Author Topic: NASA Announces New Partnerships to Develop Space Exploration Technologies  (Read 2150 times)

Online Chris Bergin

August 08, 2018
RELEASE 18-070
NASA Announces New Partnerships to Develop Space Exploration Technologies

NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 “tipping point” technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including lunar lander and deep space rocket engine technologies.

Selections are based on the agency’s third competitive Tipping Point solicitation, and have a combined total award value of approximately $44 million – a significant investment in the U.S. space industry.

A technology is considered at a “tipping point” if investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improving the company’s ability to bring it to market.

"These awards focus on technology collaborations with the commercial space sector that leverage emerging markets and capabilities to meet NASA's exploration goals," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "While these key technologies will support NASA's science and human exploration missions in the future, these awards are yet another example of NASA’s commitment to our nation's growing commercial space industry today."

This solicitation targeted three Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) strategic technology focus areas: Expand Utilization of Space, Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space, and Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces.

The selected proposals, organized by strategic technology focus areas, are:

Expand Utilization of Space

    Blue Origin, L.L.C., in Kent, Washington, $10 million
    Proposal: Cryogenic Fluid Management-Enhanced Integrated Propulsion Testing for Robust Lander Services
    Blue Origin will mature cryogenic liquid propulsion through a combination of technologies in a lunar lander-scaled integrated propulsion system. The project will culminate in testing of the integrated propulsion system and a separate experiment on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

    Space Systems/Loral, L.L.C., (SSL) in Palo Alto, California, $2 million
    Proposal: In-Space Xenon Transfer for Satellite, Servicer and Exploration Vehicle Replenishment and Life Extension
    This project will advance satellite servicing and in-space platform propellant replenishment capabilities by developing the capability to transfer xenon in space from a servicer or tanker to an active, operational satellite. The incremental addition of xenon transfer to existing robotic refueling payload opens new refueling opportunities. The project will demonstrate that in-space xenon transfer can be performed reliably in-space.

    United Launch Alliance, L.L.C. (ULA) in Centennial, Colorado, $10 million
    Proposal: Integrated Vehicle Fluids Flight Demonstration
    An Integrated Vehicle Fluids (IVF) system supports extended-duration cryogenic upper stage operations and has applications for lunar landers. It takes advantage of available liquid hydrogen and oxygen to provide multiple kilowatts of power while potentially eliminating battery power, helium pressurization, and the hydrazine reaction control system. This effort includes qualification of key elements of the IVF subsystem and integration and flight on a Centaur upper stage.

Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space

    Frontier Aerospace Corporation in Simi Valley, California, $1.9 million
    Proposal: Flight Qualification of the DSE, MON-25 MMH Rocket Engine
    This project will advance Frontier’s Deep Space Engine (DSE) by flight demonstration as part of the first Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander mission planned for 2020. The DSE engine uses a propellant that has a lower freezing point, which provides benefits for exploration landers and deep space missions by lowering system weight and required power.

    Paragon Space Development Corporation in Tucson, Arizona, $1.6 million
    Proposal: Cryogenic Encapsulating Launch Shroud and Insulated Upper Stage (CELSIUS)
    CELSIUS is a system that can be installed on the surface of the cryogenic upper stage tank of a space launch vehicle to provide enhanced insulation capabilities and protection from meteoroids and debris.

    SSL, $2 million
    Proposal: High Efficiency 6kW Dual Mode Electric Propulsion Engine for Broad Mission Applications
    This project will expand SSL’s electric propulsion capabilities by developing a selectable “dual mode” power processing unit (PPU) capable of providing 300 or 600 volts to a 6 kilowatt Hall thruster, increasing overall mission efficiency and flexibility. This provides faster, more efficient, propulsive capabilities for future NASA missions.

    ULA, $2 million
    Proposal: Cryogenic Fluid Management Technology Demonstration
    This cryogenic fluid management (CFM) demonstration project seeks to prove that very low cryogenic fuel boil off is achievable and can support long duration missions. ULA will perform critical testing of the existing space launch vehicle Centaur Cryote-3 tank.

Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces

    Astrobotic Technology, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, $10 million
    Proposal: Stand-Alone Sensor for High Precision Planetary Landing
    This project will culminate in a lunar technology demonstration mission, advancing a low-cost, reliable, high-performance, stand-alone Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) sensor suite. This lower-mass, lower-power, passive-optical sensor suite is designed to precisely deliver robotic landers to planetary surfaces. Demonstrating these capabilities will allow the team to assist NASA in dramatically improving the performance of lunar and planetary landing missions.

    Blue Origin, $3 million
    Proposal: Advancing Sensor Suites to Enable Landing Anywhere on the Lunar Surface
    This project will mature critical technologies that enable precision and soft landing on the Moon. The project team will integrate Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN), navigation doppler lidar, and altimetry sensors and conduct flight tests prior to lunar mission implementation. Testing will be performed at approximately 100 km altitude on board the Blue Origin New Shepard vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) suborbital vehicle. The resulting sensor suite will enable precision landing anywhere on the lunar surface.

    ULA, $1.9 million
    Proposal: Mid-Air Retrieval (MAR) Demonstration
    This project will flight demonstrate mid-air retrieval capabilities up to 8,000 pounds, increasing current capabilities by a factor of four. Paired with the NASA Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) project, this effort will demonstrate mid-air retrieval on a vehicle returning to Earth from orbital velocity. The project will utilize an ocean-going ship capable of transporting a helicopter to the recovery zone and the demonstration will conclude with recovery of the LOFTID reentry vehicle.

Through firm-fixed-price contracts, STMD will make milestone payments that cover as much as $10 million per award, over a performance period of up to 36 months. Each industry partner is required to contribute a minimum of 25 percent of total cost for each project.

STMD is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering technologies and capabilities needed to achieve NASA missions. Projects resulting from the Tipping Point solicitation will enable public-private partnerships managed by programs within STMD.

For more information about the Tipping Point solicitation, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/solicitations/tipping_points

-end-

Offline darkenfast

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SpaceXploration technologies....Hmmm.  I'm really surprised that someone didn't change it "Technologies for Space Exploration" just to avoid that.  Anyway, hope it gets some good results!

Offline Nomadd

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 It's kind of ironic that the company "Space Exploration Technologies" is the only one that didn't make the list.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.

Offline Markstark

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I know it’s not a lot of money for these companies but awesome projects to fund. All of them. Definitely the kind of activity NASA should be funding (in my opinion)
« Last Edit: 08/08/2018 08:56 pm by Markstark »

Offline Stan-1967

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The amounts awarded look like rounding errors compared to what SpaceX is spending on their own.   However it was very encouraging to see ULA getting something for IVF, as it makes me believe it means they have more of their own money they are willing to commit to the idea.

Online Eer

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I'm glad to see the award to explore IVF, too. But I'm not too surprised that SpaceX didn't get an award.  They may have decided not to even compete.

Consider - these are up to 3 yr performance awards and relatively small, compared to the tasks SpaceX has outlined  for themselves over the next 3-6 years.

I'm not sure what technology exploration they'd propose that (a) would be demonstrated within the 3 yr period, (b) would benefit from a FFP award of perhaps $5M or as much as $10M, (c) that they could afford to wait for given their schedule, (d) that wouldn't be a distraction.

Life Support qualification? Need that by end of this year for D2.  Doubt $5M over 3 years would get far towards scaling it for BFS.

Maybe something to do with Mars-rating (or Moon-rating) Caterpillar earth moving, or Boring company drilling, equipment.  Or perhaps heavy cranes for offloading same from 60 meter tall BFS.

Offline Coastal Ron

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    United Launch Alliance, L.L.C. (ULA) in Centennial, Colorado, $10 million
    Proposal: Integrated Vehicle Fluids Flight Demonstration
    An Integrated Vehicle Fluids (IVF) system supports extended-duration cryogenic upper stage operations and has applications for lunar landers. It takes advantage of available liquid hydrogen and oxygen to provide multiple kilowatts of power while potentially eliminating battery power, helium pressurization, and the hydrazine reaction control system. This effort includes qualification of key elements of the IVF subsystem and integration and flight on a Centaur upper stage.

This is a technology that is independent of the launch vehicle, though a launch facility would need the ability to fuel the upper stage and/or payload with liquid hydrogen. I've heard arguments against IVF, but I think there are some applications where it could be important, so I look forward to real testing getting underway.

Quote
    ULA, $2 million
    Proposal: Cryogenic Fluid Management Technology Demonstration
    This cryogenic fluid management (CFM) demonstration project seeks to prove that very low cryogenic fuel boil off is achievable and can support long duration missions. ULA will perform critical testing of the existing space launch vehicle Centaur Cryote-3 tank.

This too is independent of what launch vehicle is used, and this seems like an important technology to validate if we want to have fuel depots in space.

Quote
    ULA, $1.9 million
    Proposal: Mid-Air Retrieval (MAR) Demonstration
    This project will flight demonstrate mid-air retrieval capabilities up to 8,000 pounds, increasing current capabilities by a factor of four. Paired with the NASA Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) project, this effort will demonstrate mid-air retrieval on a vehicle returning to Earth from orbital velocity. The project will utilize an ocean-going ship capable of transporting a helicopter to the recovery zone and the demonstration will conclude with recovery of the LOFTID reentry vehicle.

Sure seems like an effort that is testing how much they can scale up to capturing rocket engine modules, aka Vulcan "SMART Reuse".

This is the only one I think is ULA getting NASA to pay for future Vulcan needs, which isn't bad, but it is going against the trend of propulsive landing - I mean an 8,000 lb payload should be able to fit nicely in the cargo bay of a SpaceX cargo BFS, so this could end up being obsolete not long after perfecting it for payloads coming back from space...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline su27k

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It's kind of ironic that the company "Space Exploration Technologies" is the only one that didn't make the list.

There're some requirements on disclosing the R&D result, at the very least they're required to publish a paper about it. I don't remember SpaceX ever published a paper, so this may be the reason they are not participating.
« Last Edit: 08/09/2018 02:59 am by su27k »

Offline speedevil

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Quote
    ULA, $2 million
    Proposal: Cryogenic Fluid Management Technology Demonstration
    This cryogenic fluid management (CFM) demonstration project seeks to prove that very low cryogenic fuel boil off is achievable and can support long duration missions. ULA will perform critical testing of the existing space launch vehicle Centaur Cryote-3 tank.
This too is independent of what launch vehicle is used, and this seems like an important technology to validate if we want to have fuel depots in space.
It's important for small low-mass depots that need hydrogen, in low-earth orbit.
It is significantly less important for large mass insensitive depots in anything above low earth orbit.

You can get off-the-shelf for around a couple of million dollars tanks that will hold a hundred tons of LOX/CH4, and weigh 50 tons, which will on earth leak out in about three years.

Place this in LEO, and it will work just fine - the construction is a double very robust wall, which may have adequate MMOD properties. (it will need to be spun lightly for gas venting to work).

Once you're beyond low orbit, if you have an uninsulated tank in shadow, it is really hard to exceed boiloffs of LOX/CH4 - LH2 required a little more care.

A lot of the proposals are tied to 'fuel is expensive', which may be at least worth exploring alternatives to.

Research into high mass alternatives would be a welcome addition.
Testing lightly modified commercial robot arms in zero G and vacuum for example. Or challenges in thermal vacuum chambers of various systems which might require limited investment to develop from small firms.

« Last Edit: 08/09/2018 04:13 am by speedevil »

Offline jongoff

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I'm glad to see the award to explore IVF, too. But I'm not too surprised that SpaceX didn't get an award.  They may have decided not to even compete.

Consider - these are up to 3 yr performance awards and relatively small, compared to the tasks SpaceX has outlined  for themselves over the next 3-6 years.

I'm not sure what technology exploration they'd propose that (a) would be demonstrated within the 3 yr period, (b) would benefit from a FFP award of perhaps $5M or as much as $10M, (c) that they could afford to wait for given their schedule, (d) that wouldn't be a distraction.

Life Support qualification? Need that by end of this year for D2.  Doubt $5M over 3 years would get far towards scaling it for BFS.

Maybe something to do with Mars-rating (or Moon-rating) Caterpillar earth moving, or Boring company drilling, equipment.  Or perhaps heavy cranes for offloading same from 60 meter tall BFS.

Yeah, I'd be surprised if SpaceX even bothered bidding. These contracts were a lot of work for limited money (at least for a 8000+ person company like SpaceX), and they don't start until February of next year. We bid on one (and subbed on one), and it was hard trying to figure out realistically where we'd be a year out on a tech development project.

Some people on twitter act like it's a big conspiracy whenever SpaceX doesn't win something, but in this case, I'm pretty sure they didn't even bother to bid. And if you don't submit a proposal, NASA can't give you an award, no matter how much they like you or who cool they think your tech is. The government just doesn't generally work that way.

~Jon

Offline jongoff

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It's interesting that with how much the solicitation emphasized satellite servicing, only one of the awards was servicing related (the Xenon transfer one from SSLMDA). I wish I hadn't fumbled the proposal we were trying to submit on the one yard line. Seeing some of the ones that won, I think we would've had a good shot at landing an award.

~Jon

Offline deruch

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Quote
    ULA, $1.9 million
    Proposal: Mid-Air Retrieval (MAR) Demonstration
    This project will flight demonstrate mid-air retrieval capabilities up to 8,000 pounds, increasing current capabilities by a factor of four. Paired with the NASA Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) project, this effort will demonstrate mid-air retrieval on a vehicle returning to Earth from orbital velocity. The project will utilize an ocean-going ship capable of transporting a helicopter to the recovery zone and the demonstration will conclude with recovery of the LOFTID reentry vehicle.

Sure seems like an effort that is testing how much they can scale up to capturing rocket engine modules, aka Vulcan "SMART Reuse".

This is the only one I think is ULA getting NASA to pay for future Vulcan needs, which isn't bad, but it is going against the trend of propulsive landing - I mean an 8,000 lb payload should be able to fit nicely in the cargo bay of a SpaceX cargo BFS, so this could end up being obsolete not long after perfecting it for payloads coming back from space...
It's the midway point between currently demonstrated MAR technologies and what will be needed for SMART.  LOFTID is the latest evolution of the partnership between ULA and STMD to test out a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) which is also a part needed for SMART.  Basically, the mission will install a 6 meter diameter HIAD on a Centaur.  Centaur will deploy the primary and secondary payloads (a Cygnus capsule and any secondaries), then Centaur will complete a deorbit burn.  The HIAD will deploy and hopefully keep the stage alive through reentry after which it pops a parachute.  Then ULA will try to catch it via Mid-Air Recovery with a helicopter. 
« Last Edit: 08/11/2018 12:38 am by deruch »
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

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