Future human extraterrestrial missions will require export and landing of countless payloads on the lunar and Martian surfaces. Such a quantity and rate of payload delivery will require cost-effective and rapid manufacturing of many large Thermal Protection Systems (TPS). IOS proposes to develop a modular system for in-situ bonding and curing of thermoset resin to the spacecraft structure to facilitate automated manufacturing of TPS. This system will be compatible with additive manufacturing techniques, high-temperature thermoset resins, and composite substrates currently in use and under development by NASA, SpaceX, and others. Our system, combing in-line IR gelation of the resin extrudate and in-situ c-staging, will eliminate the need for large ovens or autoclaves. By leveraging advances in out of autoclave curing methods our system will enable curing of additively manufactured high temperature thermoset resin based TPS in-situ. An infrared heat source mounted directly on the print head will rapidly gel the extrudate as it leaves the nozzle, enabling multi-layer printing. Upon completion of the printing process, a modular system of conductive heat blankets, conforming to the surface contours of the structure will control final cure of the thermoset. The system will measure the temperature of the resin and provide feedback control and log thermal history during curing. In-line surface activation with a corona generator will ensure strong bonding to the underlying substrate and at layer interfaces.
Validation of the system will be performed by measuring the degree of cure of in-situ cured samples and measurement of bond strength. We anticipate in-situ cured samples to achieve a high degree of cure, char yield, glass transition temperature, and bond strength, comparable to traditionally cured resins. Target end points for Phase I work are deviation of no more than 10% between in-situ cured and control cured resins.
Potential applications for NASA include human missions to both the moon and Mars. Such missions will require TPS to protect both crew and cargo from heat during hypersonic flight. The advanced TPS production technology developed in this project will be applicable to the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate’s (HEO) Orion spacecraft and commercial spaceflight. Further development of the technique will enable 3D printing and automated production of high temperature resilient parts and molds on Earth, the moon, and Mars.
Commercial Space programs like SpaceX will benefit from advanced TPS manufacturing processes being developed by NASA. The proposed system will enable the parallelized and rapid production of heat shields required for interplanetary colonization. Additionally, this technology could enable commercial thermoset resin 3D printing technology and impact the advanced manufacturing market as a whole.
The aim of the proposed program is to design metasurface structures to manipulate electromagnetic waves of extremely different frequencies, from visible light to THz.
Potential NASA applications include all future systems for which SWaP reduction is critical.
This could include systems similar to the JPL Far Infrared Limb Observing Spectrometer (FILOS), any broadly-multispectral Cubesat missions, and potentially in astronomical observation platforms.
In each case, the benefit to the NASA program is the reduced payload affected by using multiplexed optics to observe multiple channels at once.
Potential non-NASA applications include product space in both the US DoD, personal, and Homeland Security spheres.
If the proof of concept can be demonstrated in the NASA program, the team could extend the technology to near-infrared as well as millimeter-wave regimes, both of which are useful in body scanning and threat detection.
En’Urga Inc. will evaluate the feasibility of utilizing Planar Chemiluminescence Absorption Tomography (PCAT) to characterize the combustion process at the exit plane of rotating detonation engines . The two key issues that will be addressed during the Phase I work are: (1) the feasibility of non-intrusive determination of planar temperatures and pressures using a high-frequency PCAT system and (2) validation of the diagnostic system in the exhaust plume of an at University of Michigan.
Three Phase I tasks are planned to address the feasibility of the proposed diagnostics. The first task is to configure a PCAT system with high-speed linear arrays. The second task is to develop an algorithm to obtain planar temperatures and pressures in the exhaust region of an . The final task is to evaluate the system in an RDE test bed at the University of Michigan. It is anticipated that at the end of the Phase I work, the feasibility of utilizing planar chemiluminescence absorption tomography to evaluate the state of combustion in a RDE at very high frequencies will be fully demonstrated. For Phase II work, a prototype PCAT system that can utilize the same technique inside the combustion chamber in the presence of a bluff body will be fabricated, evaluated, and delivered to the MSFC for use in their test facilities.
The primary NASA application of the proposed emission tomography system is for obtaining validation data from rotating detonation engines. The Phase II prototype instrument that is delivered to NASA can be directly utilized in the test facilities at MSFC. Additionally, the same system can be used in other NASA facilities to study rocket engine nozzles and propulsion components that are critical to NASA’s mission.
There are two major commercial applications for the proposed PCAT system. The first is in the characterization of the combustion process in RDEs. These engines will have to be tested for design validation as well as quality audit purposes. This market is expanding rapidly with the number of papers in this area increasing exponentially.
Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) and Western Washington University (WWU) propose to develop the “Resin Additive Manufacturing Processed Thermal Protection System” (RAMP TPS), an in-situ cured, additively manufactured, spacecraft heat shield material and process. RAMP TPS uses Direct Ink Writing (DIW) of an optimized benzoxazine resin-based compound, filled with carbon fibers, silica micro-balloons, cure accelerators, and viscosity modifiers. Current TPS systems are expensive to produce, and they make various compromises in their heat shield performance properties. The RAMP TPS effort will leverage automation techniques borrowed from 3D printing, along with state of the art heat shield materials, while adding the ability to cure in-situ during robotic deposition. RAMP TPS will offer superior mass-effectiveness through optimized material composition as well as graded low density printed core structures. While conventional TPS resins can require hours for an oven cure process, WWU’s Benzoxazine formulation will use accelerator additives to chemically set within minutes of deposition using the heat supplied by TUI’s feedhead assembly. Initial heat shield performance characterization will be performed using density, strain at break, thermal conductivity, TGA measurements, and thermo-oxidative ablation testing with an oxy-acetylene torch. This novel heat shield technology will have near term applications in lowering the cost of high-performance spacecraft production, as well as future applications within TUI’s in-space processes for automated production and servicing of re-entry vehicles.
RAMP TPS technology will enable cost-effective production of advanced thermal protection shields for a range of re-entry applications, including lunar exploration missions, Mars sampling missions, and asteroid sampling missions such as OSIRIS-Rex.
RAMP TPS could enable rapid, cost-effective production of thermal protection shields for ICBM re-entry bodies. It will also enable in-space production of large aerobrakes to support commercial ventures to obtain lunar resources such as water from the lunar poles and deliver it to propellant depots in LEO using aerobraking techniques.
We propose to construct a multispectral MWIR light source consisting of a single silicon chip which will generate and combine light from a wide MWIR spectral range. Compared to existing conventional MWIR emitters, we will significantly broaden the available wavelength emission range and combine light on-chip, removing the need for free-space optics.
Urine testing is an effective method for routine health monitoring. Spectroscopy-based urine test offers a highly sensitive and accurate urine test method with much less clinical lab equipment requirement. Existing spectroscopy urine test systems are still bulky, heavy, costly, and with high power consumption and thus not suitable for astronaut health monitoring in space. Photonics integrated circuits (PIC) can integrate numerous photonics devices with a great variety of functionalities in a single ultra-small chip, offering ultra-high performance with extremely low power consumption and significantly improved reliability. This STTR project aims to leverage the advantages provided by cutting-edge PIC technologies and develop a miniature on-chip urine test system with significantly reduced size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) and improved reliability for routine astronaut health monitoring.
In phase, I, the proposed PIC-enabled on-chip urine test system will be evaluated and compared with existing technologies. Optimal design of the PIC based broadband spectroscopic urine test system with high performance and ultra-low SWaP will be obtained.
In Phase II, a prototype of the miniature PIC-based broadband spectroscopic urine test system with ultra-low SWaP will be developed and tested. Urine testing with high sensitivity and high accuracy will be demonstrated.
The PIC-based on chip urine test system enables high sensitivity and high reliability urine test with significantly reduced SWaP suitable for space missions. It provides a portable clinical analysis tool for routine astronaut health monitoring with high sensitivity and high accuracy. The on-chip spectroscopy material measurement method can also be used other NASA applications such as water quality monitoring, lab on a chip experiment in space, and space fuel quality measurement.
Portable clinic urine test, blood glucose measurement, and routine health check, etc. portable high spectral resolution chemical and biological solution analysis for chemical solution identification and contamination analysis. High spectral definition IR spectroscopy in a liquid phase. Medical diagnoses, chemical solution process control, and drug monitoring.
As the desire to look deeper in space and image multiple objects simultaneously continues to grow, the need for larger telescopes is raised. With this increase in aperture size, the instrumentation size is increased proportionally and the cost of this instrumentation is proportionally squared. With advances in photonic technologies this can be accomplished on a fully integrated chip. Integrated photonics have the potential to greatly impact NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) because of the reduced SWaP and cost. Various applications, from sensing to high speed communications, can benefit from integrated photonics. Current astrophotonic spectrometers have a limited operational bandwidth of ≤ 200 nm, channel spacing of ≥ 1.5 nm, and a limited linewidth of ≥ 0.15 nm. These devices also have large optical loss, relatively large footprints, and require off-chip detection. Lynntech proposes an integrated photonic crystal spectrometer with on-chip photodetection. This device will offer improvements in all the categories above, as well as, on-chip photodetection, multimode input, and spectral filtering. The Phase I project will target a feasibility demonstration of the proposed integrated spectrometer for multimode input, larger operational bandwidth, and spectral filtering. The Phase II project will develop and demonstrate the full resolution device that can be incorporated with large ground based telescopes and cube-sats.
Lynntech’s integrated multi-mode photonic crystal spectrometer with on-chip photodetection provides size, weight, and power benefits, as well as, cost savings for the following NASA applications: (1) Large ground based telescopes, (2) Use in nano-sats and cube-sats, and (3) portable sensing of chemicals and biological matter by absorption spectra.
The integrated multi-mode photonic crystal spectrometer with on-chip photodetection can be used in the commercial market in portable sensing applications such as chemical and biological sensing, as well as, spectral characterization of different materials.
CU Aerospace (CUA) and the University of Michigan (UM) propose the development of the Cycle Automated Mass Flow (CAMFlow) system for reliable and well-regulated flow control. CAMFlow uses an innovative control scheme that enables stable operation using only Boolean valve states, even for the low flow rates necessary for sub-kilowatt Hall effect thrusters. This methodology removes system complexity and places the onus of reliability almost entirely on valve cycle life. The CAMFlow control scheme was successfully implemented in CHIPS, a TRL 5 warm gas thruster produced by CUA through previous NASA SBIR work. As a result, design tools and calculators are already in place for the development and tuning of a system for low flow rate xenon. Phase I and future Phase II CAMFlow units will be focused towards smaller Hall-effect or gridded-ion electric propulsion systems having a flow rate in the 0 – 5 mg/s range, however the technology is broadly applicable over a larger range of flow rates for a broader commercial market. The system will be designed and fabricated with size, functionality, risk tolerance, and cost considerations appropriate for NASA Class-D missions. In Phase I, a breadboard system will be fabricated and tested by CUA, followed by integrated Hall thruster testing and validation at UM. CUA anticipates delivering to NASA an integrated flow control system by the end of Phase II.
CAMFlow systems can support NASA applications by both directly enabling gas fed systems including lower power Hall effect thrusters in Class-D missions. CAMFlow is already implemented in the CUA CubeSat High Impulse Propulsion System (CHIPS), providing constant pressure feed while the thruster switches between cold and warm gas modes, and fires up to 4 attitude control thrusters. Depending on tuning, a standalone CAMFlow systems can provide steady, regulated flow for primary propulsion and other mission critical devices.
Aside from the general application of gas-fed propulsion systems, CAMFlow can also enable some unique ground testing opportunities. With open and closed loop control, along with the potential to use process variables aside from pressure, CAMFlow can help aid in the development of alternative control schemes a wide variety of fluid flow systems.
The objective of this Phase I STTR proposal is to develop a first prototype of a digital assistant to support NASA engineers in space mission engineering and design tasks in Pre-Phase A and Phase A mission studies. This technology will: 1) increase the quality and diversity of the designs explored during early stage mission concept studies; 2) decrease the time and resources it takes to perform such studies; and 3) reduce the cognitive workload of systems engineers while performing such studies. While digital assistants are ubiquitous today in our daily lives, they are still to be adopted by aerospace organizations. With the societal push from assistants such as Google Home, Alexa, Siri, etc., and given recent advances in machine learning and natural language processing, the time is ripe for such adoption. This technology has the potential to save NASA millions of dollars by reducing design effort and helping NASA identify better system designs faster. This proposal addresses topic T11.04 Digital Assistants for Science and Engineering of the 2019 SBIR/STTR solicitation.
While the proposed application for Phase I is early design of Earth observing missions, this technology has the potential to be applied throughout the project lifecycle and across NASA’s portfolio of projects, from small CubeSat missions to large flagship missions. Substantial code reuse should be possible across projects, as the required functionalities (searching across databases, using engineering models) stay the same and only the sources of information and interfaces with them change.
Mycroft’s technology is broadly applicable as a general intelligent assistant that can be adapted to use cases such as healthcare, automotive, room and building control, and more based upon the skills integrated into it. The NLP and embodiment for the assistant developed for this proposal are made to be general purpose implementations that are easily transferred to other use cases.
Silver is used as a biocide for disinfection in the water treatment and supply system of spacecraft. However, its short lifetime result in high operating costs and risk of biofilm development. The innovation of this NASA STTR project relies on the development of novel surface coating chemistries able to extend the lifetime of nanosilver-based antimicrobial coatings, used in water treatment systems of spacecraft, without affecting their anti-biofouling performance. The overarching hypothesis is that silver nanoparticles can be passivated by partial sulfidation, forming Ag/Ag2S core-shell structures with low silver leaching rate but excellent long-term biocidal properties. This project will the optimal physicochemical properties that balance dissolution rate and biocidal activity in nanosilver. Then, we will develop the in situ nucleation and passivation conditions able to generate the desired particle properties on stainless steel and surfaces relevant for spacer water treatment systems. Dissolution rate, biocidal properties, and biofilm development kinetic will be followed over time to demonstrate the long-term performance of the partially sulfidized nanosilver coatings. The results of this project will lead to the development of a passivated surface coating generator technology to be used in spacecraft systems for sustained biofouling control.
U.S. space exploration missions have long considered returning to the Moon and exploration of Mars that challenge life support systems. A potable water treatment process is needed to prevent microbial growth in the water storage and distribution system for long duration missions. Silver ions have been proven by NASA to be effective for microbial control, however, there remain significant challenges on its fast dissolution rate for an effective solution at preventing biofilm formation.
Water treatment and medical is the biggest end-use applications of antimicrobial coatings. Medical professionals and manufacturers are increasingly incorporating silver into a wide array of applications, including wound and burn care, consumer appliances, textiles and clothing, wood preservation, water purification, commercial food and beverage preparation, furniture, building materials and more.
Emergent Space Technologies (Emergent) proposes to develop ROBOT, the Rules Oriented Blockchain Operations Transactor. ROBOT extends Blockchain technology to the space domain, enabling essential autonomy for distributed spacecraft resource scheduling and tasking. In the ground segment of federated systems, where NASA does not control all resources, ROBOT enables system users to securely and transparently task the system in an intuitive way. ROBOT also ensures the rapid deconfliction of competing requirements, rapid re-tasking of surplus resources, and the transparency and integrity of established scheduling commitments, helping to maintain the confidence of a diverse user base, while ensuring resiliency against tampering at the user level of access. Notably, through its ruleset, ROBOT enables the establishment of incentives which reduce waste in system utilization. The proposed system also utilizes blockchain technology to enable secure, autonomous, distributed tasking in the space segment.
The implementation of ROBOT dramatically reduces problems typical of many existing blockchain solutions, such as slow transaction rate, excessively large file sizes, and concurrency limitations. Our research partner, UTSA, facilitates the achievement of these technical goals in the Systems Engineering periods of the project by deploying their globally recognized experts in cybersecurity and Blockchain technology, creating a lean, custom, permissioned system designed from the ground up for efficiency in an embedded environment. The ROBOT design prototype, resulting from Phase-I demonstrates the successful mitigation of typical blockchain limitations, while the Phase-II final prototype demonstrates these limitations have been fully overcome in the final implementation that will progress to operational deployment in systems with clusters or constellation type space segments and distributed federated ground segments.
The development and delivery of ROBOT is specifically designed to provide NASA and its partner organizations the capability to rapidly create secure blockchain applications that support distributed systems with minimal cost and effort. This system will allow NASA to focus its valuable and limited developmental resources on higher priority elements of future projects, such as unique data analytics and instrument development that are the core reason for developing and deploying a new system.
ROBOT provides any organization the capability to rapidly create secure blockchain applications that support distributed systems with reduced cost, effort and error. This system will allow any organization to focus its valuable developmental resources on their own onboard device management and mission-unique applications rather than re-creating complex protocols with each new project.
When NASA constructs the Moon to Mars Gateway, teams of engineers from different NASA centers, different contractors and international partners will work together. System engineering spans across different countries and its contractors. There is a need to store the MBSE models securely in a distributive manner while enabling a single, real-time source of truth for the system models to eliminate and minimize several sources of errors and inefficiencies. These MBSE models have highly collaborative and complicated ecosystems with multiple participating partners that call for sophisticated security, trust, and privacy models. Blockchain can be used as the backbone for the technical solutions. However, blockchain technologies are not monolithic and different blockchain provide varying relative merits that can be categorized by different features such as consensus algorithms, permission models, smart contracts, asset managements, transaction performances, etc. In this project, we propose to first investigate and research existing NASA MBSE projects and blockchain technologies to construct a MBSE-centric taxonomy of blockchains. Based on the result, a proof of concept prototype will then be identified, specified, designed, and implemented to experiment with various features, especially those associated with our long-term view of a blockchain solution in which multiple inter- and intra- organizational blockchains interact with each other, with users, and with other forms of storages of the MBSE-models. The result of the project will be used to design a production blockchain-based MBSE system for aerospace applications.
Every MBSE project that has a distributed team which spans across multiple NASA centers and different contractors would need blockchain driven MBSE. Examples are the Moon to Mars Gateway, Orion, Space Launch System, Europa Clipper, and WFIRST (Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope).
In the non-NASA commercial area, the same scenarios apply. DoD and DoE have many programs that span cross its field centers and involve different contractors. When performing MBSE among a distributed team in various locations and organization, the blockchain MBSE system would be a good fit.
The proposed innovation is a new simulation tool for NASA’s prediction and mitigation of hazardous electric fields created within the payload enclosure and similar electromagnetic field cavities of a launch vehicle and a spacecraft. The research will extend existing statistical power balance modeling methods to specific NASA requirements, including 1) Mapping the different electric field strengths in different regions of the fairing and other complex shaped cavities, due to internal transmitters and operating avionics, 2) Statistically rigorous prediction of the maximum expected electric field in the cavity and/or common mode current in a conductor, even for electrically small, under-moded cavities, 3) Optimization of acoustic and thermal blanketing for shielding effectiveness and RF attenuation.
Phase I will progress the technology TRL from level 4 to 5. The follow-on Phase II effort will meet NASA-specific requirements for prediction of radiation-induced currents in cable bundles, with different cable shielding and grounding design strategies. Radiation sources can include lightning strike and/or electrostatic discharge (ESD). The Phase II work plan will be designed progress the technology TRL from level 5 to 7.
All NASA spacecraft and launch vehicles, particularly those with hardware sensitive to electric fields, will benefit from launch and ascent risk reduction. It is also applicable to on-orbit spacecraft performance. The proposed new technology is a key enabler for NASA to more safely and cost-effectively “tailor” EM environment specifications. So this technology has potential application to nearly all NASA programs.
Navy applications include submarines, surface ships and unmanned underwater vehicles. Army / Air Force applications include military aircraft, rotor craft and unmanned aerial vehicles. Non-government markets include automobiles with increasingly sophisticated control and communications networks, commercial aircraft, medical devices, wireless communications, consumer electronics and appliances.
Urban Air Mobility (UAM) aircraft development, enabled by Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), is transforming the aerospace industry by providing on-demand, affordable, quiet, and fast passenger-carrying operations in metropolitan areas. Designing and producing safe reliable UAM aircraft is particularly challenging given the relative infancy of electric propulsion for aeronautical applications, and that the complex aeromechanics associated with multi-rotor and ducted propulsors interacting with each other and the airframe impacts fatigue, performance, control and handling qualities. As UAM aircraft concepts start to mature to the point that sub-scale demonstrators and proof-of-concept aircraft are being developed, there is a need for improved analysis tools, to support more detailed design, control law and control system development and testing. Unfortunately, the current generation of CFD-based high fidelity tools is unsuitable for many design and analysis applications due to cost, expertise and setup requirements. To directly address this market need, the team of Continuum Dynamics, Inc. and Georgia Institute of Technology proposes to build upon ongoing work for NASA and the Department of Defense to develop a suite of mid-fidelity aeromechanics tools that directly address modelling assumptions and limitations of current and emerging design tools without being as costly as contemporary high fidelity overset CFD-based approaches.
The proposed effort supports several of NASA ARMD’s Strategic Thrusts ( #3 - Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles and #4 - Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion) and ongoing Advanced Air Vehicle Program (AAVP) projects (the Advanced Air Transport Technologies (AATT) project, the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP), and the Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technologies (RVLT) project. The proposed analysis tool will be able to assist in the design and evaluation of new configurations.
The proposed effort will produce a CFD-level mid-fidelity aeromechanics analysis tool for DEP and UAM aircraft, in addition to conventional and advanced rotorcraft. Commercialization opportunities are anticipated from licensing the new modeling tool and providing related support and engineering services in support of UBER Elevate, DoD’s Future Vehicle Lift and other current and future projects.
This program will develop a communication-less solution to decentralized control and task coordination for multi-agent systems (MAS). Reducing the operational burden of MAS swarms on human operators will greatly improve the capability of spacecraft constellations and distant planetary explorations. The proposed solution would guide the MAS towards a cost minimized set of actions by performing gradient descent on Game Theory models for individual agents. In this setup, convergence is achieved when the MAS reaches a Nash equilibrium. Game Theory models are commonly found in nature and can be expressed as traditional optimization problems. The novel algorithmic solution will be executed on each agent’s processor in a MAS in order to observe the local environment and other nearby agents. The local algorithms will be derived from online and stochastic optimization methods. Convergence to the Nash equilibrium will be proved under conditions of noisy and uncertain observations, including the case of communication-less coordination. Precise, non-asymptotic convergence bounds will be proved. Multiple game models will be designed for different coordination tasks, system architectures, and hardware.
The developed communication-less coordination and control applies to NASA's ongoing development of MAS that operate in close proximity to one another. This includes future solutions such as the Mars Helicopter or JPL’s PUFFER robots. The primary goal is to provide a software framework that uses shared potential functions, game models, and individual observations to facilitate communication-less, or very limited communication for coordination between agents in a MAS. The swarming MAS would be composed of homogeneous agents.
Non-NASA applications for this technology include integration into a variety of multi-agent autonomous vehicle systems. This includes applications such as precision agriculture UAVs, LEO communication satellite constellations and mine or industrial site inspection. Non-NASA government applications include UAVs and ground vehicles for defense and surveillance as well as search and rescue.
Li–S/Li-O2 batteries have great potential to meet requirements of energy storage systems for Electrified Aircraft propulsion applications. However, due to the need for oxygen gas storage and supply systems, the complicit balance of plant significantly decreases both gravimetric and volumetric energy density of Li-O2 battery systems. Li-S battery with a theoretical specific energy of 2600 Wh/kg is one of the highest known using non-gaseous constituents. Before expand their market potential, however, one main obstacle – “rapid capacity fade on cycling” due to shuttling effect and volumetric change, has to be resolved. In phase I, Chemtronergy and the University of Utah propose to develop an all solid-state Li-S battery (ASSLSB) based on a novel highly conductive thin polymer/mineral composite electrolyte developed by UU, a high performance sulfur cathode, and an industrial roll-to-roll battery manufacturing process. Successful development of the solid-state composite electrolytes and high performance sulfur cathode will eliminate the use of flammable organic substances in the electrolyte and will suppress the polysulfide dissolution and lithium dendrite formation, making the Li-S batteries safer and durable.
Through improving cycle life and safety, the proposed all solid state Li-S battery will address the key limitation for space applications. With high safety and long cycle life, ASSLSB would meet multi-use or cross platform space energy storage applications, and result in significant mass and volume savings and operational flexibility, including Electrical Aircraft propulsion (EAP), EVA space suits and tools, human example, lunar and martian landers, science platforms and surface solar arrays.
The proposed ASSLSB can be widely used in consumer electronic, electric vehicles and charging stations, tourist coaches, yachts, wind and solar energy storage power, traffic signals, solar hybrid street lighting, UPS power supply, home energy storage, coal miner, disaster relief emergency, communication base stations, telecommunications, etc.
Today many spacecraft carry two propulsion options: high thrust required for high acceleration maneuvers such as orbit insertion and rapid response; and low thrust required for station keeping and less critical maneuvers. A new class of non-toxic monopropellants, such as AF-M315E and LMP-103S, perform well in both high and low thrust regimes. Significant investments are maturing both monopropellants into propulsion systems tailored for each option. Of interest is leveraging these new technologies into a common propellant, dual mode propulsion system with integrated system design and performance.
In support of this concept, Plasma Processes will design an AF-M315E-based dual mode propulsion system in cooperation with Georgia Tech. The baseline system is an extended 4-unit CubeSat propulsion module with four 100 mN thrusters for roll, pitch, and yaw maneuvers; and one 5N thruster for Delta-V maneuvers. The propulsion module is easily expanded to an 8-unit module, allowing for more propellant and longer missions.
Non-toxic monopropellants are positioned to provide increased mission safety, reduced life cycle costs, and increased performance over state-of-the-art alternatives. From a spacecraft perspective, a single propellant, dual mode propulsion system can reduce weight and volume, allowing for more payload and greater propulsion flexibility. From a mission perspective, the technology facilitates the use of less expensive launch vehicles, less stringent launch requirements, and transfer to desired orbit. This concept enables frequent low-cost missions allowing for iteration and opportunities to improve technologies.
Interplanetary Deep Space Exploration (AEOLUS, CUVE, CHARIOT), Asteroid Exploration (ROSS, APEX), Lunar Exploration (CUBEX), Earth Science & Observation
Earth Observation (PLANET LABS), Satellite De-Orbit De-commissioning & Escape Orbits, Global Connectivity (OneWeb, STARLINK/SpaceX, Athena/Facebook), Science & Technology Missions (NOAA), Low Cost Launch Providers
Technology currently used for terrestrial navigation is extremely limited in the challenging environments on icy moons and ocean worlds such as Europa. Autonomous platforms used to collect data from beneath these ice and ocean surfaces cannot depend on access to satellite or any other electromagnetic communication. Autonomous systems in these environments are required to perform highly-complex tasks over long mission durations through which communication blackout can be expected, and therefore must have access to precise navigation and localization information. Sensor fusion of standard sensing technology such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, doppler velocity logs, and magnetometers must be augmented with more advanced navigation techniques such as novel acoustic approaches, visual navigation and advanced path planning to meet the requirements of these missions. Here we propose to develop such a navigation and path planning system to advance the autonomous capabilities of a robotic system deployed to remote icy moons and ocean planets using tools commonly used in terrestrial applications such as visual navigation, factor graphs, and deep learning. This technology will maximize the science return for future missions to these moons and planets, as well as advance the state-of-the-art technology available for earth science applications.
1. Navigation of Europa Sub-ice Probes and Other Sub-Ice Planetary Probes
2. National Airspace Security
1. Under-ice Navigation at the Poles and Commercial Sector UUVs
2. Autonomous Car Navigation
Here we propose developing a spectrometer where the light is separated and channelized by an photonic integrated circuit (PIC) and is then detected by an energy-resolving superconducting detector. The instrument would be a radical new type of high resolution spectrograph applicable for both multi-object and integral field unit (IFU) spectroscopy and other fiber-fed light applications. Our goal is to create a high resolution multi-object spectrograph (HRMOS) by marrying two breakthrough technologies, ultra-low loss arrayed waveguide gratings (AWG) and Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors, or MKIDs. MKIDs can determine the energy of each arriving photon without read noise or dark current, and with high temporal resolution. The AWG allows us to disperse light from the telescope, in a compact way and to position the dispersed light into numerous output channels which we can advantageously position (i.e. dispersed not just by the angle at which it diffracts off a prism or grating). The MKID allows us to distinguish between the orders in the disperse light contained within the channels, eliminated the need for a cross-disperser. In other words, the energy resolution of the MKID allows us to determine which echelle order the photon came from.
The most promising application for the High Resolution Photonic MKIDS Spectrograph is for High Dispersion Coronagraphy (HDC) for the detection and characterization of exoplanets. Having many fibers in a high resolution spectrograph instead of one allows HDC to go from being a follow-up technique only to an incredibly powerful tool for both detection and characterization. Another science application is looking at resolved stellar populations with adaptive optics across the local group, but increasing the observational efficiency by 100×.
The development of broadband high-resolution visible wavelengths spectrometers find increasing applications in the life sciences and medical field, including spectral tissue sensing and optical coherence tomography. By developing a high-performance and low CSWAP spectrometer we expect a broad adoption of the integrated photonic thechnology in such fields.
We propose the development of a user-friendly software tool for estimating the electric field distributions within spacecraft enclosures based on the Power Balance (PwB) method and enhanced by a database of experimentally determined Absorption Cross-Sections (ACS) of common equipment, components and cables.
The software will be built around an already developed PwB solver that determines the statistical properties of fields for an arbitrary enclosure or multiple adjoined enclosures filled with a variety of objects and containing multiple apertures of varying dimension. The effectiveness of the PwB solver will be augmented by a user-friendly GUI that allows users to interactively define cavities through point and click operations in an already commercially successful product. The cavities can either be canonical in nature or based upon high fidelity CAD models of the spacecraft enclosures. A critical aspect of accurately predicting the statistical distribution of electric fields in a cavity is how the cavities are loaded with lossy structures. Without properly accounting for such lossy structures, results from simple PwB approaches can be off by 10’s of dB. Unfortunately, the Absorption Cross-Sections (ACS) of common components found in aerospace platforms are not readily available to analysts. As part of the proposed effort, the ACS of items commonly found in spacecraft enclosures (electronic boards, cables, avionics equipment), as well as the properties of the enclosure’s walls and seams will be characterized via measurements and provided in a database accessible through the software tool’s GUI. Such an enhanced PwB solver could tackle virtually any practical cavity problem, within the applicability boundaries of the PwB method.
NASA has requirements for electric fields due to both external and internal sources. The proposed PwB tool supplemented with measured ACS data would allow NASA to quickly and accurately predict field distributions in loaded cavities to assess potential problems early in the design cycle. The tool would also allow NASA to consider different mitigation strategies when problems were identified in the simulations. The proposed PwB tool would greatly reduce the amount of testing required and result in major cost savings for NASA.
While specific requirements may vary between applications, the rest of the aerospace community faces similar challenges that were identified in the solicitation for this topic. Analysts need reliable and fast simulation tools that can be used early in the design cycle for their aerospace platform to predict field distributions in loaded cavities in order to achieve air worthiness certifications.
Suppression of noise from aircraft is a vital NASA goal, especially important for the vision of Urban Air Mobility. Small urban aircraft may utilize Distributed Electric Propulsion along with advanced structural and electric motor/storage technologies to achieve the necessary flight capability. However, these aircraft utilize propellers or fans to achieve the necessary thrust, with attendant community noise issues. We propose to suppress perceived noise, especially during takeoff and landing in urban areas, by limiting the formation of vortical structures near the propulsor tips and trailing edges.
Tip vortices are common for airfoils, best illustrated by aircraft wings. The pressure difference between top and bottom creates a secondary flow, with a resulting vortex that increases noise and reduces lift. Winglets are effective in countering this effect. However, rotating airfoils – propellers and fans – cannot utilize winglets. Instead we propose to limit the secondary flow and tip vortex by utilizing thin, surface-mounted plasma actuators placed near the rotating blade tip.
SurfPlasma Inc. is a world leader in plasma actuator technology, having developed boundary layer control devices for many applications, including technology effective in the control of high speed air flows, relevant to aircraft propulsors even at low vehicle speeds. Also demonstrated is a technique for providing the required voltage to rotating systems. The overall objective of the current project is to demonstrate feasibility of plasma actuator-based flow control in rotating systems in order to achieve significant suppression of rotor-induced noise, without loss of thrust.
Development of this technology will benefit society by helping to enable more efficient intra-city personal transportation, with low infrastructure impact. Noise suppression technology would enhance acceptance of UAM vehicles and increase livability in urban areas and eventually impact larger aircraft and terrestrial fans.
Serpentine DBD actuators are a promising vortex control concept consistent with the mission described by NASA’s Strategic Implementation Plan. In the present proposal, they promise to help enable the vision of UAM by removing community noise as a major obstacle. This technology could in addition benefit many future NASA collaborative projects such as takeoff and landing of the various NASA ARMD N+2 to N+3 concepts, including the D8 Double Bubble, the Blended Wing Body, and the Hybrid Wing Body.
With a potential market size of 500B, about two dozen companies including Boeing, Airbus, and Uber are designing aerial taxi planes. Almost all promise to build an electric aircraft to eliminate noise and pollution associated with helicopters and jetliners. Successful implementation of this technology would help enable them to operate flexibly in many environments, including the UAM scenario.
The objective of this STTR research effort is to demonstrate the use of select metal-organic framework (MOF) constructs as active, multi-analyte sensing element in spacecraft water monitoring systems. MOFs are extended one, two, and three-dimensional coordination networks with uniform porosity and large surface area. The rational selection of both the metal cluster nodes and multi-dentate linkers drive structural attributes as well as introduce environmentally sensitive behavior to the resulting material. Optical, electrochemical, and mechanical properties inherent to MOFs and sensitive to analytes present in a specific environment will be leveraged to design sensors based on NanoSonic’s established nano-membrane-based chemical field effect transistor (ChemFET) platform. NanoSonic will combine analyte-sensitive MOFs designed during this program with our advanced nanotechnology thin-film deposition processes and ChemFET architecture to produce a series of sensors for in situ water quality monitoring.
Water storage health monitoring systems.
The market for such self‐reporting sensor units would include federal government agencies involved in
environmental monitoring and clean‐up, humanitarian aid organizations concerned about local water
quality, the public works departments of local and state governments, industries scrutinized for
environmental compliance, and federal military and security organizations.
IFOS proposes an innovative Brillouin sensing system – B*Sense™ – for enhanced, distributed strain and temperature measurements in harsh environments. Brillouin sensing provides both temperature and strain measurement along the entire length of fiber, allowing the entire fiber to act as a sensor. B*Sense™ will enable identification of defects, such as fatigue cracking or excessive loading, and temperature in structures. Project goals include designing a high-resolution (few cm) miniaturized interrogator based on photonic integrated circuits (PIC), fabricating and demonstrating a test platform, and developing signal processing algorithms. B*Sense™ will enable the effective real-time, in situ strain and temperature profiling of rocket propulsion structures during ground testing.
The innovation will meet NASA’s requirements for improved measurement and analysis techniques for acquisition of real-time data used to determine rocket propulsion system performance during ground testing. The technology can also be used to provide test conductors high-resolution information to safely expand the flight test envelopes of aerospace vehicles and components.
Commercial aviation, the oil and gas industry, and land and marine vehicles will benefit significantly from this technology. The system can also be employed for perimeter monitoring and intrusion detection of large facilities.
Alphacore, with their research partner Vanderbilt University, propose innovative strategies based on a complete system analysis of High Performance Computing (HPC) Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) parts. The use of COTS in space for electronics is a potential significant enabler for many capabilities during a mission. This STTR project will provide a better understanding of the feasibility of COTS electronics for HPC in space environments which are already heavily shielded. The proposed strategies include, but are not limited to, failure modes to mitigate radiation induced impacts to potential HPC systems in those highly shielded space environments, such as manned missions and human habitats.
The methodology includes modeling for an appropriate space relevant environment, plus testing in an appropriate space relevant environment (e.g., in particle beams). Further, since all parts in such HPC systems cannot be tested, we will develop a method for understanding of what parts are susceptible to radiation damage, which is crucial to create the list of potential test candidates.
In Phase I, the Alphacore + Vanderbilt team will develop a plan/strategy explaining a detailed approach solving the problem that helps NASA mitigate radiation induced failures in the HPC system/components, identify COTS equipment that are likely candidates based on environmentally relevant testing, as well as modeling of interior environment and data analysis of similarly known/used approaches like the Orion vehicle testing (EM-1 when released).
An HPC ecosystem is of interest to all major programs in Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) and Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Immediate infusion targets include Mars Fetch Rover, WFIRST/Chronograph, Gateway, SPLICE/Lunar Lander. Desired deliverables with regards to hardware elements include a preliminary detailed design ready for fabrication and productization.
The results from this project will be relevant to any NASA mission or project and any space mission that intends to send humans beyond LEO (Low Earth Orbit) with a High-Performance Computing (HPC) system. An HPC ecosystem is also of interest to Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Immediate infusion targets include Mars Fetch Rover, WFIRST/Chronograph, Gateway, SPLICE/Lunar Lander. This proposal addresses the NASA needs described in the latest 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps such as Space Weather Forecasting.
Private enterprises that have based their business on spaceflight can make use of this technology to reduce their loads when embarking on missions to space. Future constellations of small communications satellites will blanket the Earth with Internet connectivity as well. Other countries are also participating in space exploration driving the global market for radiation hardened electronics.
For NASA's space missions, water must be carried from Earth or generated by fuel cells, for the use of oxygen generation, drinking, food reconstitution, oral hygiene, and hygienic uses (showers, handwashing, and urine flushing). The high launch costs of fresh water to space and environmental health of crewmembers are the two major factors for water reclamation and reuse. Urine is expected to contribute approximately 81.4% of human wastewater in space. Therefore, wastewater treatment systems for spacecraft must address urine wastewater recycling. In addition, each of those three sources will have a variety of contaminants.
Improving the reliability of water recovery capabilities will most directly benefit future long-duration human missions beyond LEO by reducing the amount of spare equipment and emergency supplemental supplies of water that must be launched from Earth to ensure crew survival and mission success. A secondary benefit of increasing water recovery is the reduction in volume of residual brine that must be stored or somehow disposed of.
Therefore, the Nanomatronix and UALR team seek to develop thermally partially reduced graphene oxide membrane-based filtration systems to overcome the issues discussed above. As a one atom thick two-dimensional (2D) carbon sheet, graphene has attracted great attention. As a graphene derivative, graphene oxide (GO) presents a plethora of exciting and promising properties. In our previous study, we demonstrated that partially, thermally reduced graphene oxide (RGO)-based filtration membranes are able to remove KMnO4 with a rejection rate >99%, at a thickness of 500 nm and a permeation rate 13 L h-1 m-2 bar-1, 10 times faster than that of commercial thin-film composite membranes used for desalination. In this proposal, we propose to use our RGO membrane water filtration technology for efficient water recovery of wastewater.
This technology has direct application to wastewater recovery and closed-loop water recovery filtration systems being developed for NASA missions. The need for this technology is anticipated for the following missions: "Into the Solar System: DRM 5 Asteroid Redirect - Crewed in DRO (2022)"; "Exploring Other Worlds: DRM 6 Crewed to NEA, DRM 7 Crewed to Lunar Surface and DRM 8 Crewed to Mars Moons (2027)"; and "Planetary Exploration: DRM 8a Crewed Mars Orbital, DRM 9 Crewed Mars Surface Mission, DRM 9a Crewed Mars Surface Mission (2033)".
Non-NASA related applications of the proposed innovation can include wastewater processing and water filtration membranes. Alternatively, the proposed innovation can find application as a renewable energy membrane (e.g. solar fuel cell, polymer electrolyte fuel cell).
Thin-ply prepregs offer significant improvements in weight reduction, stiffness and overall mechanical properties over traditional composite laminates. Thin plies (<0.05 mm/layer) suppress or delay crack initiation in loaded composite structures thereby allowing for manufacturing of lighter, stiffer and more durable composite products. Recent thin-ply prepreg materials, consisting of toughened epoxy, cyanate ester and bismaleimide (BMI) resins, have been developed specifically for out-of-autoclave (OOA) manufacturing that answers the growing need of aerospace, space and other industries for processing large composite structures at reduced costs.
Touchstone Research Laboratory, Ltd, proposes to manufacture a self-heated composite tool for thin-ply prepreg OOA processing. A high in-plane heat spreader material will be utilized to reduce temperature gradients on the tool surface thus improving cure heat rates and temperature uniformity, which are critical for long span and large surface area composite structures. Touchstone and Clemson University propose to manufacture thin ply composites from unidirectional prepreg tapes for breadboard testing in Phase I and prototype testing in Phase II. Areal weights of the thin ply composites are targeted to be less than 60 g/m². OOA processing of thin ply prepregs potentially eliminate expensive autoclaves and ovens impracticable for manufacturing large structures.
NASA has interest in thin-ply technology for large structures such as deployable booms for solar sails, solar arrays, and communication antennas. Prepreg-based OOA methods are critical for processing next generation heavy launch vehicles. Given the component size and low production volumes, OOA processes are key to keeping costs low. Recent success in developing OOA carbon fiber/BMI prepreg shows that it is possible to achieve satisfactory results for the application.
The general approach and specific technologies developed in this STTR can also be applied to other commercial applications such as Airbus A340 & A380 fixed wing leading edges, keel beam ribs, and Boeing 787 pressure bulkheads. Other military Aerospace and Wind applications that demand high stiffness are also potential candidates.
Research in Flight (RIF) and Auburn University are offering the development of an advanced, robust tool and methodology that allows the simulation and modeling of gust and wake vortex encounters for Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) enabled Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicle concepts. DEP enabled UAM concepts offer the potential for large performance improvements by exploiting favorable synergies between aerodynamics and propulsion through the strategic placement of distributed propulsors. However, on account of their concept of operations, gusts and wake vortex encounters are particular concerns, and may have undesirable impacts on ride quality and structural loads. The new tools developed in this project will enable the study of these encounters in much greater detail and with greater fidelity in the earlier phases of the vehicle design. This will allow potential shortcomings in vehicle designs to be identified earlier in the design cycle and, if necessary, mitigated using gust load alleviation technologies. In this effort, a novel vorticity-based flow solver developed by Research in Flight will be applied to the problem of analyzing gust and wake turbulence encounters for DEP-enabled UAM. This solver is well suited to this problem since it strikes the correct balance between modeling fidelity and computational tractability. It will be used to solve for the aero-propulsive loads on the vehicle as it flies through an atmosphere with spatially and/or temporally varying velocity fields. In the phased approach described in this proposal, successively more physical aspects relevant to the problem will be brought into the fold, such as considerations of flight control systems, gust load alleviation solutions, and the main effects arising from structural flexibility. The result will be the Gust Encounter and Loads (GEL) toolbox within FlightStream and a MATLAB/Simulink tool called the Control and Load Alleviation Simulation Platform (CLASP).
Opterus proposes to develop braided thin ply composite tapes. The tapes will be braided from ultra-thin spread-tow unidirectional carbon and glass ribbons and will enable a new source and form factor for thin-ply textiles. The resulting tapes will be especially useful for thin high strain composite space deployable structures where they will allow bias plies in long parts without requiring seams. The tapes will also be applicable to automated placement processes where it is otherwise challenging to place plies in a bias orientation. In many cases, braided tapes are expected to be higher quality and offer increased design freedom over weaves. The 13 month program will involve analytical braid design, manufacturing of braids, prepregging, composite part fabrication, and coupon testing.
NASA space applications include deployable composite booms used in a range of mission applications. Deployable booms are a fundamental technology need that spans multiple centers and missions. These include solar arrays, solar sails, drag sails, sun shades, instrument booms, radar antennas, and communications antennas. The proposed tapes will also be useful in pressure vessel and air vehicle programs.
Nn-NASA applications and markets primarily parallel those of NASA and include a large and growing commercial space sector and DoD agencies. Additional applications include the wind turbine industry and commodity composite tubes. These applications often require high torsional stiffness which is readily achieved with the bias tapes proposed here.
NASA seeks to provide a highly flexible instrumentation solution to mitigate the propulsion system risks that are inherent in spaceflight. Alphacore and its Research Partner, Arizona State University, will develop a framework for self-calibrating sensors, backed by artificial intelligence with in-field calibration capabilities. Specifically, Alphacore will develop comprehensive in-field calibration tools, including a low-cost MEMS accelerometer reference chip with thermal sensor calibration that does not require application of physical stimulus. In Phase I we will prove the feasibility of our approach by modeling pressure sensor and a capacitive accelerometer, designing electrical tests to correlate with mechanical characteristics, developing an aging simulation framework for the sensors, and designing the parametrizable self-test IP. In Phase II we will fabricate test and prototype circuits that implement and validate the work done in Phase I, as well as extend the concepts developed in Phase I to other types of sensors.
This project will develop methodologies for 2-tier calibration of sensor-based machine learning systems; Front-End Calibration and Software Calibration. The goal of sensor front-end calibration is to maintain highest level of sensor performance throughout the operation. To this end, the sensor hardware is monitored and calibrated continuously in real-time based on the readings built-in self-test monitors. On the software end, there are various mechanisms to continuously monitor and calibrate the machine learning system. Software calibration will be achieved by incorporating the sensor error model into the machine learning system, adaptive boosting, and assigning a confidence level to the decisions made by the machine learning system based on residual error.
NASA seeks to provide a highly flexible instrumentation solution to mitigate the propulsion system risks that are inherent in spaceflight. Alphacore will leverage its silicon-proven high-speed analog and RF design expertise to create a fast, stable and reliable periodic recalibration sensor with superior SWaP-C4 advantages. The sensor tool will enable self-calibration across a range of sensors and sensor types that will reduce system maintenance time and expense that offers improved NASA system performance and reliability.
Applications for DOD and other government customers would include all their sensor-enabled systems A strong commercial market exists for this solution as well. Commercial applications based on end user industry include electronics manufacturing, communication, industrial and automotive, storage systems test and measurement systems and others (power generation and petrochemicals).
Rotating Detonation Engine (RDE) design is challenging due to the lack of in-depth understanding of many key mixing and combustion processes. The RDE flow field is a nonuniform mixture of fuel and oxidizer concentrations with strong injector effects, large turbulence effects, multiple shockwaves, and shear layers. These inhomogeneities can lead to significant combustion inefficiencies which have a pronounced effect on the performance. The proposed research effort will transition state-of-the-art, time-resolved measurement techniques to RDEs to provide new information critical for evaluating the predictive capability of high-fidelity numerical models. This will include ultra-high-speed (100 kHz – 5 MHz) in-situ spatially and temporally resolved imaging of the oxidizer-fuel mixing (quantifying the mixing and local O/F ratio), back mixing of combustion products with fresh propellants, temperature, and species concentrations. This effort will leverage the recent advancements from MHz-rate pulse-burst laser technology for application in rocket RDE environments as well as RDE simulations to enable one-to-one comparison between measured and modeled quantities. The Phase 1 overall goals are twofold: (1) demonstrate a mixing measurement diagnostic in the linear RDE that achieves spatially and temporally resolved images of the fuel mixing and O/F measurements at rates of at least 100 kHz, (2) modeling of the RDE, moving towards anchoring simulations with measurement data. Simulations of an annular, optical RDE, undertaken during Phase 1, will guide the transition and development of additional measurement diagnostics on the annular RDE during Phase 2. The outcomes of the research effort will lead to the development of validated accurate computational tools that can be used for simulation of the laser-based signals, guide diagnostics development, and design RDE technologies.
The proposed work seeks to modernize the measurement technology in RDEs for rocket applications. This includes time and space resolved measurements inside the RDE leveraging new technological developments such as the pulse burst laser. Detailed measurements of the mixing, O/F ratio, quantified deflagration versus detonation, and other key RDE phenomena will be directly compared to numerical simulations to provide boundary conditions and anchor current and future RDE modeling efforts.
Non-NASA applications of the proposed efforts include high-fidelity, spatiotemporal analysis of highly dynamic phenomena and validated modeling. Commercial applications include air-breathing propulsion, stationary power generation, and fundamental research in a wide range of aerothermal flows.
Dynamic gust encounters due to urban terrain and/or neighboring aircraft presents a significant safety hazard for Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) aircraft operating in Urban Air Mobility (UAM) environments. DEP aircraft differ significantly from conventional single main rotor helicopters as they use multiple small rotors distributed over the airframe. If a subset of these rotors experience large variations in inflow, the changing thrust produces upsetting moments in addition to changes in forces. These disturbances have the potential to negatively affect ride quality or result in loss of control. In addition, DEP aircraft have very complex wakes due to multiple rotor systems and aero surfaces that can interact in unforeseen ways with the unsteady wind and wakes near buildings and other nearby DEP aircraft. The proposed effort is to add state-of-the-art, multiple rotorcraft wake and building airwake interaction software previously developed by the proposing team to our advanced DEP aircraft modeling and flight simulation software currently in use by government and industry to provide an additional capability to simulate wake/wind disturbances in urban environments and in proximity to other DEP aircraft with high fidelity within DEP aircraft flight simulation software. The software will also provide a method to alleviate the impact of gust encounters on DEP aircraft early in the design phase through appropriate control law design using new linear model extraction methods.
The proposed DEP aircraft UAM assessment tool will provide a critical component for analysis of vehicle control requirements, pilot-vehicle effects, and gust rejection in terminal area operations, directly supporting NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Strategic Thrust 3 by addressing research themes of Safety, Comfort, Accessibility and ModSim & Test Capability. The technology will support improved passenger comfort and safety during UAM terminal operations using DEP air taxis.
CDI collaborates with DEP aircraft UAM vehicle developers who have an immediate need for the proposed technology to analyze ride quality and maximize safety of terminal area operations during conceptual design. In addition, infrastructure engineering customers will benefit from a validated conceptual design/assessment tool to support UAM terminal site selection, layout, and airspace integration.
Drop stitch reinforced textiles are a subset of 3D woven textiles that are well suited for flexible inflatable composite applications. These flexible composites provide a dimensionally-stable solution for inflatable structures, enabling creation of various deployable foldable shapes and cross-sections. Incorporating pile yarns between face reinforcement layers yields precise control over the inflated thickness of a drop stitch reinforced flexible composite. Inflation pressure and reinforcement pattern contribute to create a stiff structural material. Many of the recent advancements in drop stitch reinforcement technology have been focused on the extension of proven shapes and structures to new applications.
The innovation in this proposal focuses on incorporating structurally-efficient thin plies into the fiber reinforcement in inflatable drop stitch composites. Thin-ply reinforcement will improve absolute and specific in-plane and bending stiffnesses and strengths. These performance improvements are critical to enabling the use of drop stitch reinforced inflatable composites in high-performance applications such as space exploration. Navatek proposes to develop processing methods to incorporate thin-ply reinforcement into lightweight drop stitch inflatable composites, and to develop analysis tools and test methods to quantify the resulting improvement in mechanical performance critical to space applications.
NASA has identified high-performance inflatable structures as technologies that could benefit from thin-ply reinforcement. These potential NASA applications would directly benefit from high-performance, deployable thin-ply inflatable composites with drop stitch reinforcement.
♦ Space habitats (Ice Home Mars Habitat, lunar exploration)
♦ Composite booms; landing struts
♦ Reentry decelerators
♦ Advanced Inflatable Airlock (AIA) for Space Launch Initiative
♦ Expandable activity modules
Lightweight, deployable structures, including:
♦ Expeditionary structures; shelters for disaster relief scenarios
♦ Infrastructure (airplane hangars, maintenance facilities, temporary bridges, docks, causeways)
♦ Aircraft lifting bags; tactical structures (U.S. DoD); Rescue sleds
♦ Consumer marine (boat floors, stand-up paddleboards, inflatable vessels)
Cornerstone Research Group Inc. (CRG) proposes to advance the state-of-the-art in space vehicle Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) through in-situ application and curing of a proprietary new resin technology called MG Resin, a family of thermoset formulations. The resins are being explored with DARPA, MDA, NASA, and the Army for a range of applications including C/C hot structures, TPS, syntactic insulation, and elastomeric rocket motor insulation among others. The materials have demonstrated high char yield, low erosion, and good mechanical performance, and are compatible with a wide variety of fillers and substrates. The overall material system is tunable to meet application, processing, and curing needs. Coupled with fillers, the resins allow a heat shield to be fabricated directly onto the vehicle and built up layer-by-layer for optimal performance to meet mission objectives. Inner layers can be filled with microballoons for insulation, outer layers filled with chopped fiber for strength, and the surface carbonized for improved ablation resistance. The hybrid materials are suitable for automated processing and the combined value is quicker and lower cost production of TPS for space exploration vehicles.
Thermal Protection Systems (TPS)
Foundry Refractory Materials
Fire Smoke and Toxicity Compliant Materials
Accurate navigation is a crucial part of both robotic and crewed exploration of other worlds. For missions to the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, mission planners will require increasingly autonomous guidance systems that support fast, efficient, and agile surface route planning. These navigation systems will rely on access to accurate and regularly updated maps of surface landmarks. In a recent pilot study (Wronkiewicz et al. (2018)), we presented a technique using machine learning to autonomously map surface features (specifically, craters) using satellite images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) ConteXt Camera (CTX). Our method could generate accurate crater maps five orders of magnitude faster and at 10x better resolution than the best manual identification efforts. This result suggests we should further explore methods of autonomously generating surface feature maps as a way to reduce the amount of manual effort needed to chart other bodies in the solar system.
We propose building the tools to efficiently map surface features across both the Moon and Mars. Specifically, we will achieve two main technical objectives: (1) create an open-source, cloud-based, reusable software product that can rapidly apply ML algorithms across large image datasets (e.g., satellite images covering the Moon and Mars) and (2) generate publicly available impact crater maps encompassing the entire surface of Mars and the Moon at ten times better resolution than is provided by existing catalogs. We will open source both the software and data products to encourage future research applying ML for planetary-scale mapping. These maps, and the software used to rapidly generate them, will undergird safe and efficient planetary navigation in a manner that exhibits “higher performance and autonomy than currently possible” (NASA STTR T4.01).
The two technical objectives proposed are immediately usable by NASA. The proposed software product will help NASA leverage machine learning on the cloud to analyze planetary satellite image datasets (e.g., within the PDS). The proposed map products will provide mission planners with initial global martian and lunar maps. Using these as a foundation, NASA can better explore the mapping of additional surface features and investigate automated navigation systems for future robotic and crewed missions.
Machine learning models to detect surface features are applicable to Earth for uses such as monitoring surface changes over time (both natural and anthropogenic). Our model's ability to ingest global datasets and create maps from them could potentially also be applied to map notable features in satellite images of Earth to aid in resource exploration, urban planning, farming. and more.
Water recovery from wastewater sources is key to long duration human exploration missions. Without substantial water recovery, life support system launch weights are practically impossible. Water recovery systems currently used on the international space station (ISS) are complex, involving high temperature and pressures to recycle water from humidity condensate and urine. The process also uses toxic chemicals to stabilize urine and produce brines as byproducts which needs to be safely stored on-board. Therefore, NASA is interested in improving the current water recovery process by reducing complexity, decreasing the number of consumables to carry on-board, improve safety and reliability, and to achieve a higher percentage of water recovery from various water sources including human bio metabolic products. Extensive research work using nanotechnology has resulted in the demonstration of improved catalytic oxidation, microbial control, anti-fouling, disinfection, water quality monitoring, and removal of trace organic and inorganic contaminants from wastewater. This proposed Phase I STTR effort, will demonstrate a new nanotechnology based on photocatalytic decontamination of organics for water recovery application.
The nanoporous catalyst developed in this project will form a subsystem for the purification of water recovered from wastewater generated in crewed space missions.
The nanoporous photocatalyst technology has a wide applicability because it includes not only drinking water treatment but also entire advanced wastewater treatment systems, such as municipal waste water and industrial wastewater
Plasma Controls, LLC (SBC) and Colorado State University (RI) will mature an energy and species plasma diagnostic for use with plasma thrusters. The combined Energy and Velocity Analyzer for Distributions of Electric Rockets, or the ‘E-VADER’, is needed especially for characterizing the plasma plume of Hall thrusters, where researchers desire to know ion energies and charged species fractions emitted from the plume region. When used as a standalone device, traditional species analyzers called ExB probes or Wein filters, which filter particles according to their velocity, can have overlapping signal features due to the unique energy and charge distribution functions of Hall thrusters – specifically wide energy ranges and large concentrations of multiply-charged species. These characteristics make analysis of traditional diagnostic tools impossible. Plasma Controls and CSU will combine an electrostatic energy analyzer (ESA) to the front end of an ExB velocity filter that will allow researchers to measure in high fidelity not only the ion energy per charge distribution (E/q), but also the charge state fraction (q) at any, arbitrarily selected energy. The diagnostic can additionally be used to differentiate charged particles of different mass, such as in modern propellants like water and iodine (distinguishing H+ vs O2+, or I2+ versus I+ for example). The E-VADER probe is tolerant of a wide range of propellants and power density because it is fabricated primarily of graphite, which has an increased resistance to corrosion, sputtering, and heat. We will combine our existing ESA and ExB diagnostics into an easily configurable device for testing in Phase I with an aim toward developing a well-understood, calibrated, trouble-free, and straightforward-to-use research and analysis tool in Phase II for both non-specialist and advanced customers.
E-VADER will allow NASA to measure energy and species fractions in plumes of research and flight thrusters that create charged species with wide energy distribution, such as those generated by state-of-the-art magnetically-shielded Hall thrusters. Furthermore, E-VADER will significantly simplify data analysis, especially in thrusters where traditional approaches to measuring fractions of multiply-charged species fail. Finally, E-VADER can be used on high power devices and on alternative propellants including H2O, I2, Li, Hg and others.
NASA thrusters have plasma source doppelgangers in ground-based plasma processing applications, and the developed diagnostic can be used to characterize the plasma plumes of many devices, including ion sources, end-Hall sources, and magnetrons. In ground-based processing, multiple gas species are used including argon and oxygen, which can be characterized by Plasma Controls’ diagnostic tools.
Addressing the needs of Mars exploration missions in the NASA’s strategic plan will require robust and effective autonomous collaborative operations between heterogeneous assets. These “swarms” may consisting of ground rovers, atmospheric craft and Mars-orbiting satellites. To maximize the satisfaction of overall mission objectives, be tolerant of faults/anomalies, and minimize the time to opportunistically respond to ad-hoc events, assets will need to share a common relevant operating picture (CROP) containing a consistent view of team states, objectives, plans and key events.
Orbit Logic is teamed with the University of Colorado to develop the Mars/Interplanetary Swarm Design and Evaluation Framework (MISDEF). The solution leverages existing, proven tools and software - enabling flexible composition of collaborative mission concepts and then assessing them in an open simulation environment. The initial focus of MISDEF build-out is satellite clusters in Mars orbit, utilizing distributed data fusion (DDF) to maintain a high-degree of orbital state knowledge with minimal (and in some cases zero) data exchange. The solution will also accommodate surface and atmospheric assets. Team awareness is critical to coordinating activities to achieve high-level mission goals while optimizing the use of asset resources. Orbit Logic’s Autonomous Planning System (APS) operates atop the DDF-enabled CROP to perform this decision-making, planning and team orchestration functions.
Missions enabled by collaborative teams of heterogeneous, networked assets including: Planetary surface exploration missions including survey, sampling, sensor-centric characterization. Surface collaborative tasks such as infrastructure construction/repair. Planetary orbital asset collaboration for optimized or event-based space-ground sensor collection and processing. Convoys of spacecraft en-route to solar system destinations, coordinating science gathering and adapting team behaviors to compensate for faults/anomalies.
Collaborative Earth observing satellite constellations, coordinated space/ground sensor systems supporting enhanced space situational awareness, coordination of data chain orchestration for data analytics, collaborative autonomous maritime (surface and underwater) missions, coordination of teams of ground orbits and/or air vehicles for science, search/rescue. Military instantiations of all.
Bacteria and biofilms pose health and operational challenges in human support systems. Germicidal UV-C disinfection using mercury-based lamps is a widely used technology that has numerous safety and reactor configuration disadvantages. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are mercury-free alternative and other advantages are making them competitive and a lower cost alternative for disinfection (e.g. lack of warm up time, tunable radiation, long life of use). However, a crucial technology barrier of LED disinfection is the small surface area that emits irradiation, which necessitates arrays of many LEDs within even the smallest reactor, and thus has been a major limitation to their adoption. We propose a means of increasing the irradiation area of LEDs by >100x through the development of side-emitting optical fibers (SEOF), essentially creating UV-C germicidal flexible glowsticks which can be bundled together with tens of optical fibers delivering light from a single LED. Currently only visible light SEOFs are commercially available. To overcome this wavelength dependent barrier, we recently discovered a nanotechnology-based solution to achieve side-emission from optical fibers in the UV-C range. This is achieved by coating an optical fiber in a new and novel way using shape-, size-, and surface chemistry modified silica nanoparticles that create light-scattering centers on the surface of the fiber. The coated fiber is then overlaid with a UV-C transparent polymer that protects the fiber and prevents nanoparticle release into water and allows germicidal light to enter the water. This STTR proposal outlines a detailed work plan to develop this nanotechnology solution from the proof-of-concept phase to pre-design phase.
Disinfection of tanks and piping systems to mitigate biofilm growth and support system dormancy using only UV-C light
Disinfection applications (using only UV-C light, no chemicals) for large or irregular shaped commercial or industrial or spaces, water, food, air filters, medical applications, and consumer products
he Distributed Multi-GNSS Timing and Localization (DiGiTaL) 2.0 system will leverage an existing partnership between Tyvak and the Stanford’s Space Rendezvous Laboratory (SLAB) to advance the development required to provide precise knowledge of absolute and relative states of multiple orbiting nanosatellites necessary to mimic a gigantic spacecraft though a swarm of spacecraft with adjustable baselines. Cooperative swarms of space vehicles have the potential to change fundamentally how many future space missions are performed. By distributing payload tasks among multiple coordinated units, referred to as a Distributed Space Systems (DSS), rather than on a monolithic single spacecraft, advanced missions in Earth and planetary science, on-orbit servicing, and space situational awareness are possible. Centimeter-level relative positioning precision can be obtained from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) using differential carrier-phase techniques, where synchronous measurements are shared between spacecraft and error-cancelling combinations of various data types are formed to create precise baseline knowledge. Combined with the innovation Tyvak is leading in spacecraft miniaturization, whereby micro- and nanosatellites are transitioning from being merely educational tools to a viable scientific platform, future missions not possible on a monolithic spacecraft are enabled. We will use the challenging miniaturized Distributed Occulator/ Telescope (mDOT) astrophysics mission as a reference to provide actual requirements to inform the development.
The improvement of positioning, timing, and navigation of spacecraft swarms is a stepping stone to enable sparse cooperative apertures with breakthrough applications which span the NASA scientific portfolio including Earth and Space Science. The proposed DiGiTaL 2.0 system will support different communication architectures required by the Exploration portfolio and will impact substantially NASA future missions.
Like the NASA applicability above, there are many non-NASA applications for this technology. Sparse apertures can be used for communication, imaging throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, and many other missions that are performed by non-NASA government and commercial entities.
QorTek is proposing a remarkable design of a subcompact solid-state (textured ceramic) actuated Xenon flow control systems that feeds a heaterless cathode assembly. Eliminating both pressure regulator and solenoid actuation, the revolutionary solid-state design introduces true linear response at higher bandwidth than anything presently available to the space community as to enable extremely precise flow rate control. One fill and drain port and three precision gas flow outputs will be provided to enable operation of an ion thruster, two of which will be used to enable operation of a Hall thruster. The new flow control system is capable of scaling such that it can fit as a universal assembly to the boss of a propellant storage tank. The pre- integrated electronic controller and power supply sub-system can accept external commands to set arbitrary flow rate profiles on each channel. This capability will enable both heaterless and heater-equipped hollow cathodes to be started and operated without adding additional components to the cathode gas lines. The innovation relies on our advances in textured ceramic actuation as to enable very fast valving operation. MHz pulse-width modulation allows users to set arbitrarily defined flow rates characteristics with extremely high precision. The availability of our system will greatly simplify the integration of electric propulsion systems onto small, medium, and large spacecraft and satellites due to its large size, weight, planform, and power reductions over all existing solutions. Its relatively low cost will encourage spacecraft designers to adopt the technology. Although the initial system is targeted toward NASA Class D missions, the extremely high reliability of our solid-state drive technology will enable all many NASA and commercial space missions to benefit from its use.
NASA programs, such as SIMPLEx, are identifying high-priority science objectives that could be addressed with SmallSat configurations from 6U CubeSats to 180kg ESPA-class. These include many missions meeting a variety of science objectives, seismic exploration, mapping water ice, magnetospheric boundary characterization, using a variety of instruments - spectrometers, lidar, reflectometers. The advanced flow control systems innovation would have substantial impact to all of these NASA missions.
The ability to now introduce in-line flow control valving that eliminates need for pressure regulators or secondary mechanical mechanisms to ensure normally closed operation would have immediate impact to many aircraft and rotorcraft systems enabling large bulk/weight reduction of engine flow systems, pneumatic systems (which represent an large size, weight, and lift penalty).
This program will design, fabricate, and test a dual mode propulsion system in a non-flight-weight configuration using a novel energetic, low-toxicity ionic liquid for both high thrust (conventional catalyst-based monopropulsion system) and low thrust (electrospray) engines. Non-Stoichiometric HydroxyEthyl Hydrazinium Nitrate (NSHEHN), developed under Army and NASA SBIR programs, will be used for both engines. It is favored over hydrazine for monopropellant systems because of its very low vapor pressure which makes it much less toxic. The advantage over the Air Force-developed monopropellant, AF-M315E, is that it uses a conventional catalyst bed at 200ºC compared to an expensive specialized catalyst bed at over 500ºC. It is particularly applicable to electrospray propulsion because it is already composed of ions does not require energy to convert a non-ionic fluid to an ionic state. The two engines will be designed and tested separately and a breadboard system designed for use in Phase II.
Application of C3 Propulsion’s Ionic Liquid propulsion technology will be applicable throughout NASA. In particular, it will be of use in satellite insertion and station keeping, manned and unmanned attitude control, advanced space station, propulsion for Lunar and Mars missions, and deep space robotic missions. The dual mode operation will reduce the size and weight of systems that use separate high and low thrust engines. The ionic liquid reduces the life cycle/logistics costs and lowers the catalyst bed power requirements.
C3 Propulsion's Ionic Liquid technology is useful for any missile or satellite station keeping applications as a low toxicity replacement for conventional hydrazine-based monopropellants, as well as DoD specific needs including tactical, air-to-air, air-to-ground, and ballistic missile defense applications. Satellite manufacturers would be interested for position and station keeping abilities.
Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) research is part of NASA effort to improve aircraft fuel efficiency, emissions, and noise levels. New secondary battery chemistries are required to meet the 500 – 700 Wh/kg cell level specific energy needs of UAM, all-electric helicopters and regional passenger aircraft. The cycle life, currently at ≈ 1500 – 3000 cycles, also needs substantial improvement. Safety is another important consideration: battery fires, not uncommon in electric cars, are unacceptable in aircraft.
Cornerstone Research Group proposes to develop battery cells based on new anode and electrolyte chemistry to meet the NASA’s operational needs for high specific energy, long-lasting and safe EAP energy storage.
Through the proposed NASA STTR, NanoSonic and Virginia Tech will design and empirically optimize an innovative, commercially scalable additive manufacturing process integrating reactively deposited HybridSil polyimide nanocomposites for next-generation Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) employed on human rated spacecraft. NanoSonic’s material technology and Virginia Tech’s additive manufacturing expertise will be synergistically combined to provide NASA with a pioneering additive manufacturing process and high temperature, high char yield material that drastically reduces the fabrication and installation cost of current TPS ensembles while also reducing seam density. The proposed additive manufacturing technology will be directly based on fused filament fabrication (FFF) and have near-term scalability within Virginia Tech’s large-scale automated additive manufacturing robotic assembly, which has 6 degrees of freedom and a current capability of generating MatEx produced structures on the order of ~8 x 8 x 8 feet. The proposed additive manufacturing technique and materials will be molecularly engineered and iteratively developed to produce next-generation ablative heat shield components with equivalent utility as currently employed polymer infused carbon ablative tiles such as PICA and PICA-X. The long-term value proposition to NASA and space industry market will be significantly reduced TPS installation cost, improved heat shield performance, and highly adaptable, seamless spacecraft integration.
NASA applications include integration within heat shield structures employed within current and future human rated spacecraft.
Broand secondary non-NASA applications include use as low-cost additively manufactured high temperature insulative components and structures within aerospace, marine, and land vehicles within military and civilian platforms.
A top candidate “green” monopropellant proposed as a safe replacement for hydrazine in spacecraft systems is also shown in tests to be a high performance propellant for ion electrospray thrusters. The proposed effort is to take full advantage of these remarkable characteristics to develop an efficient bimodal ion-chemical thruster system using a common propellant supply tank.
The expected mass and volume savings, increased propellant use efficiency and the added flexibility in thrusting options (high thrust with moderate Isp and lower thrust with high Isp) will significantly augment the operational propulsion and attitude control ranges, especially in small spacecraft applications.
The Phase I task is to design and test an efficient propellant management system interfacing the high pressure monopropellant tank with the ion electrospray thruster arrays. This will pave the way for a complete protoflight development in Phase II, including multiple thruster arrays and control electronics that can be integrated into a space mission.
NASA applications are many, as most space system designs attempt to minimize bus mass and volume budgets to maximize payload capacity, and are concerned about propulsion. The combined capability for agile maneuvering, precision attitude control and thrusting and extended mission lifetime applies to missions in earth orbits or lunar and interplanetary space, and also fractionated observatories requiring multiple platforms with good control performances. Geosciences, heliophysics, astrophysics and lunar or interplanetary exploration will benefit.
Non-NASA space systems, from commercial or government organizations will also benefit from the bimodal propulsion advantages in performance ranges, mass and volume budget savings and extended lifetime. The potential applications are numerous and include earth observation, monitoring and communication systems, satellite constellations, robotic systems to assemble in space or retrieve debris.
For long duration space missions beyond LEO, the complexity of the missions and the latency of communications with Earth will require HPC systems that would be prohibitively expensive if qualified under traditional guidelines for high reliability space systems. There is a wealth COTS hardware that could potentially be used for HPC systems for non-critical tasks within heavily shielded spacecraft cabins. To employ COTS systems for such missions, we propose to use a simulation/experimental method to screen, test, and validate that the systems of interest are suitable for Cis-Lunar and Cis-Mars missions. The simulation component will make use of Monte Carlo N-Particle transport codes to study the secondary radiation environment within the spacecraft, the damage potential to COTS electronics, and the benefits of polyethylene-like shielding materials to protect COTS electronics. The experimental component will bombard functioning HPC COTS electronic samples with/without shielding using the AAMU Pelletron accelerator facilities. At the completion of Phase I we expect this approach will elucidate precautionary techniques to enhance reliability and performance, and to develop radiation shielding strategies and materials to protect the COTS electronics. The Phase II program will refine and standardize the simulation techniques, will test a wider array of HPC electronics, both in quantity and category, and most importantly explore the techniques for conducting accelerated radiation bombardment of the HPC electronics. This is a necessary step in creating a responsive and timely qualification process. In Phase II we will also build a database to contain the data on the critical characteristics of the test articles, the test conditions, the test results, the failure modes, and the associated results of the simulated predictions. This will enable an ever-greater number of future missions to more efficiently identify the COTS HPC electronics that can meet the mission requirements.
The proposed investigation addresses the very real need for HPC and complex electronics in general in planned and future spacecraft. With the unfolding of human missions beyond LEO to the Moon and Mars, the need for computing power for non-critical tasks within heavily shielded spacecraft cabins will only increase. What our team proposes is a process based on a combination of simulation and testing to enable the deployment of COTS HPCs in space environments that are already heavily shielded.
SA will market to COTS HPC manufacturers interested in pre-qualifying their hardware for radiation resistance in non-critical applications within heavily shielded spacecraft cabins. This will grant them a competitive advantage into the nascent private space industry, so it is not unreasonable to predict growth of sophisticated COTS electronics that will push to enter this new business segment.
AnalySwift will collaborate with NASA researchers and Prof. Wenbin Yu of Purdue University to establish a new framework for efficient high-fidelity modeling for high strain thin-ply composites (HS-TPCs). Propose innovations include using mechanics of structure genome (MSG) for multiscale constitutive modeling of HS-TPCs, a thermodynamically consistent constitutive model for HS-TPCs exhibiting thermomechanical, viscoelastic, and viscoplastic behavior, and MSG beam/plate/shell models for the efficient high-fidelity modeling of HT-TPC structures. Four tasks will be carried out: (1) demonstrate the advantages of MSG-based modeling framework, (2) develop a thermodynamically consistent constitutive model, (3) develop a MSG thermo-viscoelastic-
Commercial aerospace, defense, auto, marine, energy, recreation:
This NASA STTR Phase I proposal is aimed at rapid prototyping of antennas beam-shaping with metamaterials and metasurfaces through additive manufacturing of a highly conductive filament - Electrifi. The proposal includes the use of the highly conductive 3D printing filament, which was developed by Dr. Shengrong Ye, the principal investigator at the SBC - Multi3D and is at least 100 times more conductive than any other conductive filament available on the market. The level of conductivity, as well as other performance metrics (e.g. operating temperature range, solderability, electroplate-ability, etc.), can be further tailored by Multi3D’s latest technology advancement. In close collaboration with Prof. Okan Yurduseven (RI), Multi3D has successfully demonstrated that prototypes of metamaterial/metasurface antennas can be printed with the conductive filament and their performance is comparable to their corresponding devices made of metal. We strongly believe the proposed innovation has proven its potential to NASA as well as many other defense and industrial sectors in terms of manufacturing of metamaterials and metasurfaces, not only overcoming the current obstacles (e.g. heavy, bulky, high power consumption, etc.) that NASA faces in the field of remote sensing application, but as a whole enabling the fast realization of high-performance 3D printed antennas that is not possible with incumbent technologies.
This NASA STTR Phase I proposal will develop a solution to current beam-shaping technologies, which heavily rely on bulky mechanical scanning techniques or complex and power hungry phase shifting methods. It is also applicable to the development of flat-panel metamaterials and metasurfaces antennas under the same subtopic. Dependent on the nature of metamaterials, it can be further used to address many other applicable areas of interest across SMD, including Earth, lunar, and planetary science, particularly in the area of remote sensing.
This proposed technology adds great value towards rapid prototyping of lightweight, conformal, flexible, and embedded electronics for the defense sectors and electronics industry. It is designed for standard additive manufacturing processes to achieve high-performance electronics and furthermore, can be tailored for high volume manufacturing to reduce cost and improve property consistency.
Metamaterial optics provide dramatic reductions in size and weight compared with traditional refractive optics. Nanohmics, Inc., and Andrea Alù’s group at the City University of New York propose to develop ultrathin, light-weight, high-transmittance optics based on microfabricated gradient metagratings. A metagrating is an array of polarizable metamaterial particles with a period comparable to the optical wavelength. By spatially varying particle geometries, a microfabricated metagrating lens can focus light with minimal optical aberration and diffraction-limited precision. Because of their extremely low size and mass, metagrating optics will be ideal for sensors, imagers, and optical communication applications in probes and other SWaP-constrained space vehicles. Initial development will center on transmission-mode beam shaping optics that can be used in space-based remote sensing or optical communication subsystems. In Phase I the team will demonstrate the feasibility of a high-transmittance metagrating beam shaping optic by designing, microfabricating and testing a small proof-of-principle metagrating lens operating at wavelength ~1.55 µm, with TRL 3. Phase I laboratory test results, and modeling and simulation, will strengthen the design for a larger, polarization-independent, beam shaping prototype to be fabricated in Phase II. The Phase II prototype will advance to TRL 5 and be laboratory tested and made available to NASA for independent testing. The proposed metagrating prototype will be fabricated using CMOS-compatible materials and standard microfabrication techniques to reduce costs and provide a rapid route to commercialization for beam shaping and other light-weight optics. Longer term, the team proposes the integration of the metagrating technology into planetary missions as part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), including for SWaP-constrained scientific exploration of Earth and other objects in the Solar System.
Smaller and lower-cost spacecraft for exploration of Earth, the planets, and other Solar System objects require imaging, remote sensing, and optical communication subsystems with small size, weight and power consumption (SWaP). The proposed high-performance, low-SWAP metagrating optics will make them ideal for planetary missions as part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Low-SWaP metagrating optics reduce propulsion requirements and overall system power requirements, saving load costs aboard space vehicles.
The proposed ultrathin, high-performance metagrating optics will be valuable for military, industrial, energy, medical, and consumer applications – including observation satellites or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for situational awareness. Reductions in the size and mass of optical systems will accelerate the deployment of advanced, compact, affordable, multi-mission payloads.