NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 S5.04-9650
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Rendezvous and Docking Technologies for Orbiting Sample Capture

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
9950 Wakeman Drive
Manassas, VA 20110 - 2702
(617) 500-0536

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James Francis
1 Broadway, 12th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1189
(617) 500-0276

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 6
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
NASA's Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission scenario utilizes a small Orbiting Sample (OS) satellite, launched from the surface of Mars, which will rendezvous with an Orbiter/Earth Return Vehicle (ERV). When the radio beacon-equipped OS is within range of the ERV's optical sensors, the ERV will optically track and approach the OS, maneuvering itself to place the OS within its capture device.

One of the key technologies required to accomplish this mission involves a low-mass, highly reliable mechanism that detects contact with and captures the OS, and, once the OS is captured, moves the OS to a containment area for the return trip to Earth. There is an on-going body of research into such capture mechanism designs and the various advantages and challenges of these technologies. Aurora Flight Sciences and its research partner, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Space Systems Laboratory (SSL), propose to develop a flight-quality OS-detection and capture mechanism design based on research data and experience with the Mars Orbiting Sample Retrieval test bed and develop a risk-mitigation strategy that utilizes the International Space Station as a system checkout and launch platform for system testing in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This proposal leverages the state-of-the-art research into sample capture mechanisms, contact dynamics and capture mechanism detection methods and builds on the team's experience with the Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) system to develop a low cost, LEO test strategy that minimizes the risk for later Mars deployment.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The primary application for the Capture Mechanism and SPHERES/ISS test strategy is in support of the NASA Mars Sample Return mission. A successful Phase1/Phase 2 project would result in a system design ready for implementation, integration, test and deployment with the MSR mission. While designed for MSR, the capture mechanism design and risk-mitigation test approach has applications for additional NASA sample-return missions, such icy-moons. Additionally, a successful demonstration of the cost-effective use of the ISS as a system checkout and launch platform has significant benefits to NASA in reducing the cost and risk of testing small systems in LEO.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
We anticipate that there are also applications beyond NASA, particularly in the military and commercial sectors. For example, the capture mechanism design may have applications such as the capture and control of space debris in Earth Orbit threatening strategic and/or commercial assets within similar orbits. Such a mechanism, when used in conjunction with a debris tracking and control system, could approach and capture such debris and then maneuver the captured material either to a different orbit, or, if in LEO, to a reentry trajectory to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.)
Actuators & Motors
Autonomous Control (see also Control & Monitoring)
Relative Navigation (Interception, Docking, Formation Flying; see also Control & Monitoring; Planetary Navigation, Tracking, & Telemetry)

Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12