Thermal management presents a significant constraint on the achievable efficiency and power density of MW-scale electric motors for aircraft propulsion. High temperatures within the windings limit the maximum power density, reduce the lifetime of the winding insulation, and increase electrical losses lowering efficiency. Innovative thermal management strategies can significantly enhance the performance of motors for electrified aircraft propulsion.
In this SBIR program, Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. will develop an innovative two-phase thermal transport system for high power electric motors that will augment traditional cooling solutions by efficiently extracting heat from difficult to cool areas. The two-phase thermal transport system will be fully passive, lightweight and scalable. The proposed technologies will reduce the operating temperature of the motor windings allowing for increased power density and efficiency.
The two-phase thermal management technology proposed here is relevant to several strategic thrusts outlined by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate: “Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles” and “Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion”. NASA envisions a significant shift in commercial aircraft to ultra-efficient airframes and propulsion concepts utilizing electric or hybrid electric propulsion. Improved thermal management of the proposed technology will enable significant increase in the power and torque density of electric motors.
The proposed technology is applicable to various motor architectures and sizes. It will find use in passenger aircraft, unmanned aircraft, and electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. In addition to the aviation industry, the need for high-performing motors in electric automobiles is rapidly growing as nearly all sectors of the transportation industry begin to electrify.
A reduction in space and power requirements for each channel of a LiDAR system would allow for a system with significantly more channels and/or a system small enough to fly on CubeSat scale vehicles. The primary method by which the CoDLiR will accomplish this goal is the integration of feature extraction, digital processing, and bias control onto one single low-power chip. For a full-scale detector, multiple channels (up to 64) would be serviced by a single chip. NSL has extensive experience with single-photon detection with extremely high timing resolution through our work with HEP collider and astrophysics experiments. We are currently developing a range of application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for DOE Office of High Energy Physics (HEP) projects that have channel counts ranging from 4 to 64 per ASIC, which could be modified for this task specifically. These system on chip (SoC) ASICs implement built-in digital signal processing (DSP) and control interfaces that can enable precise time of flight (ToF) measurements of back-scattered laser light pulses with low light for use in orbiting or aerial LiDAR applications.
Future NASA scientific missions will require remote sensing equipment with lower power, smaller form factors, increased robustness, and higher sensitivities. Integration of LiDAR systems into a system-on-chip ASIC would achieve these goals and be of interest in numerous applications. Possible uses range from high-beam-count orbital LiDAR imaging systems to high-precision and low-power imaging sensors for planetary missions.
A low SWaP-C, accurate LiDAR can be used in autonomous vehicles, both automobile and aerial systems, would benefit significantly from reduced power and size made possible by increased integration, lower return signal power requirements, and increased precision. Our technology would provide a product that could be also utilized by various industries interested in orbital geospatial mapping.
Based on our proprietary award-winning fiber laser technology, AdValue Photonics proposes to develop and demonstrate a novel water vapor LiDAR transmitter at 0.9 μm – a high-energy, high-peak-power, narrow-linewidth, fiber-based laser transmitter – which enables water vapor DIAL measurements in the 0.9 μm band. In the Phase I program, we will focus on the feasibility investigation of such a fiber-based, energy-scalable, pulsed laser transmitter at 935 nm for water vapor DIAL measurements. In the Phase II program, we will experimentally demonstrate this enabling technology by developing a deliverable prototype transmitter unit of such a high-pulse-energy narrow-linewidth laser at 935 nm laser at the end of the Phase II program.
The proposed laser transmitter system in this SBIR program is a fiber-based laser solution for airborne water vapor DIAL measurements – different from the current design of NASA’s HALO system – offering many advantages, such as higher efficiency, smaller SWaP, coherent detection capability, wide wavelength selectivity, compactness, and robustness. These advantages are all vital for airborne or spaceborne atmospheric water vapor measurements.
In addition to the specific NASA applications for airborne or spaceborne atmospheric water vapor measurements, a high-energy, high-peak-power, fiber-based lasers operating in the NIR spectral range could be an immediate alternative to a bulky Ti:sapphire laser for many spectroscopic applications.
Both stratospheric ozone and tropospheric ozone significantly affect lifeforms on Earth. They influence the environment, the atmosphere, and the global climate. The science community has spent tremendous efforts for the observation of ozone concentration in the atmosphere. Differential absorption Lidar (DIAL) technology has played a critical role in obtaining range-resolved ozone profiles in the atmosphere. In this proposal, we aim to design and build a compact, robust, reliable, efficient, anti-vibrational, and easy-to-maintain stratospheric ozone Lidar with AdValue Photonics’ unique single frequency tunable UV lasers at 308 nm and 355 nm based on all-fiberized master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA). The proposed Lidar will have the advantage of being suitable to various observational platforms with harsh environment and limited resources.
The 308 nm laser will be generated from the frequency mixing of 515 nm and 768 nm laser, which are the second harmonic generation of 1030 nm and 1535 nm laser, respectively. The 355 nm laser will be generated from the third harmonic from AdValue Photonics’ 1064 nm IR laser. The amplification of the above-mentioned 1030 nm, 1535 nm, and 1064 nm lasers will utilize AdValue Photonics’ proprietary silicate glass high peak power large mode field diameter (MFD) ytterbium (Yb) and erbium (Er) doped fiber amplifiers. Subsequently, we aim to implement an ozone lidar with such fiber-based light sources and obtain preliminary observation data. In Phase I of this SBIR project, we will focus on obtaining ozone observations at nighttime. It is well known that solar background radiation can cause Lidars to have low signal to noise ratio (SNR) at daytime. In Phase II, we plan to boost the power levels of the Lidar Transmitter, and possibly integrate etalons and interference filters in the Lidar Receiver to suppress the solar background to eventually obtain reasonable SNRs in the daytime for ozone observations.
The proposed compact, robust, reliable, efficient, and anti-vibrational stratospheric ozone Lidars favors NASA’s intention to be able to detect ozone concentration in field observations on a variety of carrying platforms. It meets the standard of being small size, weight, and power (SWaP) so that it can survive harsh environment and consume limited resources.
The proposed ozone Lidar will greatly increase the temporal and spatial coverage of ozone observations for the better of the environment, the atmosphere, and the global climate. Such demands have progressively become higher from the public community.
The purpose of this project is to develop techniques that make it possible to reduce the size and weight of non-mechanical LiDAR beam steering systems. Previous work has shown that LiDAR beam steering with diffractive components based on spatial modulation of geometrical phase is feasible and useful. Most previous work with this technology has concentrated on steering techniques that are polarization sensitive. Under the current project, these techniques will be extended to LiDAR beam steering that is polarization-insensitive. This would allow reduced weight and/or size of such steering systems because it would allow the LiDAR receiver to use all of the optical power returned from a target, rather than only returned radiation of one polarization. Since transitioning from a polarization-sensitive beam steering system to a polarization-insensitive beam steering system would require an increase in the number of optical substrates, the most weight benefit of such a transition would be gained if the substrate weight is minimized. Therefore, an analysis of options for lightweight optical substrates will be performed in order to make it possible to further reduce the weight of future LiDAR systems. Another related technical issue with non-mechanical beam steering is the switching speed among pointing directions. Additional system weight reduction may be possible if switching speed of the pointing system is increased beyond the speed of currently-available optical switches. Methods for leveraging recent developments in liquid crystal technology to increase switching speed will be analyzed, thereby enabling the use of higher pulse rates in LiDAR systems, which may further reduce the size and weight of these systems in some applications.
Compact, low SWaP, non-mechanical, hence, robust, LiDARs with reliable and fast data acquisition capability that meet requirements for a space landing vehicle could be used for other NASA missions including asteroid flybys, swarms of cubesats, etc. due to higher precision guidance and navigation systems. An additional potential application of this technology is to transceiver steering for free-space optical communications systems.
Numerous non-NASA applications include autonomous navigation systems for cars, drones, and robots, and commercial free-space optical communications.
Over the past decade, the Rydberg atom-based RF/microwave sensing technology has emerged as a promising sensing solution for a radar/radio receiver. In the Rydberg-atom-based sensing, highly excited (“Rydberg”) atoms are utilized as antennas, which allows sensitive and SI-traceable detection of RF/microwave fields over a wide frequency range (1 MHz to ~100 GHz) with a single probe. However, one of the major hurdles to wide applications and field deployment of the quantum radar/radio technology is its size, weight, and power (SWaP), mostly from its system overhead (e.g., laser subsystem). In particular, the coupling laser driving the “upper” atomic transition in a two-photon excitation scheme of Rydberg atoms is not well-suited for field applications due to its SWaP and vulnerability to environmental perturbations. Furthermore, coupling lasers do not have a compact frequency reference for laser stabilization.
To address the need, Opto-Atomics Corp. (OAC) proposes to develop a Rydberg Sensor Laser (RySL), which will provide a high-power (> 0.5 W), tunable (range > 3 nm) coupling-laser output. One of the main advantages of RySL is that its output is stabilized to a built-in frequency standard, thereby allowing reliable electrometry operation with long-term stability. In addition, RySL design significantly reduces free-space optical components, making the system more compact, reliable, and less sensitive to misalignment and environmental disturbances. In Phase I, OAC will design and assemble key system components of RySL, evaluate their performance, and perform feasibility demonstrations. We will also conduct a preliminary design of the fully-packaged RySL system for future development.
In the remote sensing of Earth’s surface topography and vegetation, RF/microwave sensing over a wide radio spectral range with high sensitivity may allow enhanced characterization of the surface conditions. Other than the target NASA application in microwave sensing, Rydberg sensors can be adopted in other NASA applications such as RF-field metrology (characterization and calibration), RF communication, nondestructive inspection, characterization of blackbody radiation, and others.
RF/microwave fields are heavily utilized in many commercial and military applications. For example, a scanned array radar made of Rydberg sensors can provide a performance breakthrough in radar technologies, which will be extremely useful in many military applications. Rydberg atom-based RF/microwave sensors can also be highly useful in industrial applications using RF/microwave.
The proposed UHF MMIC capable of PAE >70% will enhance NASA's communication and navigation for SWaP-C conscious applications such as:
Non-NASA commercial and DOD applications stand to benefit from Recon-RF's advancements in UHF MMIC technology, such as:
The NASA Science Mission Directorate has a critical need for advanced deployable antenna apertures operating at millimeter-wave frequencies from CubeSat platforms. This proposal is to fulfill the technology gap and develop a novel type of ultra-low-loss millimeter-wave metasurface holographic antennas to support a wide range of passive remote sensing applications beyond Ka-band up to 200 GHz. Enabled by a breakthrough dielectric substrate material that is electrically low-loss, thermally high-conductive, and mechanically robust, the proposed holographic antennas will be designed, synthesized, and verified including CubeSat platform effects. Mechanical feasibility, radiometer system architectures, integration with antenna feeds, and fabrication flow will be studied and evaluated in the project. The Phase 1 project goal is to demonstrate the design concept of compact-size, deployable, low-profile, lightweight, easy-to-fabricate and high-performance metasurface antennas, which are also cost-effective and can be an excellent fit for NASA remote sensing and other commercial wireless applications.
NASA Science Mission Directorate missions can greatly benefit from adopting and integrating the proposed millimeter-wave metasurface holographic antennas on CubeSat platform for remote sensing applications including weather forecasting, oceanography, ozone, soil moisture measurements, and astrochemistry. The unique attributes (low profile, light weight, ultra-low-loss, easy-to-fabricate) make it an excellent technology to enable cost-effective high-performance antennas beyond Ka-band for CubeSat applications.
The technology developed in this Phase 1 project can be adopted as a critical antenna solution to support the increasing demand for high-capacity, high-speed point-to-point wireless backhaul communication, for example, operating at FCC designated D-band to enable beyond 5G (B5G) and 6G high-throughput links in dense urban environments.
Future earth science and planetary science missions will require large pixels, highly sensitive radio astronomy receiver arrays. Recent breakthroughs in detector technology are leading this growth. To achieve the required sensitivities, the large number of pixels (thousands) in a receiver requires low noise, low power cryogenic amplifier arrays. Lower noise amplifiers result in higher sensitivity arrays. The capacity of cryogenic coolers is limited, requiring amplifiers to have a low power dissipation. Producing cryogenic amplifiers that has both low noise and low power is difficult. Today, cryogenic amplifiers are manufactured using either Indium Phosphide (InP) HEMT devices or Silicon Germanium (SiGe) BJTs. Amplifiers based on InP technology have noise temperatures as low as 1.5K with a power dissipation of 10 mW. SiGe based amplifiers have noise temperatures of 3-4K with a power dissipation of 300 uW. The noise temperature of an amplifier is primarily set by the first stage. The subsequent stages contribute very little to the noise of the amplifier. Therefore, combining InP and SiGe will result in the ultimate low noise, low power cryogenic amplifier. The ideal amplifier will have a InP first stage for low noise and a SiGe 2nd and 3rd stage for low power. The InP stage will be a discrete design for optimum performance. The SiGe stages will be MMIC based design for ease of manufacturing and low cost. Combining these two technologies will result in an amplifier with 2K or less noise with a power dissipation of 500uW or less. Imagine an antenna array of 1028 elements that has a power dissipation of 514 mW. This performance is possible with this innovation. Phase 1 will result in a design of a low noise, low power amplifier based on both theoretical and empirical measurements
The 2020 Decadal Review recommended increased funding levels for several of NASA’s future missions. The Origins Space Telescope, Lynx Telescope, IR imagers and polarimeters are included in the recommendations. Low-cost infrared detector arrays for space and ground radio astronomy receivers are currently available. These detectors require a low noise, low power cryogenic amplifier. These instruments will greatly benefit from a low power, low noise amplifier array.
Several companies (Google, Microsoft, IBM etc) are developing Quantum Computers (QC). The quantum processors operate at milli-Kelvin temperatures. Extremely low noise cryogenic amplifiers operating in the 4-8 GHz band are required. A Quantum Computer with 1 million Qbits will require 100K cryogenic amplifiers. A low noise, low power cryogenic amplifier will allow QC to become a reality.
Electro-Optical and Infrared (EO/IR) detectors sensing in the 400nm to 13 micron waveband are extensively employed in planetary science space instruments. These detectors can be divided into two distinctive subgroups, namely the visible through shortwave infrared (SWIR) band detectors (400nm – 2500nm), and the mid-wave infrared (MWIR – 3um to 5um) and long-wave infrared (LWIR 8um – 13um) thermal bands detectors. Each of these two categories requires a readout integrated circuit (ROIC) optimized for the specific subgroup to efficiently multiplex and readout the photocurrent from the photodiodes.
The first ROIC type optimized for shorter wavelength bands needs to have the following characteristics:
The second ROIC type optimized for longer thermal wavelength bands needs to have the following characteristics:
There is an established need to develop a novel ROIC for thermal bands being used for planetary science. Our team has extensive space mission experience to provide NASA with an optimal solution. The proposed ROIC will provide the desired high well capacity, a high frame rate, a large format, space qualifiable design, while simultaneously keeping the cold space power very low. Such as ROIC will be suitable for all typical detector types used for these bands, such as (but not limited to) quantum well IR photodetectors (QWIP), HgCdTe (MCT), and strained-layer superlattices (SLS).
. Some of the key NASA applications being addressed by this technology include:
Some of the key non-NASA applications being addressed by this technology include:
Alphacore will develop a low cost, radiation-hardened Scalable Data Acquisition System (SDAS) based on an innovative application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) for Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors (MKIDs). The proposed SDAS ASIC will have 4-8 channels for 14-bit accurate Analog to Digital Conversion (ADC) and Digital to Analog Conversion (DAC, for carrier tone generation) with each channel handling >4GHz of bandwidth (instantaneous bandwidth of > 8GHz at 4GS/s per ASIC and tunable bandwidth range of 16GHz) while consuming less than 40 mW per detector readout chain. The SDAS will also have a low power I/O (input/output) user interface with a programmable LVDS. The SDAS ASIC will have several programmable operation modes, with bandwidths of operation of more than 4GHz. In addition, the SDAS will also include flexible intermediate frequency (IF) electronics with a loopback mode for IQ autocalibration and dynamic range measurements. The combination of the digital signal processing and integrated I/O and flexible IF electronics will enable it to serve many millimeter to sub-millimeter-wave experiments.
Alphacore’s proposed ultra-low power, rad-hard SDAS system will provide exceptional value to NASA by delivering a combination of performance, robustness, and flexibility with the minimum size, weight and power (SWaP). Alphacore’s SDAS will include a high-performance DDS (Direct Digital Synthesizer), an integral part of any KID array readout system needed to provide the gigahertz stimulus to the detectors. Alphacore’s key innovations include 1) silicon proven innovative calibration methodologies for ADCs operating in harsh (radiation) environments, 2) small area, ultra-low power polyphase filter bank using re-quantization technique, 3) Low power programmable-eye-LVDS based SERDES, and 4) silicon proven ultra-low power all-digital DDS. Alphacore’s existing circuit blocks can be leveraged in this work to mitigate risk in designing a complex high-performance ASIC.
Alphacore's Rad-Hard, Low-Power SDAS ASIC for MKID/TES detectors will support NASA radiometer microwave sensors for a wide range of Earth observation applications and future missions described in decadal surveys. The developed ASIC can be easily scaled to support larger kinetic inductance detector arrays. The SDAS ASIC can be used in instrument upgrades on NASA’s current millimeter-wave and submillimeter-wave balloon programs such as EXCLAIM and TIM, and future proposed missions PICO (CMB probe mission) and the Origins Space Telescope (OST).
Non-NASA applications for this technology include scientific experiments, such as future cosmic microwave background (CMB) experiments, axion searches and weakly interreacting massive particle searches. On the commercial side, SDAS can support readout for large array MKIDs used to provide visibility through degraded visual environments such as dense fog in many applications.
Atmospheric aerosol have important impacts on climate and air quality and affect efforts to retrieve information regarding the Earth’s surface, including oceans. Airborne measurements of aerosol size are critical to understanding physical drivers over time and space, and to validate satellite and other remotely sensed observations. The current state of the art instrument for measuring aerosol size on aircraft is now almost 50 years old, and a replacement is badly needed. We propose development of a next-generation aerosol probe that leverages two scattering measurement techniques to reduce uncertainties -- the Airborne Multiangle Aerosol Size Spectrometer. Integrated side scattering provides sizing information for submicron particles and small angle light scattering provides sizing information for supermicron particles. In this project, we will also determine if the complementary techniques can provide additional information regarding particle shape and refractive index. The goal is to provide a near aircraft ready prototype instrument capable of supporting aerosol measurement requirements for the next decade, integrating modern flow control, electronics, and data processing/output capabilities.
The airborne probe would be core measurement instrumentation for suborbital aircraft campaigns examining air quality, climate, and aircraft emissions, and satellite validation. Specific missions with relevance include PACE Satellite mission (ocean biology, aerosols, clouds), the upcoming ACCP Mission (aerosols, clouds, convection, precipitation), TEMPO (geostationary air quality observations), and CAMP2Ex (tropical meteorology and aerosol science).
A next-generation aerosol sizing probe would be a core component on research aircraft operated by other US and non-US agencies, including DOE, NCAR, NOAA, DLR (Germany), FAAM (UK), and SAFIRE (France). The optical technology at the heart of the probe could be adapted for ground/laboratory use, opening more applications: air quality monitoring, clean room monitoring, and academic aerosol research.
Space electronics must have certain radiation hardness to meet a mission’s life span. In addition, the size, weight, and power (SWaP) are usually constrained. This project aims at developing a radiation harden class AB high-voltage (HV) amplifier-array integrated circuit (IC) that will be an ideal component to be selected to build a miniaturized deformable mirror (DM) driver for a space coronagraphic instrument (CGI). Class AB operation will ensure low-static dissipation and high driving efficiency, which will make it feasible to integrate over 100 HV amplifiers in a single chip. To enhance radiation resistance, the following measurements will be taken for prototyping a proposed IC; 1) both low- and high-voltage bipolar transistors are the first favored selection, 2) MOS transistors featuring thin gate oxide layers are preferred, 3) transistors with much higher than required voltage-ratings are the another preferred selection, 4) layout techniques for improving radiation resistance, 5) a bias for ensured class AB operation will provide an additional performance adjustment, and 6) hermetic IC package will provide an additional radiation shielding. By the end of the Phase I, HV amplifiers configured with bipolar transistors will be evaluated at gate level, and an IC containing 128 HV amplifiers will be fabricated for driving electrostrictive lead magnesium niobate (PMN) actuators. This IC that contains 650V MOS transistors for 100V operation, is served to evaluate the electrical performance for driving a PMN DM, and will be an important reference to design and fabricate radiation harden amplifier-array ICs in Phase II.
The to be developed HV amplifier array IC in Phase I can be used to build a miniaturized DM driver for testing CGIs in ground testbed. Further to be developed amplifier-array ICs featuring radiation harden will be an ideal component for coronagraphic instruments which will be included in NASA’s space missions such as Roman Space Telescope, HabEx and LUVOIR.
The to be developed HV amplifier array IC will be a potential candidate to be selected for building a DM driver in an adaptive optics system where the size, weight, power, and radiation resistance are a concern. Such systems include but be not limited to space-based optical communication.
Cornerstone Research Group (CRG) will develop add-on capability for an existing in-house design tool for generation of lightweight telescope mirror substrates with optimized stiffness, mitigation of disrupting vibrational modes, and consideration of the thermal environment. Leveraging the production capabilities offered by additive manufacturing technologies and materials, CRG will establish a computational design process specifically suited for optical substrates. By performing topology optimization of conformal lattice structures, the overall mass can be significantly reduced while also driving the design to geometries exhibiting vibration damping by taking advantage of unique design methodologies. During Phase I, CRG will add objectives and constraints specifically for mirror substrate design based on identified requirements. Prototype structures will be fabricated using additive manufacturing and experimentally evaluated and compared to traditionally designed structures.
• Telescopes addressing COR, ExEP, and PCOS program missions
• Monolithic and segmented mirror substrates for in-space telescopes
• Lightweight telescope structures supporting enhanced stability
• Launch and propulsion structures requiring vibration mitigation
• In-space laser communication assemblies
• Automotive and transportation structures design
• Unified structural and thermal heat exchangers
NASA needs system technology solutions that enable or enhance telescopes for missions of any size (from balloon or CubeSat to Probe or Flagship) operating at any wavelength from UV/optical to mid/far-infrared. Relative Dynamics Inc. proposes the Metalens Near InfraRed Telescope (MeNIRT) solution. RDI will design and analyze the overall telescope system. The telescope system is the optics (lens and metalens) and a carbon fiber/metal hybrid opto-mechanical structure. Metalenses are flat lenses that use metasurfaces to focus light. The metasurfaces are a series of artificial antennae that manipulate the optical response of the incident light, including its amplitude phase and polarization. Metasurfaces have provided a new approach to recasting optical components into flat devices without performance deterioration. Carbon fiber composites have high stiffness, high tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion. RDI will investigate two methods for engineering the CTE 1) adjusting the chemical composition of the carbon fiber and the resin 2) adjusting the direction of the carbon fiber laying.
Metalenses are potentially revolutionary in optical imaging due to their flat nature and compact size, multispectral acquisition and even off-axis focusing. Metalenses can be used in many NASA science missions (e.g., cameras, spectroscopy from UV to microwave, lidars) and spacecraft technologies using optics (e.g., star trackers, optical communication and navigation). Near-term NASA applications are IR, MIR and NIR optical systems for large spacecraft and UV to microwave systems for CubeSat and small satellite optical systems.
$10 billion+ market with applications in machine vision, robotics, and industrial systems. Government and commercial imaging satellite optics. Future high volume applications include cellphone camera modules, wearable displays for augmented and virtual reality, machine vision, automotive and security cameras. Start-up companies: Tunoptix: https://www.tunoptix.com/; Metalenz: https://metalenz.com/
The most practical industrial method for measuring aspheric and free-form parts includes the use of Computer-Generated Holograms, diffractive elements that approximate the ideal method of using Kinoform surfaces. Computer Generated Holograms approximate Kinoforms by using binary diffraction maps, however this approximation leads to errors bleeding into the ideal fringe map when using a CGH for aspheric correction. Traditionally these errors are removed by using processes that decrease aspheric correction capability and increase alignment difficulty, and thus time. We propose a method that would allow us to use Computer Generated Holograms with lower required resolutions than the traditional Computer Generated Hologram test methods. This would decrease the alignment times, and increase the possible aspheric departure of the parts under test, decrease costs and increase capability. The outcome of this will decrease the time and cost of producing aspheric optics, and increase the availability of higher departure aspheric and free-form optics which require even more specialized testing equipment, reducing their cost up to the limits of the CGH. Our plan is to extend analytical simulations of an improved CGH, print a CGH to test the effectiveness of this method, and compare the results to traditional methods for CGH correction.
NASA has displayed continued interest in large, highly aspheric and free-form mirrors and lenses, and a method to test more aspheric surfaces while also decreasing alignment costs would be highly advantageous to the manufacturing of these surfaces.
CGHs are a key technology for testing aspheric and free-form optics. This method would provide the industry with an easier method for measuring aspheric surfaces, at lower cost, and providing the capability to measure more challenging aspheres and free-forms. This will assist NASA programs, DoD programs, IC programs, and the US commercial earth observing satellite market.
To address the need for smaller, lighter, and less expensive optics for NASA instruments, a novel optical technology platform based on using additive manufacturing (AM) of custom-engineered nanocomposite materials will be demonstrated. It will be shown that custom optical materials with precise index and dispersion values that can be used to fabricate aberration-free freeform gradient index (GRIN) optics, allowing for the creation of compact optical systems with fewer optical elements to be realized in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared spectral regions.
The ability to synthesize and deposit composite blends of optical feedstock with precise optical properties, and the drying and densification processes will be demonstrated. The goal is to create fully inorganic freeform GRIN optics with the precise optical properties required for NASA instruments.
Applications include space exploration, remote sensing, astronomy, and Earth observation. In space exploration, they improve the performance of telescopes, spectrometers, and cameras. In remote sensing, they enhance the accuracy of measurements for atmospheric, land, and ocean studies. In astronomy, they enable high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of distant objects. In Earth observation, they improve imaging and sensing capabilities for monitoring natural resources, climate change, and environmental hazards.
Markets for compact optics with reduced aberrations include consumer electronics, such as smartphones and augmented reality headsets, as well as medical devices for diagnostic and surgical applications, industrial inspection systems, metrology, and high-resolution microscopy, and in autonomous vehicles, LiDAR systems, and aerospace industries.
Transition edge sensors (TES) used in microcalorimeter arrays for X-ray photon detection are inherently susceptible to variations in the magnitude of magnetic fields since their detection principle is based on the transition between the normal and superconducting states. Optimal performance require efficient magnetic shielding to provide a low magnetic field environment. Bergen et al. provide magnetic field specifications with respect to SPON TES arrays. These specifications may become even more stringent for larger arrays. Current superconducting shield often consists of a superconducting cup arrangement as is the case proposed for the Lynx X-ray Microcalorimeter. Although this design reduces the number of joints, it is limited to the forming process and thereby the size and complexity of the shape that can be realized. Novel concepts for improving superconducting magnetic shielding such as superconducting inks or additive manufacturing are of interest for detector focal planes with challenging shielding geometries and other requirements. Novel concepts for improving superconducting magnetic shielding such as superconducting inks or additive manufacturing are of interest for detector focal planes with challenging shielding geometries and other requirements. Applied Nanotech proposes to use additive manufacturing (AM) for producing magnetic shields for shielding large and challenging shielding geometries. Our approach will be to apply a superconducting layer onto a substrate material such as amumetal, aluminum or polyimide (e.g. Kapton®).
Currently, NASA needs advanced detector technologies in the UV through to gamma-ray for applications in astrophysics, earth science, heliophysics, and planetary science. Supporting technologies that would help enable the x-ray Surveyor mission requires the development of x-ray microcalorimeter arrays with much larger field of view, ~105 to 106 pixels, of pitch ~25 to 100 μm, and ways to read out the signals. Modular superconducting magnetic shielding is sought that can be extended to enclose a full-scale focal plane array.
Indium ink will have other applications beyond superconductivity and magnetic shielding. Indium-based inks developed for superconducting applications will also be useful as a solder and interconnects for high density, hybrid electronics packaging, for both superconducting and non-superconducting packaging applications. Quantum Computing applications are also being developed.
This proposal responds to NASA SBIR 2023 Focus Area 4: Robotic Systems for Space Exploration. The subtopic S13.01 describes a need for technologies that provide improved robotic mobility for ocean world deep ice drilling and sub-ice ocean access. In particular, the need for innovations concerning “tethers and tether play-out and retrieval systems” are mentioned, as are component technologies for subsurface ocean access systems for ocean worlds like Europa and Enceladus. We propose to develop a Vertical Motion Control System (VMCS) which will pay out, and when needed spool in, an onboard tether from an ice penetrating robot (cryobot) on an ocean world. Ocean worlds remain of critical interest for astrobiology, however these off-world bodies of water are difficult to access as they lie below kilometers of ice. Any cryobot mission runs the risk of premature termination if the vehicle encounters an open void, water-filled cavity, or sub-surface ocean due to uncontrolled free fall of the vehicle. A VCMS is a means of proactively controlling the cryobot's descent. This will be of particular utility at the ice-ocean interface where the cryobot can convert to a defacto instrumented sonde for depth-registered characterization of the subsurface ocean. There are further advantages to a VCMS being bi-directional, the most obvious use of which would be to retreat upward through the ice column in the event that an impassable object is encountered and to then use steering hot water jets. This proposal addresses robotic mobility and access to sampling by offering a solution to one of the critical hurdles for cryobots capable of melt-penetration deep drilling of ice on Europa or Enceladus. We are proposing a VMCS consisting of a parallel-axis spooler, and a levelwind system, sized for a 1.6-mm-diameter Vectran tether (tensile strength: 4,315 N). For a 15-km mission, this spooler is 54 cm long. This design can be modified for shorter or longer tether lengths as needed.
The Vertical Motion Control System an enables robotic exploration missions on icy ocean worlds. Any ice-penetrating cryobot mission in a thick ice shell risks free fall and subsequent mission failure if the vehicle encounters an open void, water-filled cavity, or sub-surface ocean. The VMCS will proactively control the vehicle descent speed and mitigate these hazards. The VMCS could also enable a robotic explorer to descend into and ascend out of fissures on Enceladus, or a robot that “rappels” into cave skylight openings on Mars or the Moon.
The VMCS can be built into scientific instrumentation and sampling packages to enable onboard, load bearing tether spooling and make possible deployment through or operation within physically-constrained environments such as ice boreholes. Mobile robotics that employ strength and/or data tethers such as Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, Remotely Operated Vehicles, and aerial drones may also benefit.
We propose to advance from TRL4 to TRL5-6 in Phase II a novel Multipurpose Agile Range Mapping and Optical Surface Examination Tool (MARMOSET) for lunar, Mars, and other planetary surface operations, including base camp construction, site surveying, sample and resource prospecting and acquisition, maintenance, in-situ manufacturing, and science tasks. MARMOSET evolved from two former NASA PIDDP efforts and a just-completed Phase I/II SBIR aimed at rover mobility and science operations on Mars. However, this technology is directly applicable to lunar and other planetary surface operations.
MARMOSET employs a novel agile laser pattern projector to acquire dense 3D point clouds with sub-mm resolution from up to 10m using structured illumination and a camera, or to measure range at up to 1M points simultaneously from up to 1km using encoded laser beams and a fast detector. In both modes, MARMOSET computes each point in parallel, works in darkness or daylight, and takes under 1s to acquire and process the data. MARMOSET uses robust space-proven components and acquires data without moving parts.
MARMOSET can acquire and process data internally, is networked, and is powered using a single low-voltage supply. Its modular architecture facilitates integration with various robotic platforms. It could be used as part of a rover's vision system, as an end effector, or even as a hand-held tool.
We developed a low-SWaP stand-alone commercial prototype that weighs under 2kg, fits on a camera tripod, and consumes ~20W of power, and used it to acquire and compute ~1M point clouds of nearby targets in well under a second. We have also made progress integrating the many-beam lidar mode.
During the Phase I and follow-on Phase II efforts we will extend ranging distance, implement robotics software framework interfaces, implement a rad-hard-compatible electronics design, fully integrate the lidar mode, and demonstrate MARMOSET operation on a test rover at JPL and at a lunar-analog field site.
MARMOSET's many-beam range mapping could speed up autonomous surface traverses, sample site surveying, and in-situ resource identification on the Moon, Mars, and other orbiting bodies, while dense sub-100um resolution point clouds could enhance hazard assessment, end effector positioning, and surface inspection, or provide 3D data for in-situ manufacturing. Due to its low SWaP, MARMOSET could be used as an end effector, a handheld tool for lithology, or eventually, even an agile sensor for EDL, spacecraft proximity and asteroid operations.
Due to its low SWaP, dense point clouds, agility, parallel processing, dynamic range, and no moving parts, MARMOSET could lead to transformative solutions for many commercial applications in space and on Earth including surface inspection, robotic location, mapping, and object identification, aerial surveying, aircraft and spacecraft landing and docking systems, and autonomous vehicle navigation.
Aloft Sensing Inc. (Aloft) proposes to adapt and establish the feasibility of our scalable Radar Vision Systems (RVS) for operation on solar system bodies. RVS consist of state-of-the-art multichannel mm-wave radars coupled with our patent-pending position, navigation, and timing algorithms (AloftPNT). Demonstrated through simulations and field experiments, these systems achieve both accurate self-contained navigation and high-resolution perception sensing.
Our navigation approach utilizes the radar signals themselves to achieve micon levels of relative positional accuracy and constrain the drift associated with onboard IMUs. This provides accurate navigation over long durations without external support infrastructure.
The precision position updates further maximize radar coherence to enable high-performance imaging (centimetric resolutions) and advanced interferometrics (e.g., height profiles of obstacles), both from a single platform and across distributed platforms. The latter is achieved via AloftPNT’s intrinsic ability to establish precise relative positioning and timing between vehicles operating in coordination.
Together, RVS’s navigation and sensing capabilities provide an effective tool for mobility of surface and aerial vehicles operating autonomously in new environments. Because RF signals easily penetrate dust and atmospheric percipatates that obscure other sensing modalities, they are particularly applicable to exploring planetary surfaces.
To establish the feasibility of applying RVS to the planetary domain, Aloft proposes to 1) simulate AloftPNT performance in relevant scenarios, 2) adapt RVS and AloftPNT based on these simulations, 3) demonstrate operation with our mm-wave testbed, 4) update the hardware designs for the space environment, and 5) establish a Phase 2 implementation and test plan. The end result is an RVS architecture tailored specifically for robotic mobility on solar system bodies that is ready for further development on a Phase 2.
The Aloft radar vision system technologies demonstrated in this effort support improved mobility for all vehicles, including rovers and legged and airborne platforms for Lunar/planetary and small body exploration. RVS and AloftPNT can also provide accurate navigation for crewed and small uncrewed aerial systems that host sensors for collecting Earth science data in support of key NASA objectives. The mesh nature of Aloft’s innovations enable the coordination of swarms of vehicles which can transform robotic exploration in all domains.
Broader applications of Aloft radar vision system technologies include commercial robot mobility, assisted driving, and drone navigation. Scaled to larger platforms, RVS and AloftPNT allow airlines/aircraft to navigate effectively without the aid of GPS. The sensors developed in this effort are based on low-cost commercial technologies, allowing broad market adaptation.
Exploring outer planets, their subsurface oceans, and Venus is crucial for understanding the origins of life and planetary evolution in our solar system. The scientific opportunity presented by these missions is challenged by extreme environmental conditions ranging from cryogenic temperatures to corrosive atmospheres. Survivability and mechanical failure are major concerns for operating in these harsh conditions.
Bearings are necessary for mobility, drilling, and sample manipulation during normal mission operation. Multiscale Systems will use wire laser metal (WLM) to 3D print bearings in a multi-material alloy, providing a reliable and repeatable manufacturing solution to meet the demanding requirements of missions operating in extreme environments. This approach to design and manufacturing offers the benefits of lightweighting, design complexity, and the ability to create alloy composites with high ductility, controllable thermal expansion, and corrosion resistance.
Other solutions are limited by cost, manufacturing difficulty, unreliable performance, weight, and a high risk of failure. WLM 3D printing overcomes these difficulties in a variety of ways.
In Phase I, the team proposes to focus on design, initial prototyping, and initial testing to validate the approach. Phase II will seek to mature the technology by testing in controlled environments that simulate the operating conditions. Phase III commercialization will focus on manufacturing the components to customer specifications.
The next three decades of solar system exploration offer the opportunity for missions to Venus, Callisto, Enceladus, Europa, Titan, etc. Temperatures on the surface of Europa are cryogenic (-220 °C), and involve exposure to large dosages of ionizing radiation. Venus, on the other hand, has a corrosive atmosphere, high temperatures (~500 °C), and high pressures (~90 atm). High performance bearings for extreme environments will be required for all of these missions to succeed.
A market opportunity for high performance bearings and related components exists in the renewable energy sector, where NASA has overlapping requirements with the high-temperature corrosive environments of enhanced geothermal systems. The geothermal heat pump market is a potential entry point for commercialization.
Two of the largest and critical components in virtually all NASA Power Processing Units (PPUs) of spacecraft, probes and landers, are energy buffer and DC-link capacitors, used to minimize ripple current, voltage fluctuations and transient suppression. Current capacitor technologies have severe performance limitations at cryogenic temperatures, especially when combined with exposure to radiation. The proposed development will address the evaluation of these two capacitor designs, using a disruptive solid-state, polymer capacitor technology, developed for PPUs of electric vehicles. NanoLam™ capacitors, are produced using a nanolaminate composite, that has 1000s of high temperature polymer dielectric layers. The capacitors are self-healing, they can handle high continuous and pulsed currents, and the nanothick polymer dielectric has high breakdown strength, which results in superior energy density and specific energy. The capacitors are formed using 1-2Mrad of ionizing Beta radiation, and have high resistance to radiation exposure, as well as superior parametric stability with voltage and temperature in the range of -196oC to +200oC.
NanoLam™ capacitors can be used in a range of PPU circuit functions, as well as higher temperature and voltage applications. This includes PPUs for spacecraft, probes, and landers, powered by roll-out solar arrays tailored to 120V and 300V, and PPUs for Hull ion thruster propulsion, powered by solar arrays with an output of 300V-1000V. In addition to the projected performance at cryogenic temperatures, NanoLam capacitors have proven superiority in stability, energy density and specific energy, at higher temperature and voltage applications.
Government applications for NanoLamTM capacitors include electric drives, aerospace, pulse power systems for directed energy weapons, and applications where capacitors are exposed to radiation. Commercial applications for DC-link capacitors include inverters for electric vehicles, wind turbines, utility scale photovoltaics, rail traction, UPS, motor drives, aerospace, and medical electronics.
A key concern with space travel is that microorganisms can hitch a ride on spacecraft leading to biological contamination of other planetary bodies or the transport of pathogenic organisms to Earth during return missions. Contamination of spacecraft and associated hardware with inorganic, organic or biological material can damage sensitive electronics and hardware and potentially cause catastrophic events associated with space travel. To ensure cleanliness and protect planets from microorganisms, NASA has implemented extensive cleaning procedures and processes, such as clean rooms, UV light and other surface disinfection protocols, to ensure a contamination-free environment.
SynMatter proposes demonstrating the feasibility producing a self-cleaning & sterilizing low surface energy coating, which prevents adhesion of contaminants and reduces cleaning requirements, with inherent self-sterilization properties that prevent the adherence, growth and spread of microorganisms. This coating will be achieved through the creation of Smart Particles that impart multiple layers of protective mechanisms. The coating will be highly water and oil repellent which minimizes adherence of water- and oil-soluble compounds and microorganisms and produces a self‑cleaning surface. The coating will have inherent antimicrobial properties, killing any biological organisms that do adhere to the surface. As a tertiary protection mechanism, the Smart Particles can deliver human safe biocides in response to the growth of microorganisms, ensuring that the surface remains free of living microbes.
This omniphobic, antimicrobial coating is applicable for many types of spacecraft within NASA’s portfolio, be they satellites, rovers, space stations, or capsules for human space travel. They can provide continuous protection against adherence of inorganic, organic and biological contaminants giving the saying “Cleanliness is a virtue” a whole new meaning.
The main application for the low surface energy, self-cleaning & sterilizing coating is to improve cleanliness of spacecraft by preventing the adhesion of contamination and microorganism growth. This coating has use on most spacecraft, but particularly those that come in contact with other planetary bodies, such as upcoming lunar landers (Peregrine, Blue Ghost, Nova-C, etc.), or those that will be returning samples, such as upcoming JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration mission. ISS use would reduce microbial contamination and protect human health.
There is a growing need for coatings that prevent the growth and spread of pathogens. Hospital acquired‑ infections require costly medical treatment and cause avoidable deaths. Contaminated food results in illness and food waste. Accelerated by COVID-19, there is also demand for antimicrobial surfaces in high traffic environments such as daycares, schools, aircraft, entertainment venues and more.
Quantum sensing takes advantage of the quantum mechanical nature of matters (e.g., atoms and ions) to boost the sensitivity of various sensors critical in NASA and other government/commercial applications. A stable, high-power, narrow-linewidth laser source is an essential subsystem needed in various atom-based quantum sensing. In atom-based sensing, high-power laser beams can generally increase the number of atoms, enhancing a metrology system's signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Although the principle of operation for atom interferometry (AI) applies identically for any atomic species, certain atomic species could be better suited for specific applications. However, although cesium is one of the most commonly used species in cold atom experiments performed in laboratory environments, field-deployable light-pulse atom interferometry with cesium is not often available in low SWaP (size, weight, and power) packaging due to the lack of a compact laser subsystem supporting the atom interferometry operation.
To address the need, Opto-Atomics Corp. (OAC) proposes to develop a Cs Atom Interferometry Laser (CSAIL) that can be adopted in NASA's space-borne atom-interferometers with cesium in inertial navigation and other applications. The proposed development addresses NASA's call (S13.05) for a laser subsystem enabling Raman-based light-pulse atom interferometer with Cs. In Phase I, OAC will design and assemble key system components of CSAIL, evaluate their performance, and perform feasibility demonstrations. We will also conduct a preliminary design of the fully-packaged CSAIL system for future development.
With the development of various enabling technologies, significant performance leaps can be achieved to meet NASA’s needs in inertial sensing, gravity sensing, timekeeping, magnetic field sensing, and RF/microwave sensing. CSAIL can be readily adopted in Cs-based atom interferometers for inertial navigation and planetary geodesy applications of NASA. CSAIL can also be modified to provide the D2 transition beam for various atom-based sensing platforms such as Rydberg atom-based RF/microwave sensors or magnetometers.
Atom-based sensing has many potential applications for the military and other governmental sectors. CSAIL will significantly expedite the field deployment of these quantum devices with Cs by providing a robust, versatile light source that can be used in various quantum metrology/communication applications. All atom-based sensing techniques using Cs can benefit from SWaP reduction offered by CSAIL.
Radiation detectors are an invaluable tool for space applications that span planetary science, astrophysics, heliophysics, and dosimetry for human exploration. A common technology used for radiation detection is the scintillator, where the material generates a light flash with an intensity that is proportional to the energy deposited by the incident radiation. For planetary science, the elementary composition can be determined down to a couple meters below the surface by measuring the emitted gamma rays produced from nuclear decay, proton inelastic scattering, or neutron interactions. The ambient galactic cosmic rays or trapped charged particles in a magnetosphere will scatter with nuclei in the planetary body generating neutrons, which interact with isotopes producing specific gamma rays. As a test case, a mission to Europa presents numerous challenges due to the high radiation environment because of its orbit in relationship to the trapped radiation in Jupiter’s magnetosphere as well as the extremely low temperature. Within this extreme environment, common scintillation materials will fail for numerous reasons. The light yields may be suppressed at the low temperatures, the material may darken due to radiation damage, or the response time of the light flash is too slow to handle the high event rates. There are some materials that function down to 70 K, yet the transient response is slow making it difficult to provide good gamma ray spectroscopy in a high radiation environment. New scintillation materials, which includes ceramics, provide promise for developing a nuclear instrument for planetary science that can function at low temperatures and high radiation environments. The goal of this project is to develop a high-performance scintillation material for deployment to the surface of Europa, where in the Phase 1 effort, candidate materials will be identified based on their low temperature performance.
Advanced scintillation materials serve a number of applications:
Zeteo Tech, Inc. proposes to design, develop and prototype a robust, small size, weight, and power (SWaP) TOF mass spectrometer with enhanced mass resolving power (m/Δm ≥ 25,000, FWHM) and practically unlimited mass range, which will allow in situ detection of organic and biomolecules in complex mixtures. It is based on a novel design of a multi-reflection TOF using microfabrication techology. The mass analyzer operates at low static voltages (a few hundred volts). Using static voltages (without pulsing) simplifies the electronics and minimizes power consumption for the proposed miniature mass spectrometer.
In phase I we will complete a preliminary design of the miniature TOF mass analyzer with enhanced mass resolving power and prototype key elements of the design.
In addition to the primary application for in situ detection and unambiguous identification of amino acids, nucleobases and other prebiotic organic molecules in solid samples, the proposed technology may be used for: 1) identification of salts, and/or minerals at Mars, ocean worlds, and other bodies; 2) monitoring of chemical composition of gas samples, including atmospheric analysis.
Proposed technology may be utilized in a wide range of government and industrial applications: 1) on-site determination of pollutants in environmental samples; 2) quick reliable identification of deadly substances in complex mixtures; 3) point‐of‐care diagnostics without time‐consuming sample pretreatment.
Compact chip-scale nano-NMR sensors to measure D/H ratio in water of outer planets based on atomistic defects in semiconductors will have orders of magnitude improved sensitivity compared to classical NMR instruments. Our sensors will be able to detect D/H ratio in reduced sample size as the magnetic fields generated by small samples are too small for traditional sensors to detect. Microscopic modeling of noise and nuclear dipole fields will estimate spin and charge noise frequency-dependent spectra of the D/H ratio sensor with a given set of parameters including geometry, dimensions, surface termination composition, and temperature. Our computer-assisted design (CAD) software will be used in the optimization of the sensor for D/H ratio measurements of water by identifying configurations/designs and microwave (MW) interrogation protocols where the NMR signals from hydrogen and deuterium can be reliably measured from the underlying base noise and thus maximizing the sensitivity. We will design the optimal sensitivity of the sensor based on tradeoffs for isotopic purity, regularity of thickness of substrate material and defect occurrence. A Phase II plan will be constructed, identifying the issues related to device growth and fabrication, testing, and integration. Plans will be developed to mitigate issues and partners confirmed for the Phase II project.
Compact chip-scale nano-NMR sensors will have smaller size, weight and power consumption compared to traditional NMR-type sensors and could cover the growing need for robust sensors with small footprints. They would thus be very well suited for planetary exploration where the instrument size, power, and complexity restrictions are most severe. The orders of magnitude improved sensitivity compared to classical NMR instruments, would allow D/H ratio detection in very small samples, unpractical with other approaches.
NMR have extensive applications in biotechnology, medicine, materials science and other industries. Examples include characterization of nanoparticles, molecular imaging, detection of biomarkers, quality control of nanomaterials and development of new materials. These will greatly benefit from an NMR-type quantum sensor due to its high sensitivity and spatial resolution down to a single ion.
Direct Kinetic Solutions (DKS) proposes the development of a modular radioisotopic power source (RPS) to enhance the current state of the art offering, which is a combination of chemical batteries and solar arrays in the small satellite market. These power sources contain and energy density that is orders of magnitude superior to the one offered by commercially available chemical batteries. The difference between these power sources and traditionally used RTGs is that our devices convert the energy directly when using beta emitting isotope, and leverage a phosphor when using alpha emitting ones, The RPS are compact (the cell can be as little as .5cm x .5cm), lightweight, and will fit into the side panel on the structure of a CubeSat. We expect the RPS devices can be used to power critical systems independently, or can be connected in multiples to become a significant power source for the main electric power system of the spacecraft. We believe that they can be used in other applications such as lunar expiration as they can generate power in extremely low temperatures, or be used as power alternatives for complex systems in deep space exploration.
DKS believes the main application for NASA will be on the development of small satellites. Once that application has been demonstrated, they can go into different equipment, such as rovers for lunar exploration, given their characteristics.
The company expects the commercial application to be similar to NASA: an enhancement to the currently used battery and solar array system. Small satellites swarms have been increasing and this tendency is expected to continue. Space partners such as SpaceX and Blue Origin can benefit greatly form the technology.
NASA needs tools that allow people to visualize and understand the complex space environment. Three dimensional augmented, mixed, and virtual reality (AR, MR and VR, or collectively extended reality - XR) provide a way to enhance space data understanding and improve the quality of space domain-related decision-making. Company proposes using a mixed reality medium to meet the objectives of this solicitation, with respect to making informed decisions concerning space weather by combining & displaying space weather-related data sources in one platform. Mixed reality blends the real world with digital assets contextually placed in an environment. It lends itself to a collaborative experience that can be shared with peers or "multiuser".
Dauntless XR proposes a mixed reality holodeck platform to collaboratively view space weather data on coronal mass ejections (CMEs) visualized in immersive 3D. Dubbed “Aura” the proposed solution enables users to integrate NASA data into their decision-making process and make more informed decisions regarding space weather. We propose to accomplish this by taking data from a Unified Data Library API and visualizing the data as a realistic 3D artifact in the Aura holodeck as it becomes available, paired with relevant standards, best practices, and data interpretation tips. The proposed innovation is hardware agnostic across headsets, phones, and tablets to maximize accessibility.
The proposed innovation makes NASA space weather data easy to access, quick to understand, and seamless to integrate into a workflow, even as forecasts remain uncertain. Aura for space weather would provide value to a general audience to educate and foster further innovation and inquiry to those with space domain expertise who may or may not be traditional users of NASAs data. As a digitally native solution the proposed platform is able to use existing data sources, but also add new ones as they become available giving the solution longevity and agility to adapt.
The potential NASA application is a novel space weather application that combines multiple data sources and practices to support space operations, that can continuously be improved and updated over time. Ultimately XR data visualization modules could include: Space weather; Launch & early orbit phase checkout; and Satellite Impact/position. The proposed application will ingest data from select sources; however, the backend architecture will ingest data from a variety of sources and sensors to continually enhance space domain awareness.
Non-NASA applications for the proposed Aura innovation is a cohesive space weather monitoring, prediction & mitigation application for use by defense customers, commercial space companies, companies impacted by space weather events such as airlines, energy companies, and insurance companies, as well as academic institutions, where end-user understanding of Sun-Earth physics varies.
In Phase I, Meroxa proposes to demonstrate the technical feasibility of building accessible tooling and connectors (proof of concept) for NASA to move space weather data, regardless of format and location, to any destination in the format required and in real-time.
The current operational suite of space weather products and services can be found in various formats and in disparate environments. Current processes to extract these data insights are too cumbersome and take too long. Moving data quickly and in real-time will contribute to the development and advancement of forecasting capabilities through better information dissemination for NASA operations and research.
Development of pipelines that integrate disparate data sources is costly, time intensive and often still requires significant manual processing. The innovations of the Meroxa Platform and Conduit can be used by any non-NASA organizations to quickly move data for better analyses.
Improved thermospheric density forecasts are a critical need identified by the Space Weather Operations, Research, and Mitigation (SWORM) Working Group, a Federal interagency coordinating body [National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, 2019]. This work will improve thermospheric density prediction by reducing forecast error up to 65% during large geomagnetic storms. We will validate two replacement forecast drivers used by operational models. Given the increased debris environment in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) there is strong interest by U.S. agencies, companies, and international organizations for managing hazards from debris collision. There are two areas in which we will improve forecast neutral thermosphere densities. First, we will validate an existing observation-based solar irradiance index, i.e., the S10 produced by National Solar Observatory (NSO) SIFT model, that can accurately extend operational forecasts out to 7 days. Second, we validate a combined solar wind Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU) networks using solar wind observations algorithm (from Hu) plus a solar feature data-driven, machine-learned (ML) algorithms (Logit) (from Swiger) that together create a forecast Disturbance storm time (Dst) geomagnetic index for short (hours) and long (days) time frames, respectively. The SEFT S10 index will improve 3-7 day predictions for the debris collision maneuver and reentry windows. The Hu+Swiger Dst forecast capability will help resolve the single largest problem in thermosphere density forecasting, i.e., large error in densities during geomagnetic storms resulting from poorly forecast storm magnitude and timing by Anemomilos Dst. SET will validate SIFT S10 as well as the GRU and Logit Dst data outputs in Phase I by comparing them to existing SET S10 and SET Anemomilos Dst that are the operational baselines used for the past decade. This project will design a method to automatically feed our new Dst predictions to the CME Scoreboard in coordination with CCMC.
This proposal supports NASA’s mission as defined by Grand Challenges for cutting-edge technological solutions that can i) solve important space-related problems; ii) radically improve existing capabilities; or iii) deliver new space capabilities. Under Challenge 1 (expand human presence in space), our work helps mitigate the hazards of space debris collision by providing innovations for updating the baseline thermospheric density forecasting in the USSF HASDM system used by NASA CARA.
Four LEO growth cases that can use our solar and geomagnetic drivers for improving thermosphere density forecasts are i) civilian agency satellites, ii) commercial satellites, iii) defense applications, and iv) space traffic management. SET already has customers of USSF 18 SDS and has also sold forecasts to commercial aerospace firms in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and Brazil over the past decade.
Cornerstone Research Group Inc. (CRG) proposes to develop a low frequency transmitter for active sensing of ionospheric and magnetospheric plasma density structure. CRG will leverage its experience with the compact Rydberg-atom based VLF transmitter for submarine to air communication. Active sensing with injection of ELF/VLF (300Hz -30kHz) frequency band electromagnetic waves into the Earth’s magnetosphere have played an important role in discovering and elucidating wave-particle interactions in near-Earth space. For example, Siple Station VLF injection experiments were very successful in producing observations of non-linear growth and triggering whistler mode waves. Today, however, electromagnetic sounding of ionospheric and magnetospheric plasma density structure at low frequencies relies on passive sensing, i.e., using either naturally occurring radiation or using transmitters of opportunity such as global navigation satellite system or ground-based transmissions. The reason for that lies in in the significant engineering challenges of efficiently radiating in the low frequency bands. Rydberg atom-based technology overcomes many of these challenges and makes it feasible to construct a compact VLF transmitter which could be installed on a space platform. During Phase I, CRG will demonstrate design of such a transmitter adhering to the SWAP constraints associated with the space applications.
• Low frequency transmitter for space platforms
• VLF transmitter for underwater to surface communications
• Through-the-earth (TTE) communication for mining applications
• Geophysical surveying using low frequency electromagnetic waves
Microbiology research in space is important for understanding effects of microgravity and space ionizing radiation on biological organisms, which is critical for human space exploration. CubeSat missions, such as BioSentinel, SporeSat, O/OREOS, and life science experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) have included microfluidic cartridges for research of cell and organism growth and metabolism in space. These systems require sample loading and full system assembly on Earth, using highly specialized equipment and specially trained personnel, which can limit the pace of research advancement in space.
Our proposed Microfluidic Biospecimen Cartridge (MBC) system will allow loading, sealing of biological samples, automatic perfusion and monitoring of the specimen growth on the ISS or in a laboratory without the requirement of specially trained engineers or specialized equipment. Once closed, the unit is entirely self-contained, minimizing chance of contamination and enabling safe handling of a wide variety of biological specimens in a microgravity environment. The MBC will allow users to monitor growth under microgravity over long periods on the ISS, providing maximum flexibility for executing experiments. The species studied with this system can be cells, such as bacteria, human cell lines, or algae, fungi, spores and even more complex biospecimens such as C. elegans worms.
The MBC will contain 16 wells that are interconnected with microfluidic channels. The channels deliver nutrients and remove waste from the wells. The biospecimens in each well are trapped by filter membranes at the top and bottom of the wells. This project will focus on design and prototype of a microfluidic cartridge that is compatible to standard large-scale manufacturing methods including injection molding, heat staking, and ultrasonic welding. Yeast cells will be used to demonstrate cell isolation within each well, and automated cell perfusion and growth in a complete enclosed system.
This MBC can be used on the ISS for microbiology experiments, advancing our understanding of space biology. Astronauts can prepare samples on the ISS without the need for special equipment, and all subsequent processes are automated in the MBC. The cartridge can also be used in CubeSat missions, offering simplified, consistent performance, while reducing development time and cost. As a standardized, low-cost system, the MBC also enables academic research laboratories and STEM students to design and perform space biology research experiments.
The MBC has pharmaceutical, environmental, and educational applications. Therapies can be tested and validated quickly, as the MBC provides both sample storage and detection of the impact of therapies on cell vitality and growth. It can be used for environmental monitoring such as long-term water and soil testing, and can enhance research potential in low-budget laboratories and STEM classrooms.
USNC-Tech is proposing a modular radioisotope power system. This system would enable a low-cost flight demonstration of a high efficiency dynamic power system using a low-cost radioisotope and maintaining compatibility with the GPHS Pu-238 power source due to its modular design. Co-60 is routinely produced in 500 W scale quantities needed for a dynamic power system demonstration. While interfacing C0-60 is different than for the General Purpose Heat Source (GPHS) block, the proposed concept is (1) modular to accommodate either Pu-238 or Co-60, (2) still optimized for Pu-238, (3) uses currently developed hardware by the NASA DRPS programs, and (4) focuses on enabling a near term launch demonstration.
USNC-Tech has teamed with Sunpower, the developer of the Sunpower Robust Stirling Convertor (SRSC). USNC-Tech is bringing expertise with inexpensive radioisotope technology based on the medical radioisotope industry in the form of its EmberCore™ technology to combine the radioisotope with the SRSC in a configuration notionally like the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) but modified to (1) be modular such that it can utilize alternative radioisotopes or GPHS blocks and (2) utilize heat pipes to distribute heat to convertors. USNC-Tech refers to the concept as the Modular Radioisotope Dynamic Generator (MRDG).
Modularity of the radioisotope will allow for use of a shorter-lived inexpensive isotopes such as 5.7-year Co-60 for lower cost missions, ease the supply chain requirements for Pu-238, yet leverage system commonality for Pu-238 to be used for long-life missions to the outer solar system, for example.
Radioisotope power systems (RPSs) including thermoelectric systems are proven technologies for long-term power generation in distant, dark, and/or dusty environments where solar power is not viable. Despite significant advancements in thermoelectric (TE) material technology, modern TE systems rely on legacy TE technologies due to shortcomings in systems-integration and reliability of improved TE materials. Crucial TE material development challenges stem from the interface joining TE materials and the metallic interconnect (IC) material near the heater unit hot-end, which must be manufacturable, robust, and stable after decades of operation. In this program, QuesTek Innovations will leverage its Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) expertise and Materials by Design® technology to rapidly design and prototype a TE-IC junction combining a novel IC alloy design and a mechanically robust, highly efficient p-type PbTe material with improved power generation efficiency near radioisotope heater unit hot-end temperatures. Phase I involves thermodynamic database development and utilization of CALPHAD (CALculation of Phase Diagrams) methods to computationally design a junction between the PbTe material and a QuesTek-designed Co-based IC material with minimal experimental validation. Design will focus on thermodynamic interface stability and well-matched coefficients of thermal expansion between TE/IC materials to minimize thermal stress during fabrication and long-term operation. The database framework will be extended in Phase II work to design a similarly compatible IC-TE material junction for an improved n-type PbTe material, leading to further improved RPS efficiency. The longevity of a full device incorporating QuesTek’s novel IC alloy and improved p- and n-type PbTe materials will be simulated using CALPHAD-based diffusion simulations to capture performance over multiple decades and experimentally verified through long-term device stability tests.
Rendevous, Proximity Operations, and Capture Maneuvering;
Formation Flying, Precison Pointing, Station Keeping, and Relative Navigation;
Affordable GNC for Expendable Vehicles;
Mars Sample & Return Missions (Mars Ascent Vehicle);
High Volume SmallSat Constellations;
Entry, Descent & Landing GNC;
North Finding and Latitude Determination;
Down-Hole Navigation and Mapping for Geothermal and Oil;
Autonomous Vehicles and Drone Navigation/Stabilization;
Longer Duration Navigation for Munitions and GPS denied environments.
NewBridge Partners, Inc. has developed an innovative, radiation-hard, very high-performance
all-reflective optics star tracker deemed HRST (High Radiation Star Tracker). The instrument directly addresses the
need for long-life performance in high radiation environments such as Jupiter where current conventional star
trackers cannot readily meet the harsh radiation requirements. The design consists of a 3-mirror reflective triplet
design form with an additional fold mirror. Additionally, with the inclusion of TRL8 on-board advanced processing
algorithms it is readily possible to achieve better than 500 nrad of random star tracker error, rivaling the best
performance available in the world today. The size, weight and power are in family with the other star trackers,
resulting in an overall very high-performance GNC sensor with outstanding performance, capable of supporting
NASA in operating in a high-radiation environment to study icy ocean worlds.
The proposed star tracker can be used in potential commercial applications especially with the expanding interest in the cislunar arena. Star trackers are used on many space vehicles in support of attitude control, for earth-orbiting satellites as well as satellites dedicated to the study of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets beyond Earth orbit.
We are proposing the development of a new miniaturized and low power stand-alone “nano-thruster” instrument, the Precision Ion Nano-Thruster (PINT) to perform very fine thrusting in support of precision attitude and pointing control on space platforms.
The miniature precision device development effort will be based on previous R&D results and experience, and proven technologies developed in collaborations between Espace Inc. and the MIT Space Propulsion Laboratory. The effort will focus on the miniaturization of the electronics and the high precision control of micro-fabricated ion-electrospray thrusters, leveraging the state of the art in the technologies, and optimizing the micro-thrusters for fine control and stability.
The ultimate objective of the PINT development will be rugged, industrially and economically manufactured, miniature stand-alone electric thrusters, providing precision controlled ion beams.
The applications of the PINT thrusters are in the area of very high precision control of space platforms, in attitude or trajectories. Advanced technologies such as laser telecommunications or fractionated interferometric instruments require stable and precise controls for which PINT will provide an economical and practical tool for fine adjustments and stabilization. PINT will have applications in NASA future astrophysics observatories and fractionated space system designs.
The applications of the PINT thrusters are in the area of very high precision control of space platforms, in attitude or trajectories. Advanced technologies such as laser telecommunications require stable and precise controls. A commercial or governmental application is in fine stabilization and controls for small platforms using laser telecommunications.
Atomic technologies such as atom interferometry, atomic clocks, atomic magnetometers, and Rydberg sensors have demonstrated exquisite stabilities and sensitivities. However, the high complexity, cost, and length development cycles have prevented these technologies from achieving their ultimate value. We propose to use additive manufacturing in combination with microfabricated components, micro optics, and low-noise electronics to rapidly build and assemble atomic devices for atom interferometry applications.
Success will be the offering of integrated atomic devices that can be used by NASA, academics, and commercial entities to build compact atomic sensors. This innovation will decrease the Size, Weight, Power, and Cost (SWaP-C) of atomic devices and produce a reliable, high-performance component for stabilizing atom interferometer systems. Atom interferometers are under heavy development using laser cooled atoms in free fall as ultra-precise inertial measurement objects. Enabling this technology can enable ultra-low-bandwidth rate measuring gyroscopes and accelerometers suitable for dead-reckoning deep in space. The NASA Cold Atom Lab (CAL) aboard the International Space Station has used atom interferometry for ultra-precise test of microgravity using absolutely accurate quantum sensing and is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory under the BPS Divison of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
While the underlying technology has been demonstrated, effort in making it manufacturable, repeatable, and reliable is now necessary so that a team of scientists and engineers are not required to operate such advanced devices. This work will enhance the ability for systems to be design, built, and characterized quickly. To develop next-generation atomic sensors, NASA needs reconfigurable, low-power, low-mass atomic devices compatible with off-the-shelf fiber optics and laser systems.
NASA missions require high accuracy and high sensitivity measurements and atom interferometers represent a cutting edge inertial measurement and navigation sensor. Potential NASA applications include: fundamental tests of gravity in space, the detection of gravitational waves using a laser ring interferometer geometry in space, precision tests of gravity during planetary flybys detecting sub-surface minerals and water, and navigating through space precisely and accurately using absolutely accurate inertial navigation.
Compact atomic devices can solve medical, defense, and telecommunications applications if the cost can be brought down by over an order of magnitude. By utilizing technologies suitable to repeatable and mass-manufacture, this high-complexity technology can be applied to commercial problems where cost-sensitivity is very high and this work reduces some of the associated cost barriers.
Vescent Photonics, LLC (Vescent) proposes to develop a compact, low-power, environmentally robust optical fiber frequency comb (OFC) that operates in the visible spectrum (400-800 nm) and is constructed from telecommunications (telecom) components to enable next-generation space-deployed optical atomic clocks and Rydberg-atom based quantum sensors. The proposed system will meet the challenging performance requirements for state-of-the-art quantum sensors and clocks while maintaining a low size, weight, and power (SWaP) in a configurable platform that can be adapted to the diverse needs for several of the key space-deployed applications described in Focus Area S16.08. For example, optical atomic clocks can offer instabilities as low as 4.8x10-17 in a second, opening myriad possibilities for precision sensors addressing NASA’s core interests including accurate positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) onboard a spacecraft as well as the measurement of weak gravitational fields in near-zero gravity. Rydberg-atom based quantum sensors offer similarly dramatic improvements for electric field and microwave measurements. However, the most promising optical atomic clock platforms (e.g., Sr and Yb lattice clocks and Sr+ and Yb+ trapped ion clocks) and Rydberg-atom based sensor platforms can only operate reliably in laboratory environments, largely due to their reliance on the environmentally susceptible, high-SWaP infrastructure required to frequency stabilize multiple lasers across the visible and near-infrared spectral regions. OFCs are an ideal substitute that can significantly reduce both SWaP and complexity of the optical atomic clock or quantum sensor. However, there is a clear and critical gap in field-deployable, low-SWaP, visible OFCs. Our proposed solution exploits rugged nonlinear micro-optic modules in telecom-style packaging to synthesize arbitrary visible frequencies from Vescent’s existing radiation-hardened, environmentally robust OFC.
This proposed visible frequency comb platform addresses NASA’s research topic area S16.08 Atomic Quantum Sensors and Clocks – Critical technology gaps related to: (1) optical atomic clocks for measurements of gravitational field variations, time-variations of physical constants, detection of dark matter, etc. and (2) Rydberg atom quantum sensors for ultra-broadband, ultra-sensitive microwave receivers for earth observation sciences. The proposed technology is relevant to the following missions: DSAC, CLPS, ISS, and Artemis.
Non-NASA applications that would benefit from a low-SWaP visible frequency comb include: optical atomic clocks for navigation in GPS-denied environments, time and frequency transfer, ultra-low phase noise microwave generation for 5G-and-beyond wireless communications and radar sensing, dual comb and precision spectroscopy, and geodetic sensing for earthquake monitoring and construction projects.
This Phase I SBIR will lead to the development of key photonic components for use in high performance quantum sensors and clocks. AdvR proposes to develop very high performance phase and amplitude modulators for use at visible and ultra-violet wavelengths. The proposed innovation utilizes high performance, damage resistant optical waveguides with high speed traveling wave electrodes to provide integrated functionality. These components are expected to be used in a variety of NASA and non-NASA applications including cold atom and trapped ion systems for precision sensing, timing, and computing.
Random Number Generation
The K&C team plans to propose efficient artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) based surrogate models (CHEM-ML) for non-equilibrium chemistry in hypersonic flows which is critical in designing hypersonic vehicles for space exploration. The CHEM-ML model can be coupled with reactive Navier-Stokes equations or high fidelity CFD models such as FUN3D and DPLR. In addition, CHEM-ML will be able to support both simple and complex chemical mechanisms. A deep operator network (DeepONet) will be employed to model the chemical kinetics in hypersonic flows such as gas-species reactions and gas surface reactions depending on the velocity, altitude and the materials of the hypersonic vehicle. DeepONet is based on the universal approximation of nonlinear operators which is suggestive of the potential application of neural networks in learning nonlinear operators from data. DeepONet can learn the stiff temporal evolution of chemical species’ mass fractions over a given duration during offline training, so that during a prospective simulation inference from the learned algorithm can evolve the thermo-chemical state at a rate comparable to the hydrodynamic time scale, but without sacrificing the fidelity of the chemical system’s transition path. Note that K&C team has recent experience with DeepONet models for stiff chemical kinetics problems which were successfully used in reactive flow CFD simulations to speed up the calculation by over x1000 times. The K&C team is poised to develop a model for a variety of chemical reaction mechanisms despite the short period of performance for Phase I due to the extensive expertise and existing DeepONet tools already used by K&C.
Potential for NASA space missions in both Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) and Science Mission Directorate (SMD) with an EDL segment. Missions depend on aerothermal CFD to define critical flight environments and would see significant, sustained reductions in cost and time-to-solution if an effective ML-based model is deployed. The scope has strong crosscutting benefits for tools used by ARMD to simulate airbreathing hypersonic vehicles, which have stringent accuracy requirements like those in aerothermodynamics.
The CHEM-ML non-NASA market is extensive and covers Government, private sector, and academia from various scientific fields. The market size for the Phase II product includes all scientists and researchers working on reactive flows. The market includes a variety of applications such as: 1) weapon effects, 2) agent defeat, 3) modeling of hypersonic plumes, 4) propulsion, 5) combustion engines, etc.
To address NASA’s need for advanced model-based systems engineering (MBSE) methods and tools that integrate digital engineering and science activities across the entirety of the mission and program life cycle, Orbital Transports proposes to develop AI for Systems Engineering (AISE), an innovative digital design assistant to provide semantic search and classification of systems design work products enabling reuse of systems models in new missions and contexts. Historically, knowledge about a system or its context would be siloed within a single mission or even a single project. AISE will make system models and institutional systems engineering knowledge broadly accessible across the organization for use with other missions and programs, greatly accelerating risk-informed and evidence-based decision making.
The proposed digital design assistant utilizes OpenAI’s Generative Pre-Trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) to identify and classify systems engineering models expressed in SysML v2 for retrieval from a repository of SysML v2 models using symmetric and asymmetric queries. Symmetric queries use an engineer’s current work context to recommend similar models from the repository developed within the organization in different projects and contexts, reducing redundancy and errors, thus streamlining development by encouraging reuse of previously validated work products. Asymmetric queries enable NASA engineers to use naturalistic, free-form prompts to pursue effective lines of inquiry through the repository, easily finding relevant engineering designs and work products even when the exact target of search is not clearly known or well-formed.
The Phase I effort will validate methods for extracting and saving embeddings of SysML v2 work products, and for processing symmetric and asymmetric searches of a repository of systems models. The proposed effort will deliver a proof-of-concept demonstrating these methods to support efficient retrieval and usage of organization work products.
AISE will help NASA teams and projects achieve higher value collaboration across all programs, teams and stages of the NASA life cycle. This work will also support decision making within projects by facilitating access to information and evidence in designs and work products, accelerating evidence-based decision-making. Access to industry partner-generated designs and work products as part of the proposed innovation will enhance inter-agency and NASA/industry collaboration while promoting data-centric information exchange.
Customers for AISE products include commercial groups and Government agencies deploying MBSE with significant needs: to make system models and institutional knowledge accessible across their organization; to identify models for normalization and reuse in ongoing design and future development; and to utilize previously validated models, reducing errors and streamlining development.
We will develop methods and a software framework for data assimilation and parameterization (DAPE) using Unsupervised and Physics-Informed Machine-Learning (UML and PIML). We will apply DAPE to parameterize processes represented by the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) Hydrological Model. VIC is critical for simulating surface/subsurface water flow in several Earth System Models (ESMs).
DAPE will be capable of assimilating and merging discrete in-situ (e.g., weather/gage stations, monitoring wells) and continuous (e.g., satellite/airborne/geophysics images) datasets. DAPE will apply ML to generate high-resolution spatiotemporal mappings of the meteorologic, surface water, and groundwater parameters (e.g., precipitation, evapotranspiration, infiltration, surface runoff, soil moisture, temperature, and heat flux). The mappings will be applied to parameterize the surface water and groundwater flow in the VIC model. The parameterization will combine analyses of field measurements, remote data, and modeling outputs.
In the next project phases, we will apply DAPE to develop a PIML model representing all energy/mass balance processes simulated in VIC. We will also address VIC limitations related to lateral surface-water/groundwater flow. We will also explore alternative models (PRMS, Noah-LSM, Noah-MP). We will evaluate the impacts of input and conceptual model uncertainties on the predictive uncertainties. We will also analyze NOAA/NASA satellite images representing land surface water and energy dynamics. We will also explore how the ML analyses of these datasets will impact the characterization, parameterization, and prediction of Earth system processes, with an emphasis on floods and droughts. These analyses will account for anthropogenic activities and climatic changes. We will apply our work to update the Livneh dataset.
Applications are aligned with the NASA/NOAA projects aimed to characterize Earth science processes using remote sensing and in-situ measurements. Some of the projects are NASA/NOAA’s Global Temperature/Climate initiative, Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission, Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS/JPSS-2), Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Program (GOES), International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX), and Aqua Earth-observing satellite mission.
Or software will help industries develop smart and safe technologies related to water resources and support stakeholders to make scientifically-defensible decisions. Potential DAPE customers are also academia and research institutions. Target sectors include insurance, agriculture, water supply, food/energy production and other federal agencies including NOAA, DOE, EPA, and USDA.
NUBURU is proposing a high power blue laser based power beaming system to provide up to 1kW of electrical power at a remote site, 1GPS bi-directional lasercom data link between terminals, and, because the laser is visible, unaided visual navigation from one site to the next. The system can be configured as a point-to-point system or a broadcast system depending on the needs of the mission. This approach to power distribution on either the lunar surface or other planets such as Mars eliminates the need to bring heavy equipment to these sites to install copper or aluminum wires. Given the cost of lifting a kg of weight to these worlds, it is clear that power beaming is an ideal solution.
NASA identified the weight of transporting copper or aluminum wires as a significant issue for distributing power on a lunar or planetary base to remote locations. The cost of lifting equipment to the moon is about $1.8M/kg (NASA spaceflight forum). Due to space's commercialization, these costs are lowering and attempts have reached lunar orbit, but none have successfully landed. The cost goes up at least 5x when placing a system on Mars. Thus, it's uneconomical to transport wire or even its raw materials. Power beaming is a realistic solution.
The system will be deployable in minutes, restoring power to critical areas. Applications include temporary power to distressed areas damaged by war or natural disasters and power distribution at temporary remote depots, which allow the depots to be set up and removed rapidly. This capability should be of interest to DOD. FEMA may also be interested in the temporary power capability.
In response to the NASA SBIR topic Z1.05-1 “Radiation-Tolerant, High-Voltage Converters for Lunar and Mars Missions”, Alphacore Inc. will develop a 1kW, 100-Vdc to 1,000-Vdc radiation-tolerant, bidirectional, high-voltage, high-gain, lightweight, high-efficiency, DC-DC converter based on a mixed-signal (analog/digital) power management integrated circuit (PMIC) driving external Wide Band Gap (WBG) gallium nitride (GaN) or silicon carbide (SiC) field effect transistors (FETs) and passive components (inductors, transformers, capacitors). Other important characteristics are wide temperature (-150 ºC to 150 ºC) operation, high power density (>2 kW/kg), and high efficiency (>96%). While WBG discrete FETs are to some degree radiation-tolerant, their control/drive integrated circuits (ICs) are not. Alphacore PMIC satisfies the need for a radiation-tolerant, high-voltage, high-gain, lightweight controller/driver of WBG power FETs.
The developed PMIC will have a reduced component count, enabling reduced failure modes, and smaller area of PCB (printed circuit board). It will include over-voltage protection, fault tolerance, load monitoring, as well as allow control and status monitoring by a remote power system controller. This PMIC includes all controller circuitry and drivers integrated in a single package and drives an external WBG-based power stage.
These PMICs will bring significant value to Lunar and Planetary Surface Power Management and Distribution as well as NASA Programs and Directorates, including Aeronautics, Human Exploration, Science, Space Technology, Artemis, and Gateway, among others. The PMIC will enable NASA Decadal Strategy for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023-2032 per following examples. Artemis Base Camp power systems. Mars power system concepts. Lucy and Psyche solar arrays for power. Radioactive decay electric power. Future solar power generation and storage.
Target applications include high-voltage power switching and power conversion, grid power and battery chargers for electric cars. The rise in demand for telecommunications, autonomous and electric vehicles, and industrial robots is expected to be a significant driver to commercial market segments. Alphacore’s PMIC fulfills all those needs, with specifications that exceed its known competitors.
This SBIR Phase I project will develop lightweight, high-strength, temperature-resilient copper-based cabling derived from a facile manufacturing process. In previous work, large volumetric fractions of gold, silver, and copper nanoparticles (NPs) were incorporated into a porous aramid nanofiber (ANF) matrix to realize films that have high electrical conductivity, yet maintain superior mechanical strength, properties that are usually hard to achieve simultaneously. Furthermore, the composite films demonstrate excellent flexibility, which is superior to other related classes of reported flexible conductors includng carbon based nanomaterials (CNTs and graphene) and other metallic nanomaterials. The unique network structure enables high electrical conductivity and robust mechanical behavior of the metal-ANF films. Most pertinently for mass-restrictive applications, we previously demonstrated that planar copper-ANF composites had ~90 % less mass density than solid copper, but with electrical properties (conductivity, ampacity) that were at least 33 % of the bulk value. During Phase I, we will extend the previous demonstrations done with planar conductors to copper-ANF cylindrical and hollow wires that are relevant to planetary power-handling that require mass-efficient, environmentally-robust materials. We will first find the lower limits of achievable mass that still provides acceptable conductivity, ampacity, and strength in both cylindrical and polygonal cross-sectional solids. We will then characterize the conductive and insulating properties of self-insulated solids, in which the ANF can be functionalized with various levels of conductivity. Finally, we will design manufacturing tools to scale-up the production of the solids.
The high-strength, reduced mass conductor material modality is multi-use and cross-cutting for a broad range of NASA mission applications, whether that includes hybrid electric aeronautical craft or spacecraft. For space applications, the innovation can be used for sample-return spacecraft bodies, planetary surface power, large-scale spacecraft prime power, small-scale robotic probe power, and small-sat power. For aeronautical applications, the low-mass wiring can efficiently distribute power to aircraft propulsors with minimal mass overhead.
Lightweight metals can substantially impact the terrestrial electric vehicle and power-transmission markets. Energy storage systems must be flexible, robust, lightweight, and exhibit superior electrochemical activity. Furthermore, robust, flexible conductors are needed to meet the rapidly growing demand in smart sensors, roll-up displays, and other applications with unconventional form factors.