NASA SBIR 2002 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:02-II A5.03-8079 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 023920 )
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Nuclear and Exotic Propulsion
PROPOSAL TITLE: Technologies for Momentum-Exchange/Electrodynamic-Reboost Tether Facilities

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN: (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/ZIP, Phone)
Tethers Unlimited
19011 36th Ave W. Suite F
Lynnwood , WA   98036 - 5752
(425 ) 744 - 0400

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER: (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/ZIP, Phone)
Robert Hoyt
19011 36th Ave W. Suite F
Lynnwood , WA   98036 - 5752
(425 ) 744 - 0400

The MXER Tether Boost Facility will serve as a fully-reusable in-space ?upper-stage? that will provide propellantless propulsion for orbital transfer and Earth-to-Orbit launch assist. By elimi-nating the need to launch an upper stage along with each payload, the MXER Tether can reduce the size of the launch vehicle needed to deploy the payloads, achieving dramatic reductions in total launch costs. In the Phase I effort, we successfully developed an architecture that will en-able MXER tethers to be constructed using small modular components that can be designed, tested, and mass-produced at low cost. We demonstrated methods for fabricating high-strength tether structures, for protecting the high-strength materials in the tethers from the atomic oxygen environment, and for providing the high voltages and high powers needed to enable the MXER system to restore its orbit using propellantless electro-dynamic propulsion. In the Phase II effort, we will develop tools for performing design trade studies of MXER Tether Systems. We will then use these tools to design a flight demonstration mission that will bring the components needed to build an operational MXER tether up to a TRL of 8. We will develop and test new methods and algorithms for controlling the dynamics of MXER tethers. Finally, we will design, build, and test a prototype tether deployer module suitable for use in both the flight demonstration and the opera-tional MXER tether.

The MXER Tether Boost Facility will particularly benefit NASA?s deep space missions, such as the Europa Lander, Titan Explorer, and Neptune Orbiter, by enabling them to use a much smaller launch vehicle, saving over $30M per mission. The MXER Tether can also achieve fivefold launch cost savings for NASA scientific missions to GEO, the Moon, and Mars. The high-power tether technologies developed in this SBIR can also provide propellantless propulsion for orbital transfer, asset repositioning, and deorbit of LEO spacecraft. Potential for Phase III success is demonstrated by the fact that during the Phase I SBIR effort, TUI was selected for award of two contracts from NASA?s In-Space Propulsion Program for development of tether technologies and simulation tools for MXER Tether systems, with total non-SBIR funding of up to $2.1M over the course of the proposed Phase II project.

The MXER Tether Boost Facility can also provide significant launch cost savings for DoD and commercial space organizations. It can combine with DARPA?s RASCAL launch system to pro-vide a rapid, low-cost means of delivering 200 kg microsatellites to GEO for space control and spacecraft servicing applications. The high-voltage power systems and space-survivable tether technologies developed by this SBIR also have applicability to an innovative new concept for remediation of natural and HAND-induced radiation belts. During the Phase I, TUI received $205K in DARPA funding for development of high-voltage and electrodynamic tether technologies that are directly relevant to the MXER Tether System. TUI has also been selected for award of a $350K DARPA seedling effort for the development of innovative technologies for capturing space objects. The high-strength tether technologies also have strong potential for solving some of the critical problems facing the oceanographic community in the area of deep-sea research cables.

Form Printed on 10-03-03 11:34