NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-2 O3.02-9651
PROPOSAL TITLE: SPHERES/Universal ISS Battery Charging Station

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
1 Broadway, 12th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1189
(617) 500-4800

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
John Merk
1 Broadway, 12th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1189
(617) 500-4887

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
With the retiring of the shuttle fleet, up-mass and down-mass to ISS are at a premium. The space station itself has a limited lifecycle as well, thus long-term and/or high-risk development programs pose issues for science 'return on investment', if the technology cannot be adequately matured before the station is decommissioned. Thus innovative systems and technologies that minimize impact on limiting resources such as up-mass, down-mass and crew time, and can do so in the near- to mid-term, are highly desirable. One such area includes the various rechargeable battery systems on ISS used extensively for cameras, camcorders, laptops, communication systems and other portable science and diagnostic equipment.

A common (universal) battery charging system for ISS, with the flexibility to accommodate current and future rechargeable battery requirements for payloads and equipment, could reduce the cost of use of the ISS for payload developers. Such a system would not only simplify the safety and integration process for battery-operated ISS applications, but also reduce up-mass by making use of existing ISS resources. In its SBIR Phase I program, Aurora Flight Sciences laid the groundwork for such a system, based on the needs of current and planned ISS battery system requirements. The results of the study indicate that a universal rechargeable battery system is feasible and could significantly reduce up-mass and crew-time to support current and future ISS programs. Expanding on the feasibility study performed in Phase I, Aurora will deliver a protoflight charger system and supporting documentation at the conclusion of Phase II. The proposed system will be fully developed in compliance with NASA safety and integration criteria within the 2-year SBIR Phase II timeframe, facilitating procurement of flight and ground support hardware by NASA in a potential Phase III program.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed innovation serves to increase the science capability of ISS, enabling extended use of SPHERES and other battery-operated facilities. The establishment of the ISS as a National Laboratory has significantly enhanced the accessibility of its facilities to organizations outside of NASA and the DOD, including other governmental agencies, research institutions and commercial entities. The universal charger will enable use of these facilities beyond the retirement of the space shuttle.

On the government side, the development of a universal charger forms the basis for space research that is at the core of NASA and the DOD. The proposed system provides an upgrade to existing ISS facilities to greatly increase the lifetime of onboard assets. The addition of a universal charger to the SPHERES testbed and other facilities allows for increased research capabilities.

SPHERES itself has multiple applications: it is a precursor to technology maturation for inspection satellites for ISS and other manned and unmanned NASA vehicles. Its forthcoming visual-based navigation system enables algorithm development in support of new applications such as standoff cameras for unmanned systems, imaging terminal capture for mars sample return missions, and will support a constantly changing workspace during robotic assembly and servicing missions. All of these applications will require additional battery systems and could benefit from the use of a universal charging system for ISS.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
DoD applications include the enabled use of ISS research facilities for multiple purposes. Additionally, opportunities may exist in the commercial, institutional and government sectors to 'sell' test time on SPHERES (and other ISS facilities that have been enabled by this innovation) to organizations for developing and validating vision and assembly capability for future satellite applications. This service could be analogous to the way in which the National Testing Service (NTS) provides facility rental and support for both commercial entities and institutions. Table 1 shows projected return on investment for selling SPHERES test time on ISS. Since SPHERES is the only known long duration, microgravity test facility for the development of satellite maneuvering algorithms, an opportunity exists to extend usage of this testbed to organizations outside of NASA.

While the proposed innovation itself is not expected to be commercially profitable as a stand-alone item, it enables future researchers to reduce ISS payload development costs, and reduces up-mass overhead for future launches to ISS, thus creating a significant return on investment.

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.)
Process Monitoring & Control

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