structures composed of bulk regolith and rocks. The intent of this subtopic is to develop civil engineering designs of bulk regolith lunar infrastructure, technologies to build the infrastructure, and construction concepts of operations (ConOps) for the south polar region of the Moon. This is the lunar equivalent of terrestrial “Earth Works.” Earth-based civil engineering processes and technologies are not adequate for lunar construction; therefore, lunar civil engineering designs and technologies must be developed. The fundamental robotic capabilities of interest are: 

 

  • Geotechnical site investigation and topography mapping. 
  • Rock removal. 
  • Establishing grade and forming desired ground features. 
  • Compaction. 
  • Verification of geotechnical parameters and geometry of structures. 
  • Routines and sensors for autonomous operations 

 

Site Preparation and Bulk Regolith Infrastructure 

 

Scope Description: 

It is envisioned that some of the first possible lunar infrastructure will be structures composed of bulk regolith and rocks. The intent of this subtopic is to develop civil engineering designs of bulk regolith lunar infrastructure, technologies to build the infrastructure, and construction concepts of operations (ConOps) for the south polar region of the Moon. This is the lunar equivalent of terrestrial “Earth Works.” Earth-based civil engineering processes and technologies are not adequate for lunar construction; therefore, lunar civil engineering designs and technologies must be developed. The fundamental robotic capabilities of interest are: 

 

  • High-resolution topography mapping. 
  • Rock removal. 
  • Establishing grade and forming desired ground features. 
  • Compaction. 
  • Verification of geotechnical parameters and geometry of built structures. 
  • Routines and sensors for autonomous operations. 

 

The desired outcome of this effort is the capability to create “Regolith Works” on the lunar surface. This includes engineered surface features/structures and the design, prototype, testing, analysis, modeling, and demonstration of prototype construction hardware and investigative instruments. These technologies are sought for subscaled lunar construction demonstration missions and site investigation technologies. The following lunar civil engineered structures are of particular interest to NASA. Proposers are welcome to suggest other regolith-based infrastructure concepts.

 

  • Bulk regolith-based launch/landing zones designed to minimize risks associated with landing/launching on regolith surfaces for CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) and HLS (Human Landing System) class vehicles. 
  • Rocket Plume Surface Interaction (PSI) ejecta and blast protection structures (e.g., berms). 
  • Regolith foundations for supporting hardened launch/landing pads, towers, habitats, roads, and other structures. 
  • Pathways for improved trafficability (e.g., gravel, stabilized paths, and foundations for roads). 
  • Emplaced regolith overburden for protection from Solar Particle Event (SPE), Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR), nuclear system radiation, and meteoroid impacts. 
  • Structures for access to subgrade (e.g., trenches and pits). 
  • Flat, level, and rock-free operational surfaces for regularly accessed locations such as habitat surroundings, equipment positioning locations, and dust mitigation applications. 
  • Sloped regolith access ramps and elevated operational surfaces. 
  • Utility corridors (e.g., electrical, communications, and fluids). 
  • Holistic designs of regolith-based infrastructure including interfaces between prepared areas (e.g., layout and transitions between infrastructure elements such as hardened launch/landing pad foundations, pad aprons, tower foundations, pathways/roads, habitat areas, and mining sites). 

 

Other areas of significant interest include: 

 

  • Definition of moonquake ground accelerations. This includes advanced processing of existing seismic datasets and the development of seismic investigation instruments. Analysis of potential effects on infrastructure, risk assessments, and mitigation strategies are desired. 
  • Advanced geotechnical site investigation methods and systems, beyond cone penetrometer/shear vane measurements, that provide information on subsurface characteristics such as rock distributions, depth to bedrock, soil stratification, and caverns. This includes orbital remote sensing techniques such as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) or surface-based technologies including surface wave techniques, automated robotic borehole investigations, and GPR, etc. The ground-based technology should be suited for a small geotechnical mobility platform. A depth of at least 1 meter should be targeted with the potential to scale up. 
  • Methods, materials, and systems to stabilize regolith for purposes such as securing launch/landing pad surrounding areas (pad apron), improving trafficability, dust mitigation, and berms. Proposals in this area can include minimal non-regolith-based surface treatments such as deployable surface covers, stabilizing agents, or other solutions. Proposals targeting “lunar concrete” technologies will not be accepted (e.g., slabs produced by sintered regolith, molten regolith, or cementitious materials). 

 

Exact requirements for the full-scale bulk regolith structures are not yet known. Assumptions and estimates should be made, with supporting rationale, to enable initial civil engineering designs. Specification of lunar civil engineering design criteria should be provided including required geotechnical properties. 

 

Tests and validated models/simulations should be developed to characterize the system and regolith infrastructure performance in its intended environments/applications. For example, effects of ejecta impingement upon proposed PSI ejecta protection structures should be characterized including phenomenon such as erosion or secondary ejecta trajectories. 

 

Development of PSI modeling capabilities is not in scope for this subtopic, but collaboration with ongoing PSI modeling efforts is welcome. Information on PSI characteristics can be obtained in the peer-reviewed literature and public NASA reports in the references section.

 

ConOps should be developed to define the sequence of steps to complete construction tasks. The ConOps should begin with the natural lunar surface including craters, hills, valleys, and surface/subsurface rocks, and end with the completed bulk regolith infrastructure verified to meet design criteria. 

 

Concepts should be appropriate for a CLPS scale demonstration mission on the lunar surface (e.g., 50 kg overall mass and 10 kg budget for implements) and assume that the implements would attach to an existing modular mobility platform with interfaces at the forward and aft position. Mobility platforms are not a focus for this topic. A depiction of the integrated construction system concept should be provided. 

 

Proposers may select one or more systems/structures of interest to develop. Infrastructure designs that maximize risk reduction for the Artemis program will be prioritized. Proposals that show promise for implementation by a single, compact, and robotic regolith manipulation system will rank high. Concepts that employ or build upon higher TRL implements will be prioritized. NASA is seeking systems that can build bulk regolith infrastructure that can be demonstrated by 2030. 

 

Research institute partnering is anticipated to provide analytical, research, testing, and engineering support to the proposers. Examples may include applying civil engineering principles and planning methods, identification and development of needed standards or specifications for lunar structures and operations, regolith interaction modeling, development of analytical models and simulations for verification of system performance, and methods for the design and prototyping of hardware and associated software. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 07 Exploration Destination Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 07.2 Mission Infrastructure, Sustainability, and Supportability 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 
  • Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I must include the design and test of critical attributes associated with the proposed site preparation technology, operations, and achieved site characteristics. Modeling, simulation, or testing must be provided with evidence that the site preparation technology is suitable for operations in lunar environments (e.g., 1/6 gravity, vacuum). Civil engineered design of bulk regolith infrastructure including associated testing, modeling, and simulations must be included. Phase I must include a ConOps for constructing the infrastructure and verifying the as-built characteristics meet design criteria. An overall construction system concept must be provided. Phase I proposals should result in at least TRL 4 structures and implements.

 

Phase II deliverables must include demonstration of construction and characterization of bulk regolith infrastructure including mobility. The infrastructure must be constructed using robotic systems and implements. Proof of critical functions of the infrastructure and systems must be demonstrated, simulated, or modeled in relevant environments including reduced gravity, vacuum, and others as appropriate. Structures and systems must be developed to a minimum of TRL 5.

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

While civil engineering and construction are well-established practices on Earth, lunar applications remain at low TRLs. The design requirements and functional capabilities of bulk regolith-based lunar infrastructure are not well defined. To date, very few studies have performed civil engineering designs of bulk regolith infrastructure for lunar surface applications. Tests have been performed on Earth but only for short periods of time and with limited environmental and operational fidelity.

 

Relevance / Science Traceability:

Construction of bulk regolith infrastructure directly addresses gaps associated with the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) strategic thrust “Live: Sustainable Living and Working Farther from Earth” Excavation, Construction, and Outfitting (ECO) capability area.

NASA seeks to develop scientific imaging systems that facilitate enhanced and extended observations of rapidly changing phenomena from the vantage point of low-Earth orbit (LEO). NASA Earth Science relies on various LEO-based imaging systems to study transient events in the Earth system. Thunderstorms are an example of events that are of much interest, and these typically occupy a small fraction of the image scene. Identification of thunderclouds are achieved using lightning mappers, which are high-speed cameras that detect transient optical pulses emitted by lightning flashes. These instruments are currently used by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support science and operational weather decision making. There is a desire to develop higher resolution and multispectral lightning mappers to detect smaller and optically faint lightning flashes that frequent intense thunderstorms. However, onboard storage and downlink constraints must be taken into consideration, especially for small satellite platforms. Also, autonomous observing systems used for science missions require information that directs the platform navigation and attitude. This requires developing new smart cameras, advanced image processing software, and leveraging next-generation hardware accelerators to enable new lightning mapping instruments capable of utilizing small satellite autonomous observing systems. This subtopic is divided into two scopes (software and hardware). 

 

Autonomous Storm Detection and Tracking Software for Active-Pixel Sensors 

 

Scope Description: 

Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors (CISs) are extremely attractive for use in future lightning mappers from the standpoint of reducing instrument size, weight, and power while enhancing measurement capabilities. CISs can be dynamically windowed to acquire images within regions of interest (ROIs) identified in the image scene and spatially binned to obtain varying image resolution. An identified ROI is of particular interest because it also provides location information that can be used to extend the observation of a thunderstorm as the spacecraft flies over it. New image processing technology is needed to realize these capabilities for future lightning mappers: 

 

  • When an active thunderstorm enters the field-of-view, determine an ROI within the image frame that contains the initial pixel event detections and is large enough to encompass the parent thunderstorm and any subsequent lightning activity that may occur in the future image frames. Existing satellite lightning mapper observations can be used to inform expected ROI sizes. 
  • Predict translation of the ROI across the image as the thunderstorm traverses the field of view. A machine-learning model could be built to predict the movement of thunderstorms through the image scene. The required training data sets can be readily obtained from existing satellite lightning mapper data archives. 
  • Output the x-y pixel coordinates of the identified thunderstorm ROI that can be used to modify the CIS sampling approach. 
  • Translate the ROI pixel coordinates to a coordinate system that can be readily used to adjust the host platform orientation relative to the ROI (e.g., satellite attitude control). 
  • Demonstrate the successful performance of the software for both daytime and nighttime image scenes containing simulated lightning events and noise by employing thresholds based on airborne and spaceborne measurements of lightning cloud-top radiances. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 11 Software, Modeling, Simulation, and Information Processing 
  • Level 2: TX 11.X Other Software, Modeling, Simulation, and Information Processing 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 10 Autonomous Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 10.1 Situational and Self Awareness 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Prototype 
  • Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I will develop software that establishes an ROI when an active thunderstorm is present in the image scene and predicts translation of the ROI as the thunderstorm area moves through the sequence of acquired images. The software also must demonstrate performance using a realistic simulation of a lightning event dataset. This is a research and analysis effort that produces the inputs required to Phase II. 

 

Phase II will implement the software developed in Phase I onto a hardware device and demonstrate its storm detection and tracking performance on simulated or actual lightning. The hardware will be developed through a separate project under this subtopic and will require collaboration amongst the various entities involved in both projects. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Current LEO-based lightning mappers used to identify and monitor global thunderstorm activity rely on fixed event detection and sampling strategies, which limit the amount of useful information that can be obtained with high-resolution CISs. Also, these satellite-based lightning mappers rely on event detectors that employ analog components, which increases the instrument’s size, weight, and power impeding their use in small satellite missions to study thunderstorms. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) seeks to observe physical processes in the Earth system that improve understanding and prediction of deep convective storms, which are a focus of future satellite missions recommended by the 2017 Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space. NASA SMD Earth Science studies the dynamics of the atmosphere to improve understanding of fundamental processes that drive weather. Lightning is intimately tied to the cloud processes governing storm intensification and plays an important role in climate monitoring. Future missions expected to launch within the next decade such as the Atmospheric Observing System (AOS) and Earth Venture Mission Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS) will focus on studying deep convective clouds to improve prediction of severe weather. LEO-based lightning mappers are the only direct means for globally identifying which convective clouds produce lightning.

 

NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) is currently funding an Instrument Incubator Project to develop a three-dimensional lightning mapping concept that could use this technology to greatly enrich its optical measurement of lightning. Additionally, the technology developed in response to this subtopic could enable satellite swarms to function autonomously for high-speed imaging systems. The recently launched Starling mission is an example of swarm technology that could facilitate testing the software developed for this subtopic. 

 

Advocates at NASA Headquarters for new imaging technology, especially those enabling higher resolution observations of thunderstorm and wildfires, are the Program Managers and Division Directors in SMD’s Earth Science Division and in SMD’s Heliophysics Division.

 

Processing Units for Adaptive Imaging and Autonomous Observing Systems 

 

Scope Description: 

Future lightning mappers will use complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors (CIS) to reduce instrument size, weight, and power while enabling novel detection and measurement approaches. One such concept is to exploit the adaptive imaging capabilities of a CIS to enhance the measurement over storm regions of interest. Lightning mappers acquire images at 500 to 2000 frames per second and perform event detection in each image frame. This is a tremendous image processing task leaving little room for additional onboard data processing tasks needed to translate the events into information that can be used for adjusting the CIS resolution over the storm region and for adjusting the satellite attitude to increase observation time of the storm region. Realizing this autonomous capability will require implementing compute intensive tasks such as machine-learning models and as such call for new onboard processing capabilities for a lightning mapper (e.g., edge computing, tensor processing units, or neural processing units). This hardware needs to be compatible with a small- and low-power but high-speed camera system, perhaps taking the form of a specialized chip (e.g., intellectual property core) that can be integrated onto the imaging board of future lightning mappers. It should be capable of implementing the thunderstorm detection and tracking software, which is being developed through a separate project of this subtopic. Ultimately, the hardware will ingest detected lightning event information and will output formatted information that can be used to modify the CIS sampling approach or adjust satellite orientation. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 08 Sensors and Instruments 
  • Level 2: TX 08.1 Remote Sensing Instruments/Sensors 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 10 Autonomous Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 10.1 Situational and Self Awareness 

 

Tertiary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 02 Flight Computing and Avionics 
  • Level 2: TX 02.X Other Flight Computing and Avionics 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Hardware 
  • Prototype 
  • Analysis 
  • Research 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I will design a hardware solution for performing the processing tasks required by the thunderstorm detection and tracking software. This software will be developed through a separate project under this subtopic and will require collaboration amongst the various entities involved in both projects. 

 

Phase II will build a prototype of the hardware component and demonstrate its functionality (i.e., implementation of thunderstorm identification and tracking software) in a simulated satellite system. This includes simulation of spatially distributed regions of lightning activity superimposed onto a background scene radiance, successful identification of and ROI, modification of CIS sampling cadence, and slewing of the sensor platform to track the relative motion of the simulated thunderstorm target. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Autonomous platform technology is being developed, but to use these capabilities in future satellite missions requires science instruments to perform some level of data processing onboard and provide relevant output needed to command the platform to optimize observations of features of interest. Current LEO-based lightning mappers use fixed staring digital imaging platforms to identify and monitor global thunderstorm activity, and they are not capable of adaptively adjusting their imaging strategy to enable enhanced and extended observation as they pass over the tops of thunderclouds. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

NASA SMD seeks to observe physical processes in the Earth system that improve understanding and prediction of deep convective storms, which are a focus of future satellite missions recommended by the 2017 Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space. NASA SMD Earth Science studies the dynamics of the atmosphere to improve understanding of fundamental processes that drive weather. Lightning is intimately tied to the cloud processes governing storm intensification and plays an important role in climate monitoring. Future missions expected to launch within the next decade such as the Atmospheric Observing System (AOS) and Earth Venture Mission Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS) will focus on studying deep convective clouds to improve prediction of severe weather. LEO-based lightning mappers are the only direct means for globally identifying which convective clouds produce lightning. NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) is currently funding an Instrument Incubator Project to develop a 3D lightning mapping concept that could use this technology to greatly enrich its optical measurement of lightning. Additionally, the technology developed in response to this subtopic could enable satellite swarms to function autonomously for high-speed imaging systems. The recently launched Starling mission is an example of swarm technology that could facilitate testing the software developed for this subtopic.

Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are a revolutionary technology that enables complex optical functionality in a simple, robust, reliable, chip-sized package with very low size, weight, and power (SWaP), extremely high performance, and low cost. PICs are the optical analog to electrical integrated circuits (EICs). In the same way that EICs replaced vacuum tubes and other bulk electrical components, PICs are revolutionizing the generation and manipulation of light (photons), replacing free-space optics and parts with chip-based optical waveguides and components. This technology has been pioneered in the telecommunications industry but much of the functionality and components are also directly applicable to science measurements and spacecraft technologies. 

 

Photonic Integrated Circuits 

 

Scope Description: 

NASA is interested in the development and maturation of PIC technology for infusion into existing and upcoming instruments. For the purposes of this call, PIC technology is defined as one or more lithographically defined photonic components or devices (e.g., lasers, detectors, waveguides/passive structures, modulators, electronic control, and optical interconnects) on a single platform allowing for manipulation and confinement of light at or near the wavelength scale. PICs can enable SWaP and cost reductions and improve the performance of science instruments, subsystems, and components. PIC technologies are particularly critical for enabling small spacecraft platforms, rovers, and wearable/handheld technology for astronauts. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the proposed PIC component or subsystem will demonstrate improved performance: reduced SWaP and cost; increased robustness to launch, space, and entry/landing environments; and/or entirely new measurement functionalities when compared to existing state-of-the-art bulk fiber-optic technology. 

 

Additional clarifications: 

 

  • On-chip generation, manipulation, and detection of light in a single-material system may not be practical or offer the best performance, so heterogenous or hybrid integration and packaging of different material systems are also of interest [1]. 
  • Often the full benefits of photonic integration are only realized when combined with integrated electronics [2]. Proposals that leverage co-integrated electronics and/or new materials for new or improved PIC functionality are invited but should consider the ultimate space environment. 
  • There are advantages to the development of PIC technology in existing open access foundries (such as AIM [3]) to enable low cost, continued support, commercialization, and cross-compatibility with other development efforts. 
  • Proposers are strongly recommended to consider the final use case of the proposed component/system and a route to integrate the new technology with NASA’s existing instruments/PICs in a potential Phase II activity. For example, standalone PICs should discuss a planned approach for packaging suitable for lab tests without a probe station (TRL 4). Alternatively, proposals to develop a specific on-chip component should discuss how this new 

component could be incorporated into existing foundry processes or added as a back-end-of-line process. 

  • Overlap with other topics: proposals which are developing PIC-based subsystems for applications covered in other SBIR/STTR topics should consider which call is more applicable. 
    • Proposals in which more than 50% of the effort is focused on PIC development are encouraged to be submitted to this subtopic. 
  • Subtopics which often have overlap with this subtopic include: 
  • Optical/laser communications 
  • Lidar 
  • Quantum sensors 
  • Spectroscopy 
  • Astronomy 

 

 

General NASA areas of interest for PIC components and subsystems include, but are not limited to: 

 

  • Lidar systems and components for 3D mapping and trace gas sensing. 
  • Navigational and in situ sensors for rovers, landers, and probes. 
  • PIC-based analog radio-frequency (RF), microwave, submillimeter, and terahertz signal processing. 
  • Low insertion loss and environmentally robust PIC-to-fiber packaging. 

 

Several existing needs at NASA for PIC technology include: 

 

  • PICs suitable for terahertz spectroscopy, microwave radiometry, and hyperspectral microwave sounding needing integrated high-speed electro-optic modulators, optical filters with tens of GHz free-spectral-range and few GHz resolution (e.g., [4]). Ka-band operation of RF photonic up/down frequency converters and filters need wideband tunability (>10 GHz) and <1 GHz instantaneous bandwidth. 
  • Hybrid or heterogeneous integration of InP gain elements on silicon for on-chip lasers and amplifiers. Proposals responsive to this item should include evanescent couplers, photonic wirebonds, or similar structures/technologies to couple the InP elements to silicon waveguides efficiently and optically. Proposals are strongly encouraged to either work directly with, or ensure direct compatibility with, silicon photonic foundries in the U.S. 
  • On-chip avalanche photodiodes (APDs) operating at 1550 nm compatible with at least one silicon photonic foundry in the U.S., targeting an eventual “PDK-like” element available in the foundry. APDs may be fabricated in the process itself (i.e., using existing process materials such as Ge) or heterogeneous/hybrid integrated in a back-end-of-line process. APD designs capable of single photon sensitivity are strongly encouraged. Designs requiring cryogenic operation are acceptable; however, room-temperature operation is preferred. 
  • Spectrometers for remote or in situ sensing of trace gases, sediments, and other small particulates. Proposals in this category should meet one or more of the following requirements to be considered competitive: 
    • Spectrometers or enabling spectrally resolving components capable of measuring the isotope ratio of at least one gas common on Earth or a planetary body, especially tunable laser spectrometer designs such as in [5]. The isotope ratio (e.g., D/H or C13/C12) of at least one of the following elements should be measurable: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Isotope ratio could be measured using any of a number of common gases (e.g., CO, CO2, NH3, HCN, CH4, NO2). Some example wavelengths and gases useful for measuring isotope ratios include: HCN at 3 um, CO and CH4 at 4.6 um. Spectrometers capable of achieving a sensitivity of 1 ppm or better are preferred. 
  • Spectrometers or spectrally resolving components capable of highly multimode (10+) and/or imaging operation on a single chip. 
  • MIR tunable laser heterodyne spectrometer including one or more tunable lasers with center wavelength in the range of 4-5 um and/or high-frequency (2+ GHz) detectors operating in the same wavelength range on a single PIC. Fiber-coupled inputs to the PIC for mixing an external source with the on-chip laser(s) onto the photodiodes are also needed. For more details on the full system see [6]. 
  • Packaging approaches and on-chip coupling components [7] for high-density, high-bandwidth, and/or misalignment-tolerant connections to single mode and multimode optical fiber, in any wavelength range. Note that all proposals responding to this call should target better than 3 dB fiber-to-waveguide coupling loss at the target wavelength, unless stated otherwise. o Note that photonic lanterns, mode size converters, 3D-written waveguide arrays, fiber arrays, and other “off-chip” coupling components must be packaged with a PIC to be considered responsive. In this case, the PIC should allow for measurement of total insertion loss but need not have any additional functionality. 
  • Note that proposals demonstrating a new coupler design will preferably focus on coupler design in a commercial foundry process. 
  • Designs and methods for coupling a multimode fiber directly to a PIC. An initial insertion loss >3 dB is acceptable, but a realistic path to <3 dB insertion loss should be identified. 
  • Designs and methods for coupling a single-mode waveguide to a large-area beam (>1 mm diam.) emitted with high efficiency (<6 dB insertion loss) directly from the chip surface without an external lens. 
    • Both beam-steering and static approaches are invited. Example approaches include optical phased arrays, large-area grating couplers, and metalens-based structures. Note that approaches utilizing an on-chip fabricated lens (i.e., deposited on the chip surface) are also invited. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 08 Sensors and Instruments 
  • Level 2: TX 08.1 Remote Sensing Instruments/Sensors 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 08 Sensors and Instruments 
  • Level 2: TX 08.3 In-Situ Instruments/Sensor 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I does not need to include a physical deliverable to the government but it is best if it includes a demonstration of feasibility through measurements. This can include extensive modeling, but a stronger proposal will have measured validation of models or designs. 

 

Phase II should include prototype delivery to the government. (It is understood that this is a research effort, and the prototype is a best-effort delivery where there is no penalty for missing performance goals.) The Phase II effort should be targeting a commercial product that could be sold to the government and/or industry. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

There is a critical gap between discrete and bulk photonic components and waveguide multifunction PICs. The development of PICs permits SWaP and cost reductions for spacecraft microprocessors, communication buses, processor buses, advanced data processing, and integrated science instrument optical systems, subsystems, and components. This is particularly critical for small spacecraft platforms. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD)—Astronaut health monitoring. 

 

Science Mission Directorate (SMD)—Earth, planetary, and astrophysics compact science instrument (e.g., optical and terahertz spectrometers and magnetometers on a chip and lidar systems and subsystems). 

(See Earth Science and Planetary Science Decadal Surveys.) 

 

Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)—Game-changing technology for small spacecraft navigation (e.g., laser ranging and gyroscopes). 

 

Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)—Exponentially increasing interest in programs at universities and startups in integrated photonics. 

 

Space Technology Roadmap 6.2.2, 13.1.3, 13.3.7, all sensors, 6.4.1, 7.1.3, 10.4.1, 13.1.3, 13.4.3, 14.3.3.

This subtopic seeks low size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) terrain mapping sensor solutions that are applicable to onboard hazard detection and avoidance for safe and precise landing. The subtopic seeks a standalone sensor solution capable of sensing planetary terrains at altitudes greater than 250 m and generating onboard high-resolution digital elevation maps (DEM) within 2 sec and in any illumination condition. This subtopic is not restrictive to the type of sensing technology solution presuming it can achieve the delineated requirements. 

 

Terrain Mapping Sensor Applicable to Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) for Precise Safe Landing 

 

Scope Description: 

NASA is seeking to advance terrain imaging sensors capable of mapping planetary surfaces from an altitude of at least 250 m regardless of surface illumination conditions. The sensors are to be utilized within entry, descent, and landing (EDL) and deorbit, descent, and landing (DDL) GN&C systems for precise safe landing on solid solar system bodies, including planets, moons, or small celestial bodies such as asteroids and comets. Although NASA funds have been allocated to a handful of projects for the development of technologies for precision landing and hazard avoidance (PL&HA), including various light detection and ranging (LIDAR)-based systems, many of these solutions are predominantly tailored to specific concepts of operation for specific missions and the associated environmental conditions. Further, existing developing solutions lie beyond the fiscal reach of small businesses and smaller-class landers companies looking to enter the commercial planetary exploration market and to include the safe landing capability. 

 

This solicitation is seeking a standalone 3D terrain mapping sensor capable of operating in any illumination condition, and which can be generalized to any mission, vehicle configuration, and concept of operations. Proposals must demonstrate a development path to sensor hardware testing (lab and/or terrestrial flight) in an operationally-relevant environment by the end of a Phase II award. Additionally, proposals must convey a credible development path and timeline for post-Phase-II efforts to achieve fully space-qualified hardware applicable to the EDL/DDL spaceflight environment considering factors such as radiation, thermal protection, vacuum, and vibrational effects. To be considered, proposals must demonstrate a plan to develop an integrated hardware and software system that meets the below requirements: 

 

  • Minimized size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C). There are no hard constraints on size, weight or power, but the proposed sensor must be comparable to current state-of-the-art space-rated systems (e.g., Lunar Explorer Instrument for Space Biology Applications (LEIA), ASC Flash LIDAR, JENA RVS3000, etc.). For cost, the desire is to target a sensor cost on the order of $1-$5 million per space-qualified unit to enable inclusion into a broad market of smaller-class landers. Proposers are encouraged to contact various lunar lander vendors to further discuss desirable cost targets. Proposals should include a justification of cost target if such contacts occur. 
  • Generate a digital elevation map (DEM) of 100 x 100 m with a ground sample distance of less than 10 cm/pixel from a range of 250 m (at minimum) and in less than 4 sec. Note that ranges of greater than 500 m are preferable, but 250 m is the minimum allowable range for the development and maturation of a low SWaP-C capability. To provide sufficient margin for the map generation process, the scan time should be limited to less than 2 sec so that the total scan and DEM-generation time is less than 4 sec (the faster the better). 
  • The generated DEM should be put into a surface-relative fixed frame and the sensor must incorporate alignment and calibration provisions so that generated data and DEMs can be transformed between sensor-relative frames and external mounting frames for tying back to vehicle navigation frames. 
  • Produce a DEM having an elevation accuracy of less than 5 cm error and lateral accuracy of less than 10 cm error. 
  • Be able to operate in and account for dynamic vehicular motion, which could be via vibration isolation, measurement of motion/vibration within the sensor, and/or data inputs from external vehicle sensors and navigation. 
  • Sensing approach and hardware design should allow for the acquisition of multiple DEMs at different altitudes to account for evolving concepts of operation for EDL/DDL, as well as to provide robustness against unforeseen interruptions in acquisition. At altitudes higher than 500 m, it is not expected to maintain the 5 cm ground sample distance (GSD); the GSD could be scaled correspondingly. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 09 Entry, Descent, and Landing 
  • Level 2: TX 09.4 Vehicle Systems 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 
  • Software 
  • Research 
  • Analysis 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

The following deliverables are desired for Phase I: 

 

  1. Benchtop hardware demonstration of the sensing system acquiring data and generating a terrain map within the delineated specifications at short range. 
  2. Analysis and/or software simulations of how the system would perform in a relevant environment including at long range, in low-light, and under dynamic and vibratory conditions. 

 

The following deliverables are desired for Phase II: 

 

  1. Hardware demonstration of the system in an operationally relevant environment, which could be in a lab or a terrestrial testbed, including a terrestrial flight vehicle. The sensing system must acquire enough data to produce a DEM of the required resolution at long ranges greater than 250 m in the specified time. The system must demonstrate robustness to light conditions, vibration, dynamic motion, and accuracy with no loss of performance. 
  2. Demonstration of a path for space-qualified hardware and spaceflight infusion, including the consideration of vacuum and radiation effects. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Navigation systems for upcoming exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies must meet increasingly challenging requirements to enable highly reliable PL&HA. Many landing sites of exploration interest exhibit low levels of illumination precluding the use of traditional passive-imaging systems. Thus, alternative sensing solutions robust to illumination conditions are required to navigate relative to the terrain. Current path-to-space and state-of-the-art solutions for onboard hazard detection have cost barriers for small businesses and small lunar-class landers to employ. Further, while the SWaP-C of systems with state-of-the-art sensing capabilities designed for terrestrial applications has significantly dropped in recent years, they are not yet suitable for spaceflight. This solicitation addresses this SWaP-C gap to make spaceflight missions requiring terrain-relative sensing capabilities in prohibitive lighting conditions more accessible to small businesses and the space industry as a whole. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

Precision landing and hazard detection/avoidance have maintained consistent prioritization within the NASA and National Research Council (NRC) space technology roadmaps for decades. Existing and vetted high-priority NASA EDL technology gaps continue to call for advancements of PL&HA technologies, and stakeholders from within NASA leadership and the broader U.S. government are advocating for the commercialization of NASA-enabled capabilities. Current state-of-the-art sensing and navigation systems are not yet mature enough to enable consistently reliable operations in hazardous environments, including at a cost appropriate for small businesses and small lunar-class landers. The evolution of technologies able to meet the demanding objectives required for robotic science and human exploration operations to locations with unknown or hazardous terrain is critical to mission success, and small businesses have a key role to play.

Multi-agent Cyber-Physical-Human (CPH) teams in future space missions must include machine agents with a high degree of autonomy. In the context of this subtopic, by “autonomy” we mean the capacity and authority of an agent (human or machine) for independent decision making and execution in a specified context. We refer to machine agents with these attributes as autonomous systems (AS). In multi-agent CPH teams, humans may serve as remote mission supervisors or as immediate mission teammates, along with AS. AS may function as teammates with specified independence, but under the ultimate human direction. Alternatively, AS may exercise complete independence in decision making and operations in pursuit of given mission goals; for instance, for control of uncrewed missions for planetary infrastructure development in preparation for human presence or maintenance and operation of crew habitats during the crew’s absence. 

 

In all cases, trustworthiness and justified trust are essential in CPH teams. The term “trustworthiness” denotes the degree to which the system performs as intended and does not perform prohibited actions in a specified context. “Trust” denotes the degree of readiness by an agent (human or machine) to accept direction or advice from another agent (human or machine), also in a specified context. In common sense terms, trust is confidence in a system’s trustworthiness, which in turn, is the ability to perform actions with desired outcomes. 

 

A decision-making problem lies behind every action. Therefore, a system's trustworthiness can be viewed in terms of the soundness of decision making by the system's participants. Accurate and relevant information forms the basis of sound decision making. In this subtopic, we focus on data and other models that inform CPH team decision making, both in human-machine and machine-machine interactions, from two perspectives: the quality of the data and/or models and the representation of the data and/or model input and output in support of trusted human-machine and machine-machine interactions. 

 

 

Integrated Data and Model Uncertainty Management and Representation for Trustworthy and Trusted Autonomy in Space 

 

Scope Description: 

Because behind every action lies a decision-making problem, the trustworthiness of a system can be viewed in terms of the soundness of decision making by the system participants. Accurate and relevant information forms the basis of sound decision making. In this subtopic, we focus on data that inform CPH team decision making, both in human-machine and machine-machine interactions, from two perspectives: the quality of the data and the representation of the data in support of trusted human-machine and machine-machine interactions. Data may be an output of sensors or the output of models or simulations. 

 

Consider data exchanges in multi-agent CPH teams that include AS, as described in the subtopic introduction. Data exchanges in multi-agent teams must be subject to the following conditions: 

 

  • Known data accuracy, noise characteristics, and resolution as a function of the physical sensors in relevant environments or computational model accuracy. 
  • Known data accuracy, noise characteristics, and resolution as a function of data interpretation if the contributing sensors have a perception component or if data are delivered to an agent via another perception engine (e.g., visual recognition based on deep learning). 
  • Known data provenance and integrity. 
  • Dynamic anomaly detection in data streams during operations. 
  • Comprehensive uncertainty quantification (UQ) of data from a single source. 
  • Data fusion and combined UQ if multiple sources of data are used for decision making. 
  • If data from either a single source or fused data from multiple sources are used for decision making by an agent (human or machine), the data and the attendant UQ must be transformed into a representation conducive to and productive for decision making. This may include data filtering, compression, or expansion, among other approaches. 
  • UQ must be accompanied by a sensitivity analysis of the mission/operation/action goals with respect to uncertainties in various data, to enable appropriate risk estimation and risk-based decision making by relevant agents, human or machine. 
  • Tools for real-time, a priori, and a posteriori data analysis, with explanations relevant to participating agents. For instance, if machine learning is used for visual data perception in decision making by humans, methods of interpretable or explainable AI (XAI) may be in order. 

 

We note that deep learning and machine learning, in general, are not the chief focus of this subtopic. The techniques are mentioned as an example of tools that may participate in data processing. If such tools are used, the representation of the results to decision makers (human or machine) must be suitably interpretable and equipped with UQ. 

 

Addressing the entire set of the conditions listed above would likely be impractical in a single proposal. Therefore, proposers may offer methods and tools for addressing a subset of conditions. 

 

Proposers should offer both a general approach to achieving a chosen subset of the listed conditions and a specific application of the general approach to appropriate data types. The future orbiting or surface stations are potential example platforms because the environment would include a variety of AS used for habitat maintenance when the station is uninhabited, continual system health management, crew health, robotic assembly, and cyber security, among other functions. However, the proposers may choose any design reference mission relevant to NASA missions for demonstration of proposed approaches to integrated data uncertainty management and representation, subject to a convincing substantiation of the generalizability and scalability of the approach to relevant practical systems, missions, and environments. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 10 Autonomous Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 10.1 Situational and Self Awareness 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 10 Autonomous Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 10.2 Reasoning and Acting 

 

Tertiary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 10 Autonomous Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 10.3 Collaboration and Interaction 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Since UQ and management in data is an overarching theme in this subtopic, an analysis of uncertainties in the processes and data must be present in all final deliverables, both in Phases I and II. 

Phase I: For the areas selected in the proposal, the following deliverables would be in order: 

 

  1. Thorough but succinct analysis of the state of the art in the proposed area under investigation. 
  2. Detailed description of the problem used as the context for algorithm development, including substantiation for why this is a representative problem for a set of applications relevant to NASA missions. 
  3. Detailed description of the approach, including pseudocode, and the attendant design of experiments for testing and evaluation. 
  4. Hypotheses about the scalability and generalizability of the proposed approach to realistic problems relevant to NASA missions. 
  5. Preliminary software and process implementation. 
  6. Preliminary demonstration of the software. 
  7. Thorough analysis of performance and gaps. 
  8. Detailed plan for Phase II, including the design reference mission and the attendant technical problem. 
  9. Items 1 to 8 documented in a final report for Phase I. 

 

Phase II: 

 

  1. Detailed description and analysis of the design reference mission and the technical problem selected in Phase I, in collaboration with NASA Contracting Officer Representative (COR)/Technical Monitor (TM). 
  2. Detailed description of the approach/algorithms developed further for application to the Phase II design reference mission and problem, including pseudocode and the design of experiments for testing and evaluation. 
  3. Demonstration of the algorithms, software, methods, and processes. 
  4. Thorough analysis of performance and gaps, including scalability and applicability to NASA missions. 
  5. Resulting code. 
  6. Detailed plan for potential Phase III. 
  7. Items 1 to 5 documented in a final report for Phase II. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Despite progress in real-time data analytics, serious gaps remain that will present an obstacle to the operation of systems in NASA missions that require heavy participation of AS, both in human-machine teams and in uncrewed environments, whether temporary or permanent. The gaps come under two main categories: 

 

  1. Quality of the information based on various data sources—Trustworthiness of the data is essential in making decisions with desired outcomes. This gap can be summarized as the lack of reliable and actionable UQ associated with data, as well as the difficulty of detecting anomalies in data and combining data from disparate sources, ensuring appropriate quality of the result. 

 

  1. Representation of the data to decision makers (human or machine) that is conducive to trustworthy decision making—We distinguish raw data from useful information of appropriate complexity and form. Transforming data, single-source or fused, into information productive for decision making, especially by humans, is a challenge. 

 

Specific gaps are listed under the Scope Description as conditions the subsets of which must be addressed by proposers. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

The technologies developed as a result of this subtopic would be directly applicable to the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), Science Mission Directorate (SMD), Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD), Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), and Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD), as all of these mission directorates are heavy users of data and growing users of AS. For instance, the Gateway mission will need a significant presence of AS, as well as human-machine team operations that rely on AS for habitat maintenance when the station is uninhabited, continual system health management, crew health, robotic assembly, among other functions. Human presence on the Moon surface will require similar functions, as well as future missions to Mars. All trustworthy decision making relies on trustworthy data. This topic addresses gaps in data trustworthiness, as well as productive data representation to human-machine teams for sound decision making. 

 

The subtopic is also directly applicable to ARMD missions and goals because future airspace will heavily rely on AS. Thus, the subtopic is applicable to such projects as Airspace Operations and Safety Program (AOSP)/Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and Air Traffic Management—eXploration (ATM-X). The technologies developed as a result of this subtopic would be applicable to the National Airspace System (NAS) in the near future as well, because of the need to process data related to vehicle and system performance.

The state of the art in human spaceflight is defined and modeled by current operations for the International Space Station (ISS). ISS is continuously crewed, requires astronauts to perform maintenance activities (both within and outside the habitat), is supported by a large mission control staff in real time, and has nearly continuous, large bandwidth data communications from space to ground. Beyond ISS, NASA’s Moon to Mars architecture outlines a very different concept of operations where habitats will be intermittently occupied and there is a reduction in mission control support due to the longer communication latencies as well as the limited data bandwidth. 

 

Future deep space habitats (both orbital and surface) will require to be designed for resiliency and autonomous operations during times when there is crew onboard and when there is none. These new smart habitats need to provide a functional, hospitable, and safe environment for astronauts, necessitating advancements in automated and autonomous systems as well as robotics. New capabilities will address the critical challenges faced by future deep space habitats. 

 

NASA needs systems engineering for smart habitats across the full life cycle of design, implementation, verification, and operations. This subtopic solicits designs for human-autonomous system integration for deep space tactical anomaly response in future smart habitats. Specifically for anomaly response systems, proposals may cover any phase of life cycle, from design tools, system design, and/or verification methods. 

 

 

Understanding Fault Propagation and Fault Action Impacts in an Integrated/Human-Autonomy System for Smart Habitats 

 

Scope Description: 

One critical area for smart habitats is the appropriate and necessary balance between human and autonomous system intervention during anomalies. Onboard autonomous systems will be used, for instance: to collect a wide array of sensor information; integrate heterogeneous data from various vehicle subsystems; identify and predict system/subsystem/hardware required maintenance; diagnose subsystem faults; and recommend resolutions after malfunctions. On the other hand, humans will have to consume all the information and recommendations provided by the autonomous systems. This is true for both onboard astronauts and on-Earth mission control flight controllers. Particular astronauts will have a more challenging time as they will be a smaller team. However, it is essential to provide astronauts with the capability to respond to anomaly events in deep space missions. 

 

When an anomaly occurs in deep space, decision support systems will identify the source(s) of the anomaly as well as recommend a course of action for crew to take. This will require future smart habitats to have data fusion, combining heterogenous onboard sensor data and onboard processing of large data analytics. Developing the task model and system design for an integrated anomaly response functionality in a remote smart habitat will require exceptional systems engineering tools. These anomaly responses will need to be assessed for their ability to provide safe and effective controls in both known and unknown scenarios. Uncertainty, perception, and human situational awareness are all factors that add complexity to the system under design. Tools are needed that can reduce the complexity of the design space and allow for various types of analysis of the anomaly response system design to support eventual verification and validation of the integrated human-autonomy system. 

 

It is unlikely that any astronaut will be constantly monitoring spacecraft health and performance, so they will first need to quickly recover situation awareness when alerted to the anomaly. This will facilitate them to quickly make a judgment regarding the subsequent recommended fault recovery. Additionally, the autonomous system needs to convey the potential of cascading failures that may result due to the recommended recovery action. This is also a type of situation awareness for the astronaut being able to project the state of the spacecraft based on current actions. Astronauts will need to quickly rationalize through a large information space and select a fault recovery action that maintains safety and does not compromise other subsystems. Enabling astronauts to make complex decisions and prioritization in a time- and safety-critical moment is crucial for long-distance, long-duration exploration missions. 

 

NASA needs system engineering tools to design robust human-automation systems in smart habitats, enabling future fault detection, isolation, and resolution (FDIR) that successfully and safely integrates fault propagation and fault action impacts across all subsystems while still supporting astronauts and flight controllers during anomalies. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 6 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 10 Autonomous Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 10.3 Collaboration and Interaction 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I deliverables include use cases/scenarios, preliminary designs, etc., for anomaly response in smart habitat. 

 

Phase II deliverables include new technology or prototypes demonstrated through integrated demonstration as well as recommendations. Ideally, the delivery would be open-sourced; delivery of technology includes algorithms, models, and/or software prototypes. 

 

Three inter-related subsystems must be modeled (e.g., power, life support, thermal, food system, or payload); they will interface with a smart habitat technology, e.g., prognostic algorithms, Digital Twin, and FDIR, to generate suggested fault recovery actions based on an inserted anomaly or malfunction. Wizard of Oz integration is not permissible (i.e., computer system being operated or partially operated by an unseen human being does not meet success criteria). If applicable (e.g., designing and prototyping user interface), human-in-the-loop evaluation is expected. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Currently, NASA envisions including smart habitats in deep space exploration missions. It requires the development of new autonomous systems that need to support the entire full life cycle of design, implementation, verification, and operation of the anomaly response system. Moreover, human operators who manage the habitat from either within or remotely, need to successfully use these. One particular area of interest is FDIR and the various methods, algorithms, models, and analyses that can be leveraged in the future. Anomaly responses will need to be assessed for their ability to provide safe and effective controls in both known and unknown scenarios.

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

This subtopic is most relevant to the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) but also Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD). The technology will advance development of planned habitats for Moon and Mars.

The objective of this subtopic is to develop and mature extended reality (XR) technologies that can support NASA's goal of a sustained presence on the Moon, the exploration of Mars, and the subsequent human expansion/exploration across the solar system. NASA’s current plans are to have boots on the surface of the Moon in late 2024. Over time, lunar, Mars, and other solar system exploration missions will be much longer, more complex, and face more challenges and hazards than were faced during the Apollo missions. These new missions will require that astronauts have the very best training, analysis tools, and real-time operations support tools possible because a single error during task execution can have dire consequences in the hazardous space environment. Astronauts will also be required to function more autonomously than they have functioned previously. Technologies, such as XR, that can improve training, operations support, health and medicine, and collaboration provide tools with capabilities that were not previously available; while also improving a crew's ability to carry out activities more autonomously. 

 

Training and operations support during the Apollo era required the use of physical mockups in labs, large hangars, or outdoor facilities. These training modalities had inherent detractors such as the background environments that included observers, trainers, cameras, and other objects. These detractors reduced the immersiveness and overall efficacy of the system. Studies show that the more “real” a training environment is, the better the training is received. This is because realism improves “muscle memory,” which is critically important, especially in hazardous environments. XR systems can be made that mitigate the distractors posed by observers, trainers, background visuals, etc., which was not possible in Apollo-era environments. The virtual environments that can be created are so “lifelike” that it can be extremely difficult to determine when someone is looking at a photograph of a real environment or a screen captured from a digitally created scene. XR systems also allow for training to take place that is typically too dangerous (e.g., evacuation scenarios that include fire, smoke, or other dangerous chemicals), too costly (buildup of an entire habitat environment with all their subsystems), not physically possible (e.g., incorporation of large-scale environments in a simulated lunar/Mars environment), and a system that is easily and much more cost effective to reconfigure for different mission scenarios (i.e., it is easier, quicker, and less expensive to modify digital content than to create or modify physical mockups or other physical components). Industry is using next-generation digital technologies to create XR-based digital twins that facilitate Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Most of all, an XR-Based Digital Ground Replicate of the physical systems can serve as a common media (i.e., a “window”/viewpoint into the actual system) to communicate among all the stakeholders from different locations, sharing and interacting within the same virtual workspace simultaneously. 

 

Industry has been using XR for gaming successfully and although there are some enterprise-level applications, there are still many opportunities in this domain that have not been realized. NASA has a long history of developing and using XR for training, operations, engineering, collaboration, and human performance applications. These are prime areas where NASA can help guide the development of XR technologies for enterprise applications that could provide significant benefits to industry, other government agencies, and companies forging into the space industry domain. 

Furthermore, as industry/academia develops XR technologies, the way NASA is using XR will also change. Previously, NASA would need to develop all the software and hardware needed, but industry is developing XR technologies that allow NASA to focus on specific use cases. We have also identified several gaps/needs in the XR domain that could further support XR use across NASA, so working with industry/academia to address these gaps would be beneficial to NASA. 

 

 

XR for Health Care and Health Management 

 

Scope Description: 

In the upcoming stages of human exploration, astronauts will embark on missions that take them deeper into space and require them to spend extended durations away from Earth. Consequently, these missions will require astronauts to exhibit a higher degree of autonomy. A critical facet of this increased autonomy revolves around healthcare, as astronauts must be capable of managing healthcare situations with limited Earth-based support. Technologies that allow astronauts to do this will become critically important. 

 

The healthcare industry at large is actively using Extended Reality (XR) as a solution for the planning, training, and real-time support of health-related activities. This field has experienced substantial growth in recent years and currently represents a $7 billion industry. XR offers a range of applications, including enhancing the safety and efficiency of surgical planning and execution by providing 3D perspectives from multiple angles. It streamlines the planning process by seamlessly integrating imaging with immersive 3D content. It enables medical students to practice procedures and familiarize themselves with medical instruments in a lifelike digital environment that is both immersive and cost-effective. It is allowing for the transition from traditional cadaver-based training to digital human simulations that allows students to engage in repeated training sessions from the convenience of their homes or any location with a computer. It is also allowing for the simulations of complications during practice sessions to a degree that has not been possible before. Furthermore, XR technology is also making inroads into pain management and being used to help support mental health support services. 

 

Combining the healthcare industry's XR proficiency with NASA's extensive experience in human spaceflight medicine has the potential to enable astronauts to operate more independently and effectively manage medical emergencies in the challenging space environment. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 11 Software, Modeling, Simulation, and Information Processing 
  • Level 2: TX 11.6 Ground Computing 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 
  • Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I awards will be expected to develop theoretical frameworks, algorithms, and demonstrate feasibility (TRL 3) of the overall system (both software and hardware). Phase II awards will be expected to demonstrate the capabilities with the development of a prototype system that includes all the necessary hardware and software elements (TRL 6). 

 

As appropriate for the phase of the award, Phases I and II should include all the algorithms and research results clearly depicting metrics and performance of the developed technology in comparison to state of the art (SOA). Software implementation of the developed solution along with the simulation platform must be included as a deliverable. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Currently, NASA relies on limited training performed before flights, support from a flight surgeon on console, or manuals to carry out health care of crew during missions. As mission durations increase and the distance we visit grows, crew must become more autonomous in managing their health and addressing any medical situations that arise. The commercial health care industry is already leveraging some of these technologies in day-to-day operations and NASA could benefit significantly from incorporating some of those technologies and concepts.

 

Novel concepts related to real-time photorealistic visuals, markerless tracking of people/instruments, human interface systems (including haptics/mixed reality), and wearable XR devices could provide a system that provides significantly more capabilities than are currently in use. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

XR technologies can facilitate many missions, including those related to human space exploration. The technology can be used during the planning, training, and operations support phase. The Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) and Science Mission Directorate (SMD), Artemis, and Gateway programs could benefit from this technology for various missions. Furthermore, the crosscutting nature of XR technologies allows it to support all of NASA’s Directorates. 

 

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/index.html

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/home/index.html  

https://science.nasa.gov/  

https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/  

https://www.nasa.gov/gateway 

 

This type of capability would enable the development of immersive systems that could support planning, analysis, training, and collaborative activities related to surface navigation for Artemis missions.

 

 

Holodeck Technologies for XR 

 

Scope Description: 

One particularly notable technology from Star Trek was the holodeck, which served multiple purposes. It functioned as a data analysis environment, a planning tool, offering 3D visualization of data, models, and simulations. The holodeck was also used as a training environment, providing crew members with simulated environments for training. It also served as an engineering design tool, allowing crew members to create and manipulate 3D models of objects and systems piece by piece before their fabrication. Furthermore, it provided a recreational environment, simulating various locations for crew members to visit. 

 

While today's technologies may not replicate the full range and fidelity of capabilities seen in a Star Trek holodeck, there are Extended Reality (XR) technologies that allow for the creation of a "holodeck-like" system that could provide NASA with significant benefits. Some of these technologies include:

 

  1. Multi-user participation - This includes being able to have two or more individuals participating in the same immersive environment. 
  2. Mobility and Markerless tracking - This includes being able to determine the position/orientation of the torso, limbs, fingers, and other items in the physical environment, while carrying out activities in a much smaller physical environment than the virtual space. 
  3. Human interfaces - This includes methods by which users can interact with the immersive environment or other users in the system. This can also include interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) agents and/or other intelligent systems. 
  4. Sensory - This includes improvements to the visuals, incorporation of haptics (full body or limb/finger), acoustics, and olfactory. Also includes the possibility of incorporating temperature control, wind, etc., into the overall physical experience. 
  5. Wearable or projection XR display systems - Visual display quality (resolution, field of view, refresh rate, etc.), comfort for prolonged use, complexity getting the system operational, and costs to implement are important in this area. 
  6. Dynamic scene generation - This includes the ability to augment the immersive scene (in real time) with new content that is relevant to the current state of the simulation. 

 

The integration of the XR technologies above, combined with NASA’s extensive experience innovating and conducting cutting-edge research in human spaceflight, science, aeronautics, and engineering could lead to the development of next-generation training systems, applications that improve real-time mission support, a framework that facilitates the engineering design process, and tools that enhance our ability to visualize and analyze complex data. These systems and tools can improve NASA’s risk posture, reduce costs, and provide capabilities not previously possible. These systems are not only relevant to NASA, but also to the broader commercial industry as a whole. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 11 Software, Modeling, Simulation, and Information Processing 
  • Level 2: TX 11.6 Ground Computing 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 
  • Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I awards will be expected to develop theoretical frameworks, algorithms, and demonstrate feasibility (TRL 3) of the overall system (both software and hardware). Phase II awards will be expected to demonstrate the capabilities with the development of a prototype system that includes all the necessary hardware and software elements (TRL 6). 

 

As appropriate for the phase of the award, Phases I and II should include all the algorithms and research results clearly depicting metrics and performance of the developed technology in comparison to state of the art (SOA). Software implementation of the developed solution along with the simulation platform must be included as a deliverable.

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

The three most used XR immersion methods are projection-based systems, head-mounted displays, or flat screens. 

 

  • A cave automatic virtual environment (CAVE) is a type of projection system that can be used to provide users with immersive content. The CAVE consists of a room that has multiple projectors displaying content on the wall. The glasses that users put on provide stereo capabilities. The users usually interact with some of the content being displayed with wand-like controllers. The major drawbacks with this type of system are the scene is not customizable to individuals (everyone has to be in the same virtual area), the ways that users interact with the system are typically very rudimentary, the system is usually limited in the type of nonvisual sensory feedback incorporated, the system requires significant space to implement, and the high cost to deploy this type of system. 
  • A head-worn display can provide highly immersive visualization for multiple concurrent users and supports having users at different locations. These types of devices can usually provide higher resolution, brighter displays, do not require a large space to use, and have a lower cost to implement than CAVE-like systems. For those reasons, these types of systems have become very popular. Some of the limitations for this type of system include not being able to show immersive content to a large number of people concurrently, they can become uncomfortable to wear, and being problematic when showing content to a large number of people concurrently. 
  • A flat display (computer monitor, tablet, smartphone, etc.) provides accessibility by a large number of people, can be very portable (smartphones/tablets), and thus is the most widely used. The biggest limitation is the level of immersion that can be provided. 

 

Along with the limitations mentioned above, these types of systems could benefit by integrating some of the holodeck technologies mentioned previously. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

XR technologies can facilitate many missions, including those related to human space exploration. The technology can be used during the planning, training, and operations support phase. The Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), and Science Mission Directorate (SMD), Artemis, and Gateway programs could benefit from this technology for various missions. Furthermore, the crosscutting nature of XR technologies allows it to support all of NASA’s Directorates. 

 

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/index.html  

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/home/index.html  

https://science.nasa.gov/  

https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/  

https://www.nasa.gov/gateway

 

 

XR Usage for Human Performance Applications 

 

Scope Description: 

Industry is using a combination of XR, biometrics, and AI/ML to create applications that monitor and enhance human performance. Examples within the industry include personalized training, real-time monitoring, stress and cognitive load management, task assistance, and cognitive improvement. By merging NASA's extensive expertise in human performance-focused training and operations, with the cutting-edge research conducted by the industry in XR, biometrics, and AI/ML, we can facilitate the development of next-generation training, planning, and operations support systems. Not only would NASA benefit from these systems, but industry would be able to leverage the systems created for NASA to develop variants to use in their own general public products. 

 

Key technologies of interest in this domain include: 

 

  1. Multimodal sensor data integration into an XR system. This includes data from wearable and nonwearable biometric devices. The idea is to minimize the number of biometrics sensors required for the task and make the overall system more reliable and easier to use. This includes both optical and non-optical-based biometric systems. 
  2. Cognitive state determination system. An example of this is an adaptable human interface that can dynamically modulate the XR content based on a person's cognitive state. If the system detects that a person is highly stressed, confused, or about to go into a cognitive overload, then it could dynamically modulate the content and activities being carried to reduce the cognitive workload. If the system detects that the person is bored or in a low cognitive workload state then it would provide more engaging content. We want to keep the users in the cognitive workload goldilocks zone learning/operating state. This means that the XR system needs to be extremely configurable and be able to create and insert, into the scene, new on-demand content of varying fidelity levels in real time. 
  3. Physiological state determination system. Along with modulating XR content based on a person’s cognitive state, the system could modulate XR content based on a person’s physiological state. If they are showing signs of high levels of physical fatigue, the system could modulate the content to reduce the physiological workload required to continue. If the user is showing signs of boredom, then the system will take the appropriate action by increasing the exertion required. 
  4. XR-Based Advanced Object Recognition. This system can support navigation in complex environments by combining concepts related to edge detection and AI/ML to identify partially occluded objects in the field of view and provide full object views to a person wearing a headset. The best way to provide this information is still an open area of applied research. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 5 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 11 Software, Modeling, Simulation, and Information Processing 
  • Level 2: TX 11.6 Ground Computing 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Analysis 
  • Research 
  • Prototype 
  • Hardware 
  • Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Phase I awards will be expected to develop theoretical frameworks and algorithms and demonstrate the feasibility (TRL 3) of the overall system (both software and hardware). Phase II awards will be expected to demonstrate the capabilities with the development of a prototype system that includes all the necessary hardware and software elements (TRL 6). 

 

As appropriate for the phase of the award, Phases I and II should include all the algorithms and research results clearly depicting metrics and performance of the developed technology in comparison to state of the art (SOA). Software implementation of the developed solution along with the simulation platform must be included as a deliverable. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

There are many small businesses that are currently involved in the XR space and developing XR technologies that are unique, innovative, and proving to be very useful for a wide variety of applications. These companies are making good progress advancing the state of the start in this field. The scope and funding defined in the call is such that the small businesses can select a specific technology area and approach to address part of the overall challenge. Funding small businesses to further develop XR capabilities of interest would provide them with additional technologies to include in the applications they are developing and which could be used to support many NASA applications. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

XR technologies can facilitate many missions, including those related to human space exploration. The technology can be used during the planning, training, and operations support phase. The Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), and Science Mission Directorate (SMD), Artemis, and Gateway programs could benefit from this technology for various missions. Furthermore, the crosscutting nature of XR technologies allows it to support all of NASA’s Directorates. 

 

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/index.html  

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/home/index.html  

https://science.nasa.gov/  

https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/  

https://www.nasa.gov/gateway

This subtopic is focused specifically on additive manufacturing of electronics. While there is some overlap in the techniques, there are specific challenges in creating structures that utilize both conductive and insulative elements. This area has had activity for well over 10 years, but over the past 5 years, this area has grown significantly as a relevant technology that is approaching/in commercialization. NASA is looking for innovative approaches to address this complex issue related to additive manufacturing of electronics for use in space. 

 

Additive Manufactured Electronics for Severe Volume Constrained Applications 

 

Scope Description: 

The field of Additively Manufactured Electronics (AME) has been evolving and can provide enabling capability for future NASA missions that have very severe or unique volume constraints. Several concepts for NASA missions or mission concepts in the decadal survey where these volume constraints can be major technical constraints are advanced mobility concepts [1], atmosphere probes, and Instruments/Subcomponents of Ocean World Landers. Some of the electronics in these missions will likely need to go below cold survival temperatures associated with warm electronics boxes (i.e., colder than -35 °C). Use of AME to incorporate sensor integration into structural elements is of particular interest for volume constrained applications. The inclusion of these elements can allow for self-sensing of a mechanism’s state (e.g. force-torque sensors), allow effective interconnectivity along and through structural elements, and sense the local environment [2]. Interconnections to active elements such as heating as well as piezoelectric element for actuation are of direct interest. There is existing literature that has demonstrated additive incorporation of these elements, but for NASA missions, the external structures can be exposed to extreme cold and fairly high levels of radiation. The AME approach should address the following technical and mechanical challenges: 

 

  1. AME methodology must address adhesion onto either or both Ti-6AL-4V and Aluminum 6061 substrates through multiple exposures of extreme cold -180 °C. 
  2. AME processing repeatability should be demonstrated on curved surfaces in terms of processing and functionality of the element. 
  3. Material stresses and performance over the temperature range should be modeled and understood. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 3

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems, and Manufacturing 
  • Level 2: TX 12.4 Manufacturing 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

  • Effectiveness of material adhesion and stresses should be understood given the probable coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) mismatches and the extreme environment temperatures. Material sets and methodologies should be readily available for NASA centers to use on application-specific designs to meet future packaging needs 
  • Phase I deliverables should demonstrate planned materials can obtain effective adhesion and have the capability to survive exposures to extreme cold such as -180 °C. Phase I should also demonstrate that materials selected have the capability to have repeatable processing. 
  • Phase II deliverables should include the design, fabrication, and demonstration of incorporated sensing elements. Testing should demonstrate the reliability of AME structures as well as functional performance of the structures. Materials and manufacturing techniques should be formulated and available at small scale for application-specific designs. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Numerous published works have shown multiple material and manufacturing methods able to print conductors and dielectrics at needed resolutions. There are also multiple published examples where nonplanar or 3D circuits have been fabricated [3-6]. The current set of work shows lack of data demonstrating the reliability of these circuits in environments relevant to NASA. Also, the current body of work shows circuits with small numbers of parts and does not demonstrate the repeatability/reproducibility desired for more complex 3D/nonplanar circuits. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

Use of AME is relevant to Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD), Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), Science Mission Directorate (SMD), and Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), all of which have extant efforts in additive manufacturing. Several efforts involving NASA and aerospace companies have used AME on the space station (including major work from NASA centers on fabrication of circuits in space). Future AME missions where there are extreme volume constraints include components of landing systems, probes, and mobility systems that are needed to meet SMD and STMD goals.

Thermoplastic composites are increasingly being used in various aeronautical and aerospace structures due to their lightweight properties along with various strength and impact resistance advantages. This solicitation seeks to exploit these unique properties to assess the feasibility of repurposing primary or secondary spacecraft structures into new infrastructure that will support a sustainable human presence beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). For the purpose of this solicitation, the term "infrastructure" encompasses tools that can be used for excavation, construction, and outfitting [1]. The original spacecraft (e.g., lander or descent module) components would be designed to account for future repurposing requirements. Once the spacecraft has accomplished its mission (e.g., successfully descended onto the lunar surface), its parts would be disassembled and reconfigured into infrastructure components and/or tools. This reconfiguration can be achieved by reheating the thermoplastic resin composing these parts [2] and mechanically modifying the structure into a predetermined repurposed configuration. 

 

Thermoplastic Composites for Repurposable Aerospace Applications 

 

Scope Description: 

NASA is developing long-duration, crewed missions to the Moon and beyond. These missions will require crew habitats and, consequently, sourcing materials to construct them and their associated infrastructure. Some examples of such infrastructure are those used for storage, surface transportation, and communications. Use of in-situ resources (e.g., lunar regolith) and reuse of descent vehicles have already been proposed as a means of reducing the amount of material needing to be delivered as payload for a sustainable human presence. The ability to repurpose components of spacecraft structures is one potential benefit of using thermoplastic composites [3, 4]. Thermoplastics also offer the potential to be easily repaired via a reheating process in the event of in-service damage [5]. 

 

To reliably assess the feasibility of repurposing thermoplastic composites for space applications, modeling and simulation (M&S), as well as experimental work, need to be conducted in a building block approach. In Phase I, the proposing team shall determine a focus structure where (1) the original geometric configuration and (2) a repurposed configuration is defined along with the corresponding sizing load cases. Repurposing lunar lander fairings and/or components of the micrometeoroid and orbital debris (MMOD) protective structure into a regolith mining scoop or repurposing primary truss structure into an antenna post are examples provided here for illustration purposes only, and the proposing team is encouraged to survey and offer other applications of their choosing. A selected case study shall demonstrate repurposing both from the standpoint of altered geometry and distinct loads. Once the two “stand-alone” cases (original and repurposed) are sized and analyzed, a multiphysics simulation of the repurposing process shall be conducted. The proposing team should ensure different process parameters are explored to determine repurposing process sensitivity and establish the energy required for the repurposing process, along with the full concept of operations. Heating methods shall be explored and may include external and/or internal (pre-embedded) heating devices. Furthermore, the simulation should establish tradeoffs associated with conducting the repurposing process with and without dedicated tooling aids. 

 

These efforts will establish a foundation for hardware demonstrations to be conducted in Phase II. Test data obtained from these Phase II demonstrations will be used to calibrate the initial multiphysics repurposing simulation, enable detailed repurposing assessments, and mitigate prominent risks. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 4 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems, and Manufacturing 
  • Level 2: TX 12.2 Structures 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Research 
  • Analysis 
  • Prototype 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

The Phase I deliverables shall include: 

 

  1. Design with a dual purpose or requirements, i.e., the original spacecraft component (e.g., primary truss structure, landing gear strut, fairing, etc.) and the repurposed component (e.g., antenna mast, habitat frame, excavation scoop, reconfigurable joint, etc.). 
  2. A concept of operation for the repurposing process supported by the multiphysics process simulation. This may include energy requirement and source(s), means of delivering required heat, tooling, or any means of process quality assessment and/or repurposed product nondestructive evaluation. 
  3. Metric(s) that can assess the repurposing hardware weight and other feasibility aspects of the repurposing process to inform mission design. 

 

A lessons learned section shall be a part of the Phase I deliverable report. 

 

The Phase II deliverables shall include: 

 

  1. Manufacturing demonstration unit(s) per the design and repurposing process provided in the Phase I deliverable. 
  2. Report documenting original fabrication and repurposing process, including correlation with the results of the repurposing process modeling conducted in Phase I. 
  3. Revised or validated metric(s) of performance proposed in Phase I. 

 

A lessons learned section shall also be a part of Phase II deliverable report. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Present composite designs mainly use thermoset materials, which have limited manufacturing rates, are difficult to repair, and can lack the desired tailorability for advanced structures. There is a need for advanced materials that can be used to increase performance and decrease manufacturing and repair demands for in-space applications. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

At the completion of Phase II, the program will gain understanding of where the implementation of repurposed thermoplastic composites can be most advantageous in deep space structural applications, how such a repurposing can be accomplished (concept of operations), and what are the metrics that can be used in assessing feasibility of repurposing. Additionally, the technology gaps limiting even broader implementation of repurposed thermoplastic composites can be identified. This solicitation supports the Langley Strategic Technology Investment Plan [1] in the areas “Safe Human Travel Beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO)” and “On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM).” 

 

Thermoplastic composites offer the potential for lightweight composite structures to be repurposed, in contrast to state-of-the-art composites, which are generally made with thermoset resins. This supports applications like the Artemis mission, where in-situ resources, among which are structures from objects like descent modules, become part of native resources that can be used to create infrastructure. 

 

Examples of potential uses include: Space Technology Mission Directorate, Artemis/Human Landing System (HLS) programs, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, next-generation airframe technology beyond "tube and wing" configurations (e.g., hybrid/blended wing body or transonic truss-braced wing), and the Hi-rate Composite Aircraft Manufacturing (HiCAM) program.

Rocket propulsion system development is enabled by rigorous ground testing to mitigate the propulsion system risks inherent in spaceflight. Test articles and facilities are highly instrumented to enable a comprehensive analysis of propulsion system performance. Tests must yield high-quality results both in data and subsequent analysis, fit into aggressive development schedules, and allow developers to minimize costly test-fail-fix cycles. Intelligent sensor systems have the potential for substantial reduction in time and cost of propulsion systems development, with substantially reduced operational costs and evolutionary improvements in ground, launch, and flight system operational robustness. Additionally, advanced, reliable wireless capabilities have the potential to significantly reduce costs and increase data not previously available to advance predictive maintenance and predictive failure analysis. 

 

Intelligent Sensors for Rocket Propulsion Testing 

 

Scope Description: 

Intelligent sensor systems would need to function reliably in extreme environments, including rapidly changing ranges of environmental conditions, such as those experienced in space and propulsion test environments. These ranges include extremely cold temperatures, such as cryogenic temperatures, extremely high temperatures, such as those experienced near a rocket engine plume or combustion chambers, as well as high pressure and high flow rates in propellant supply tanks, feedlines, turbine outputs, and combustion chambers and plumes. Additional environmental considerations include high vibration, high flow, high pressure, vacuum, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and radiation. Sensor operational environmental parameters must be suitable for the anticipated environment. 

 

Intelligent sensor systems would provide a highly flexible instrumentation solution capable of monitoring test facility parameters including temperature, pressure, storage vessel liquid level, flow, thrust, power, and/or vibration. Sensor systems should enable the ability to detect anomalies, determine causes and effects, predict future anomalies, and provide an integrated awareness of the health of the facility and test article systems. These intelligent sensors should also be capable of performing in-place calibrations with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) traceability, detecting and diagnosing sensor and sensor system anomalies, and predicting and identifying failure modes. The intelligent sensor system must also provide conversion of raw sensor data to engineering units, synchronization with Inter-Range Instrumentation Group—Time Code Format B (IRIG-B), as well as network connectivity to facilitate real-time integration of collected data with data from conventional data acquisition systems. The intelligent sensor system should be able to provide data to support and enable autonomous operations, development of digital twin models, and more advanced analysis.

 

This subtopic seeks both wired and wireless solutions to address the need for intelligent sensor systems to monitor and characterize rocket engine performance. Wireless sensors are highly desirable and offer the ability to eliminate facility cabling/instrumentation, which can significantly reduce the cost of operations. It also provides the capability for providing instrumentation in remote or hard-to-access locations and potentially on flight vehicles. These advanced wireless instruments should function as a modular node in a sensor network, capable of performing some processing, gathering sensory information, and communicating with other connected nodes in the network. This solicitation is also interested in deterministic wireless functionality with the ability to acquire data quickly and reliably without conflicts, as well as potential solutions for radiation tolerance and hardening. 

 

Rocket propulsion test facilities also provide excellent testbeds for testing and using innovative technologies for possible applications beyond the static propulsion testing environment. It is envisioned this advanced instrumentation would support sensing and control applications beyond those of propulsion testing. For example, inclusion of expert system and artificial intelligence technologies would provide great benefits for predictive maintenance and predictive failure identification, autonomous operations, health monitoring, or self-maintaining systems. 

 

This subtopic seeks to develop advanced intelligent sensor systems capable of performing onboard processing utilizing artificial intelligence/machine learning to gauge the accuracy and health of the sensor, as well as integrating into a larger system model for system-level diagnostics, anomaly detection, preventative maintenance, and failure prediction and analysis. Sensor systems must provide the following functionality: 

 

  1. Assess the quality of the data and health of the sensor and sensor systems. 
  2. Perform in-place calibrations with NIST traceability. 
  3. Data acquisition and conversion to engineering units for monitoring temperature, pressure, storage vessel liquid level, flow, thrust, power, and/or vibration within established standards for error and uncertainty. 
  4. Function reliably in extreme environments, including rapidly changing ranges of environmental conditions, such as those experienced in space and propulsion test environments. 
  5. Collected data must be time-stamped to facilitate analysis with other collected datasets. 
  6. Provide network connectivity to facilitate real-time transfer of data to other systems for monitoring and analysis. 
  7. Increase facility and propulsion test system status and awareness through predictive maintenance and predictive failure identification. 
  8. Advance wireless system reliability and provide deterministic wireless architectures and hardened wireless systems that are not susceptible to interference from ground test such as high temperature, high flow combustion, and nuclear thermal and nuclear electric propulsion, as well as radiation that would be experienced on orbit or destination planets. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 6 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 13 Ground, Test, and Surface Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 13.2 Test and Qualification 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

• Prototype 

• Hardware 

• Software 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

For all above technologies, research should be conducted to demonstrate technical feasibility with a final report at Phase I and show a path towards Phase II hardware/software demonstration with delivery of a demonstration unit package for NASA testing at the completion of the Phase II contract. Successful Phase II technologies will be candidates for integration and demonstration in the existing Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL) and ground test and support facilities at Stennis Space Center (SSC) and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), as well as potential assistance at other agency sites. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Highly modular, intelligent sensors are of interest to many NASA tests and missions. Real-time data from sensor networks reduces risk and provides data for future design improvements. Intelligent sensor systems enable the ability to assess the quality of the data and health of the sensor and sensor system, increasing confidence in the system. They can be used for thermal and pressure measurement of systems and subsystems and also provide emergency system halt instructions in the case of leaks or fire. Other examples of potential NASA applications include (1) measuring temperature, voltage, and current from power storage and generation systems, (2) measuring pressure, temperature, vibrations, and flow in pumps, and (3) measuring pressure, temperature, and liquid level in pressure vessels. 

 

Intelligent sensor systems also support SSC and Agency-Wide Digital Transformation and Future State Initiative efforts. There are many other applications that would benefit from increased real-time intelligent sensors. For example, these sensors would be capable of addressing multiple mission requirements for remote monitoring such as vehicle health monitoring in flight systems and autonomous vehicle operation. This data is used in real time to determine safety margins and test anomalies. The data is also used post-test to correlate analytical models and optimize vehicle and test design. In an effort to build strategies and algorithms to detect faults/anomalies, ground systems is a logical starting point to build the automation libraries to take steps to automate dynamically changing configurations. Because these sensors are small and low mass, they can be used for ground test and for flight. Sensor module miniaturization will further reduce size, mass, and cost. 

 

No existing intelligent sensor system option meets NASA’s current needs for flexibility, size, mass, and resilience to extreme environments. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

This subtopic is relevant to the development of liquid propulsion systems development and verification testing in support of the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD). It supports all test programs and ASL at SSC, MSFC, and other propulsion system development centers. Potential advocates are the Rocket Propulsion Test (RPT) Program Office and all rocket propulsion test programs at SSC.

This subtopic is designed to close a large gap in full-scale eVTOL flight vehicle support data with main focuses in aerodynamics, propulsion, flight dynamics, controls and/or acoustics. Full-scale vehicle testing data are still highly sought after and its modeling and testing are essential for advanced air mobility (AAM), urban air mobility (UAM), distributed electric propulsion (DEP), and propulsion-airframe integration (PAI). Ideally, proposals should be focused in the areas of design, experiments, and scaling methods. If successful, the benefits are numerous and include enabling subcomponent testing, providing better decision-making processes, providing lessons learned and best practices, and potentially enabling test beds for future flight and testing experiments. This subtopic is highly relevant and facilitates further research and opportunities to small businesses and research institutions. Under the umbrella of air taxis, eVTOL could create a market worth trillions of dollars in the next 15 to 20 years according to some market reports and predictions. 

 

Full-Scale (Passenger/Cargo) Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) Scaling, Propulsion, Aerodynamics, and Acoustics Investigations 

 

Scope Description: 

NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) laid out a Strategic Implementation Plan for aeronautical research aimed at the next 25 years and beyond. The documentation includes a set of Strategic Thrusts—research areas that NASA will invest in and guide. It encompasses a broad range of technologies to meet future needs of the aviation community, the nation, and the world for safe, efficient, flexible, and environmentally sustainable air transportation. Furthermore, the convergence of various technologies will also enable highly integrated electric air vehicles to be operated in domestic or international airspace. This subtopic supports ARMD’s Strategic Thrust #1 (Safe, Efficient Growth in Global Operations), #3 (Ultra-Efficient Subsonic Transports); and #4 (Safe, Quiet, and Affordable Vertical Lift Air Vehicles). 

 

The subtopic is designed to accelerate the development timeline of full-scale eVTOL aircraft via flight test. The main focus areas are aerodynamics, propulsion, flight dynamics, controls, and/or acoustics, with the potential to address focus areas in combination. Proposals are sought to: (1) design and execute experiments in order to gather research-quality data to validate aerodynamics, propulsion, flight dynamics, controls, and/or acoustics modeling of full-scale, multirotor eVTOL aircraft, with an emphasis on rotor interactions with airframe components and other rotors and propellers and additionally (2) develop and validate scaling methods for extending and applying results of the instrumented subscale model testing to full-scale applications (if the proposal includes testing of subscale models). 

 

This solicitation does not seek proposals for designs or experiments that do not address full-scale applications. Full-scale is defined as a payload capacity equivalent to two or more passengers or equivalent cargo, including any combination of pilots, passengers, and/or ballast. However, this solicitation does not seek proposals in which an eVTOL aircraft, scale or subscale, is itself a deliverable, but rather, per (1) and (2) of the preceding paragraph, deliverables intended to accelerate the development timeline of full-scale eVTOL aircraft by addressing the identified technology focus areas. 

 

Although eVTOL is preferred, electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) vehicle configurations are acceptable. 

 

Proposals should address the following if applicable: 

 

  1. Clearly define the data that will be provided and how it will help NASA and the community accelerate the design cycle of full-scale eVTOL aircraft and/or address significant barriers to market penetration. Also, define what data will be collected, data that will be considered proprietary, and data that will be available for publication. Data includes vehicle specifications, component and subsystem specifications, and performance, geometries, models, results, flight test data, and any other information relative to the work proposed. 
  2. If the proposal cannot address the full topic, please state the reasoning/justification. 
  3. Clearly propose a path to commercialization and include details with regards to the expected products, data, stakeholders, and potential customers. 

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 6 

 

Primary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 15 Flight Vehicle Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 15.1 Aerosciences 

 

Secondary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 15 Flight Vehicle Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 15.6 Vehicle Concepts 

 

Tertiary Technology Taxonomy: 

  • Level 1: TX 15 Flight Vehicle Systems 
  • Level 2: TX 15.2 Flight Mechanics 

 

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II: 

  • Software 
  • Hardware 
  • Analysis 
  • Research 
  • Prototype 

 

Desired Deliverables Description: 

Expected deliverables of Phase I awards may include, but are not limited to: 

 

  • Research and development objectives and requirements. 
  • Initial experiment test plans for gathering experimental results related to the aerodynamic, flight dynamic, control, and/or acoustic characteristics of a multirotor eVTOL aircraft, with an emphasis on interactions between rotors and between the rotors and the vehicle structure for either: 
    • A full-scale flight vehicle. 
  • A subscale vehicle with fully developed methods for scaling the results to full scale. 
  • Expected results for the flight experiment, using appropriate design and analysis tools. 
  • Design data and performance models for the vehicle and subsystems/components used to generate the expected results. 
  • Preliminary design of the instrumentation and data recording systems to be used for the experiment. 
  • Data that is expected to be collected including data that will be considered proprietary. 

 

It is recommended that the awardee provide kickoff, midterm, and final briefings as well as a final report for Phase I. 

 

Expected deliverables of Phase II awards may include, but are not limited to: 

 

  • Experimental results that capture aerodynamic, flight dynamic, control, and/or acoustic characteristics of a multirotor eVTOL aircraft, with an emphasis on interactions between rotors and between the rotors and the vehicle structure for either: 
    • A full-scale flight vehicle. 
  • A subscale vehicle with results extrapolated to full scale. 
  • Design (e.g., CAD, OpenVSP, etc.) and performance models for the experimental vehicle. 
  • Experimental data along with associated as-run test plans and procedures. 
  • Details on the instrumentation and data logging systems used to gather experimental data. 
  • Comparisons between predicted and measured results. 

 

It is recommended that the awardee provide kickoff, midterm, and final briefings as well as a final report for Phase II. 

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps: 

Integration of distributed electric propulsion (DEP) (4+ rotors) systems into advanced air mobility eVTOL aircraft involves multidisciplinary design, analysis, and optimization (MDAO) of several disciplines in aircraft technologies. These disciplines include aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, acoustics, and/or control in traditional aeronautics-related subjects. Innovative approaches in designing and analyzing highly integrated DEP eVTOL aircraft are needed to reduce energy use, noise, emissions, and safety concerns. Such advances are needed to address ARMD’s Strategic Thrusts #1 (Safe, Efficient Growth in Global Operations), #3 (Ultra-Efficient Subsonic Transports), and #4 (Safe, Quiet, and Affordable Vertical Lift Air Vehicles). Due to the rapid advances in DEP-enabling technologies, current state-of-the-art design and analysis tools lack sufficient validation against full-scale eVTOL flight vehicles, especially in the areas of aerodynamics, propulsion, flight dynamics, controls, and acoustics. Ultimately, the goal is to model and test multidisciplinary aeropropulsive flight dynamics, controls, and acoustics. 

 

Relevance / Science Traceability: 

This subtopic primarily supports ARMD’s Strategic Thrust #4 (Safe, Quiet, and Affordable Vertical Lift Air Vehicles), although it also yields benefits for #1 (Safe, Efficient Growth in Global Operations) and #3 (Ultra-Efficient Subsonic Transports). Specifically, the following ARMD program and projects are highly relevant. 

 

This subtopic facilitates further research and opportunities to small businesses and research institutions. Under the umbrella of air taxis, eVTOL could create a market worth trillions of dollars in the next 15 to 20 years according to some market reports and predictions. Although aerodynamics, propulsion, flight dynamics, controls, and/or acoustics are the focus of this subtopic, facilitating flight testing of these vehicles provides platforms for many small business opportunities, including development and marketing of subsystems and support infrastructure such as batteries, electric motors, propellers, rotors, instrumentation, sensors, manufacturing, vehicle support, vehicle operations, and many more. 

 

NASA/ARMD/Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP): 

 

  • Advanced Air Transport Technology (AATT) Project 
  • Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) Project 
  • Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS) Project 
  • Transformational Tools and Technologies (TTT) Project 
  • University Innovation (UI) Project 
  • Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Project and National Campaign 

Space Technology Research Grants (STRG)

The STRG Program within STMD is fostering the development of innovative, low-TRL technologies for advanced space systems and space technology. The goal of this low TRL endeavor is to accelerate the development of groundbreaking, high-risk/high-payoff space technologies. These technologies, although not necessarily directed at a specific mission, are being developed to support the future space science and exploration needs of NASA, other government agencies, and the commercial space sector. These efforts focus on Technology Readiness (TRL) Level 1 (Basic principles observed and reported) and TRL 2 (Technology concept and/or application formulated).

Universities are, ideally positioned to both conduct fundamental space technology research and diffuse newly found knowledge into society at large through graduate students and industry, government, and other partnerships. STMD investments in space technology research at U.S. universities promote the continued leadership of our universities as an international symbol of the country's scientific innovation, engineering creativity, and technological skill. These investments also create, fortify, and nurture the talent base of highly skilled engineers, scientists, and technologists to improve America’s technological and economic competitiveness.  This focus area seeks to foster knowledge and capacity of U.S. Minority Serving Institutions to enhance the opportunities provided through STRG.  M-Plan Awards are intended to address challenges and barriers faced by the MSI research community in developing proposals for STRG Program.  

STRG is seeking proposals in this MPLAN call in the following technical categories:

 

It is well known that the Apollo lunar surface missions experienced a number of issues related to dust – which are sometimes referred to as “The Dust Problem”. The jagged, electrostatically charged lunar dust particles can foul mechanisms and alter thermal properties. They tend to abrade textiles and scratch surfaces. NASA and other interested parties require an integrated, end-to-end dust mitigation strategy to enable sustainable lunar architectures. An effective dust mitigation strategy includes three components: Operational and architecture considerations, passive technologies, and active technologies. By far, the component that can have the biggest impact on dust exposure is operational and architecture considerations. With proper planning, this component of the integrated strategy can also be the most cost effective. An example of an architecture and operational consideration is lessening the risk of astronauts falling on the lunar surface through changing EVA procedures and adjusting tool design to accommodate better balance. Active and passive technologies can be used to close the gap between expected dust exposures and system dust tolerance limits. Passive technologies include nanomaterials and other surface modification techniques and simple tools. Active technologies typically require non-negligible power consumption and/or some form of mechanical actuation. This three pronged approach to a dust mitigation strategy can be viewed from an architecture element perspective or a capability need perspective. Dust mitigation strategies are needed for optical systems (viewports, camera lenses, space suit visors), thermal surfaces (thermal radiators, thermal painted surfaces), fabrics (space suit fabrics, soft wall habitats, mechanism covers), mechanisms (linear actuators, bearings, quick disconnects), seals and soft goods (space suit interfaces, hatches, connectors), and gaseous commodities (spacecraft atmospheres, ISRU processes). With these considerations, NASA is forming an integrated dust mitigation strategy.

Human and robotic systems will need to efficiently access, navigate, and explore previously inaccessible lunar surface or subsurface areas to further our understanding of what it takes to explore on the Moon and on other planetary surfaces. Some key development areas include autonomous operations, exploration of subsurface voids, hazard detection, and bulk transport of regolith. Example of a supporting technology: NASA's Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration (CADRE) project will demonstrate a network of mobile robots that can autonomously explore the lunar environment in a cooperative manner and enable a multitude of science measurements.

Lunar rovers, manipulators, and other systems must be equipped to operate throughout the full range of lunar surface conditions including lunar noon (up to 150 ℃ at the equator), night (down to -180 ℃ at the equator), multiple day/night cycles, and in permanently shadowed regions (down to -250 ℃). Cross-cutting technologies built to withstand rapid temperature changes and permanently shadowed regions are essential for safe and successful crew and robotic operations. Example of a supporting technology: NASA’s Bulk Metallic Glass Gear (BMGG) project, in which researchers are developing special gearboxes (mechanical units) that can operate despite low temperatures in extreme environments — from the Moon to Mars to icy worlds such as Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

Artist concept of an excavator constructing lunar regolith on surface of the Moon.

Technologies that enable affordable, autonomous manufacturing or construction, as well as long-term system maintenance, allows a variety of missions to be simultaneously carried out by NASA and its partners. Excavation of hard regolith/ice materials and the ability to travel long distances across uneven terrain are two significant development areas. Example of a supporting technology: The ISRU Pilot Excavator (IPEx) is designed to reliably excavate and deliver a total of 10 metric tons of lunar regolith to the pilot scale in-situ resource utilization demonstration over the course of 100 meters and 11 days (200 times more than the state of art.)

Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program focuses on early-stage feasibility studies of visionary concepts that address national government and commercial aerospace goals. Concepts are solicited from any field of study that offers a radically different approach or disruptive innovation that may significantly enhance or enable new human or robotic science and exploration missions.  Unlike other STMD programs, NIAC is considered open topic where proposers can provide concepts may lead to fulfilling a technical gap that leads to future missions and commercialization capabilities.    For more information on NIAC please visit https://nasa.gov/stmd-the-nasa-innovative-advanced-concepts-niac/.

The following focus areas seek to foster collaboration with U.S. Minority Serving Institutions to enhance the opportunities provided through the NIAC program.  The goal is to develop knowledge and capacity that result in new technologies supporting national government and commercial aerospace goals.  Awards are intended to address challenges and barriers faced by the MSI research community in developing proposals for NIAC Solicitation Opportunities.  The desired result is to enable capacity for competing in the NIAC Solicitation process.

Comparatively high risk and far-term, NIAC concepts are transformational investments in future NASA and commercial capabilities. Concepts must demonstrate an unexplored and highly innovate approach framed within a representative mission that clearly identifies scientific or technical advancements and associated benefits compared to current capabilities. The entry Technology Readiness Level (TRL) for this award should be TRL 2 or lower in the following Topic Areas:

Aerospace includes activities related to space or aeronautics - An architecture includes multiple systems, and a concept of how they are used together to achieve mission goals.

Create or expand experimental payload or prototype development curriculum.   Respondent will develop a curriculum that teaches the fundamental Systems Engineering process and employ that through on-hands development of a small experimental payload. The curriculum may be an expansion or addition to an existing curriculum.  There are many free and off the shelf resources as well as texts and curricula that cover the basic Systems Engineering lifecycle from developing goals and objectives, requirements definition, trade studies, design, assembly, integration and test.  Students will develop teams to execute the project over the lifecycle.  Part of the curricula should include reviews.

Documentation of the steps are key and should be presented at the reviews with feedback to the students.  Curricula should include hands-on development of the objective system (could be software only but emphasis is more on hardware).  May require expenditures to purchase materials. Many off the shelf projects and associated documentation are readily available now for balloon or cubesat payloads.

Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD)

The Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) conducts research that generates concepts, tools, and technologies to enable advances in our Nation’s aviation future. ARMD programs facilitate a safer, more environmentally friendly, and efficient national air transportation system. 

For more than a century, NASA and its predecessor organization – the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics – has been the global leader in aviation research.

Results achieved by NASA’s aeronautical innovators through the years directly benefits today's air transportation system, the aviation industry, and the passengers and businesses who rely on those advances in flight every day.

As a result, today every U.S. commercial aircraft and U.S. air traffic control tower uses NASA-developed technology to improve efficiency and maintain safety. That’s why we say “NASA is with you when you fly!”

Yet there still is so much more to explore, so much more to learn.

Scientists, engineers, programmers, test pilots, facilities managers, strategic planners, and people with many other skills – the entire NASA ARMD family – are focused on transforming aviation to make it more sustainable and more accessible than ever before.

Click the following links to learn more about ARMD, ARMD's Strategic Implementation Plan, and ARMD Programs and Projects

University Leadership Initiative

University Leadership Initiative (ULI) is a portfolio item in TACP’s University Innovation Project. ULI provides an opportunity for the U.S. university community to receive NASA funding and take the lead in building their own teams and setting their own research agenda with goals that support and complement the ARMD and its Strategic Implementation Plan.

By addressing the most complex challenges associated with NASA Aeronautics research goals,

universities will accelerate progress toward achievement of high impact outcomes while leveraging their capability to bring together the best and brightest minds across many disciplines. In order to transition their research – a key goal for all ULI teams – participants are expected to actively explore transition opportunities and pursue follow-on funding from stakeholders and industrial partners during the course of the award.

Proposing institutions are invited and encouraged to incorporate other colleges or universities, industry members, non-profit organizations, or other U.S.-based entities as team members. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other minority-serving institutions are strongly encouraged to participate.

An important part of the leadership role assumed by proposing organizations involves including,

nurturing, and fully integrating the capabilities of partner schools that may be less established or have less prior experience working on NASA Aeronautics research projects.

The ULI Strategic Goals are:

  • Make a Difference: Achieving aviation outcomes defined in the ARMD Strategic Implementation. Plan through NASA-complementary research.
  • Transitioning Research: Research results to an appropriate range of stakeholders that lead to a continuation of the research.
  • Developing the Nation’s Future Workforce: Broad opportunities for students at different levels, including graduate students and undergraduates at universities, community colleges and trade schools, to participate in aeronautics research.
  • Promoting Diversity: Greater diversity in aeronautics through increased participation of minority-serving institutions and underrepresented university faculties in ULI activities. ULI is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&amp;D) with the potential for commercialization of promising innovations. Through competitive SBIR and STTR awards-based programs, small businesses are able to explore the technological potential of their innovations. These programs provide the incentive to profit from the commercialization of innovations. 

 

MUREP Planning Grant Priorities for ARMD

The goals of this ARMD section of the planning grant are to:

  • Stimulate creative engagements between MSI researchers and ARMD on areas of mutual interest within the scope of the ARMD Strategic Implementation Plan and its six Strategic Thrusts.
  • Enable viable partnerships for competing in the annual ULI solicitation, specifically Round 8 of ULI that is expected to be released in March 2024.
  • Develop new technologies which support the ARMD mission.

The outcome of successful proposals to the ARMD section of the planning grant activity is to thoroughly prepare MSI teams with action plans to respond to the annual ULI solicitation release, either as leads or as partners.  Round 6 of ULI is on NSPIRES is available as a guide/example of an ULI solicitation.

Within the United States, NextGen is the focus for a modernized air transportation system that will achieve much greater capacity and operational efficiency while maintaining or improving safety and other performance measures. ARMD will contribute specific research and technology to enable the continued development of NextGen and beyond to achieve safe, scalable, routine, high-tempo airspace access for all users. ARMD also will work with the emerging Urban Air Mobility ecosystem, developing concepts to enable a safe, scalable system for the growth of this new transportation sector. Projected growth in air travel will require a sustained focus on reducing risks to maintain acceptable levels of safety; to that end, ARMD will work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, and others to perform research and contribute technology that addresses current and future safety risks. Similar ongoing international developments, such as the European Union’s Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research effort, are being globally harmonized through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Development of efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally compatible commercial supersonic transports could be a game changer for transcontinental and intercontinental transportation, providing an opportunity to maintain U.S. leadership in aviation systems and generate economic and societal benefits in a globally linked world. In order to achieve practical and affordable commercial supersonic air travel, ARMD will focus its research on advancing groundbreaking technologies that overcome barriers to reducing its environmental impact and realizing innovative economic efficiencies. Since overcoming these barriers likely will involve modifications to regulations and certification standards for supersonic flight, ARMD will conduct its research in cooperation with the FAA, ICAO, and other aviation regulatory agencies.

Significant improvements in aircraft efficiency, coupled with reductions in noise and harmful emissions are critical to realizing the aviation community’s projections for growth while achieving greatly improved environmental sustainability. ARMD seeks to enable substantial efficiency gains along with a fundamental shift to innovative alternative energy-based propulsion systems through the electrification of aircraft propulsion in combination with sustainable alternative jet fuels and renewable energy. ARMD also is working to enable substantial reductions in time and cost to market of aircraft through advanced materials, structures, and manufacturing technologies and enhanced digitalization of the full aircraft life cycle. ARMD will work across government, the transport industry, and academia to develop critical technologies to enable revolutionary improvements in economics and environmental performance for subsonic transports. ARMD will actively seek opportunities to transition to alternative propulsion and energy for all categories of subsonic transports, including short-haul and regional aircraft as well as large commercial aircraft.

The aviation community expects new and cost-effective uses of aviation including advanced vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles that could provide options for using air travel as part of daily activities through unprecedented accessibility and shorter door-to-door travel times compared to other modes of transportation. While this capability is expected to greatly increase the demand for air service and significantly increase the number of flights, this mode of air travel will only be practical if the advanced VTOL aircraft provide acceptable levels of safety while reducing its environmental footprint – especially with regard to noise – compared to existing VTOL aircraft. ARMD will work across government, transport industry, and academia to develop critical technologies to enable realization of extensive use of vertical lift vehicles for transportation services including new missions and markets associated with Urban Air Mobility.

ISSA is a safety net that utilizes system-wide information to provide alerting and mitigation strategies in time to address emerging risks. Moving forward, aviation safety needs to take advantage of modern information availability and intelligent systems. New operational concepts will change and diversify aviation and create the need for advanced safety capabilities that operate on a broad scale. ISSA will incorporate both advanced technologies and collaboration between humans and intelligent agents. ISSA must be both system-wide and distributed. Its vision is to predict, detect, and mitigate emerging safety risks throughout aviation systems and operations.

Ever-increasing levels of automation and autonomy are transforming aviation, and this trend will continue to accelerate. ARMD will lead in the research and development of intelligent machine systems capable of operating in complex environments, including the safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS). Complementary methods will provide safety assurance, verification, and validation of these systems. To pave the way for increasingly autonomous airspace and vehicles, ARMD will explore human-machine teaming strategies. Advanced metrics, models, and testbeds will enable the effective evaluation of autonomous systems in both laboratory and operational settings to safely implement autonomy in aviation applications.

Updates6

Challenge Updates

Recording: Pre-Proposal Information Session

Feb. 22, 2024, 4:27 p.m. PST by Kyla Jeffrey

Missed our NASA MPLAN 2024 Pre-Proposal Information Session? Don't worry! The recording is now available. 

Dive into everything about MPLAN 2024, from participation details to how PIs can benefit from MPLAN Awards.

Get insights from the live Q&A panel with the NASA team. Watch now and take the first step towards your project's success! 🚀✨ 


REMINDER: NASA MPLAN 2024 Pre-Proposal Information Session starts in two hours!

Feb. 22, 2024, 6:30 a.m. PST by Lulu

The NASA MPLAN 2024 Pre-Proposal Information Session starts in two hours!

When: Today, Feb 22nd at 2:00 PM ET

What: Join HeroX and NASA for an introduction to the MPLAN 2024 Challenge and a live Q&A!​

Click HERE to register


Don't miss this event!

Feb. 21, 2024, 6 a.m. PST by Lulu

The  NASA MPLAN 2024 Challenge Information Session is just a day away!
Join HeroX and NASA for a live webinar where you have an opportunity to ask your questions! You won't want to miss this opportunity to get the inside scoop on the MPLAN 2024 Challenge!

Time: Feb 22 at 2:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Click HERE to register.


Information Session in 2 Days!

Feb. 20, 2024, 6 a.m. PST by Lulu

This Thursday, join HeroX and NASA for a live webinar where you have an opportunity to ask your questions! You won't want to miss this opportunity to get the inside scoop on the MPLAN 2024 Challenge!

Time: Feb 22 at 2:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Click HERE to register.


Register for the NASA MPLAN 2024 Pre-Proposal Information Session!

Feb. 16, 2024, 7 a.m. PST by Dan Reitz

Interested in learning more about NASA MPLAN 2024?  Then register HERE to join us next Thursday, February 22 at 2:00 PM Eastern Time for a live pre-proposal webinar with NASA and HeroX about MPLAN 2024.  We will hear directly from the MPLAN team and the mission directorates who have sponsored topic areas for this year's cohort. You won't want to miss this opportunity to get the inside scoop on the MPLAN 2024 Challenge!

Time: Feb 22 at 2:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Click HERE to register.


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