Space

April 22, 2016
 

NASA seeks industry ideas for an advanced Mars satellite

NASA is soliciting ideas from U.S. industry for designs of a Mars orbiter for potential launch in the 2020s.

The satellite would provide advanced communications and imaging, as well as robotic science exploration, in support of NASA’s Journey to Mars.

The orbiter would substantially increase bandwidth communications and maintain high-resolution imaging capability. It also may use experimental cutting-edge technologies, such as high-power solar electric propulsion or an optical communications package, which could greatly improve transmission speed and capacity over radio frequency systems.

Under the direction of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is conducting pre-formulation planning for this possible orbiter mission. Pre-formulation plans include the procurement of industry studies for a solar-powered orbiting spacecraft. This effort seeks to take advantage of industry capabilities to improve deep space, solar electric propulsion-enabled orbiters to accommodate scientific instruments, demonstrate capability for rendezvous and capture, and advance telecommunications capabilities. 

“Our success in exploring Mars, to unravel the mysteries of the Red Planet, depends on having high bandwidth communication with Earth and overhead imaging,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Currently, we depend on our orbiting science missions to perform dual service in making measurements and acting as communication relays, but we can’t depend on them to last forever. This new orbiter will use cutting-edge technology to revitalize our ability to continue to explore Mars and support transformative science, including a potential sample return mission in the future.”

JPL plans to award concept study subcontracts of $400,000 per subcontract in June. The concept studies for the spacecraft will be completed over a four-month period.

In response to an earlier request from NASA, the Mars Exploration Program formed an analysis group that proposed, in a 2015 report, possible science objectives for a Mars orbiter capable of replenishing and advancing the telecommunications and reconnaissance resources available at Mars.

NASA is studying how to implement this mission concept in concert with its international partners to the greatest extent possible. Historically, there have been significant international contributions to NASA Mars missions that include the Curiosity rover, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission orbiter, both currently orbiting the Red Planet. The agency will seek such partnerships for this potential future orbiter mission, as well.

NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars that includes sending humans to the Red Planet, and that work remains on track. Robotic spacecraft are leading the way for the Mars Exploration Program, with current missions, in addition to the planned launch of the Insight lander in 2018, and the design and build of the Mars 2020 rover.

To view the Mars orbiter solicitation/Federal Business Opportunities announcement, visit http://1.usa.gov/1qFw0Le.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines – February 15, 2019

News Former Air Force tech sergeant who defected to Iran charged with spying – A former Air Force counterintelligence specialist, a technical sergeant, who defected to Iran about five years after leaving the Air Force, has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran...
 
 

News Briefs – February 15, 2019

Pentagon official assures Iraqis of limited U.S. military role The top Pentagon official assured Iraqi leaders Feb. 12 that the U.S. will stick to its limited military role in Iraq, a message aimed at recent talk by some Iraqi politicians of forcing a U.S. troop withdrawal. Pat Shanahan, the acting secretary of defense, said that...
 
 

High Desert Hangar Stories: Tony LeVier and the wall

Courtesy photograph Tony LeVier and ground crew with the XF-90. With all due respect to the rock group Pink Floyd, back in 1950 there were very few “bricks in the wall” known as the sound barrier. Today, a multitude of pilo...