May 31, 2012

NASA seeks early stage innovations for space technologies from U.S. universities

NASA is seeking proposals from accredited U.S. universities focused on innovative, early-stage space technologies that will improve shielding from space radiation, spacecraft thermal management and optical systems.

Each of these technology areas requires dramatic improvements over existing capabilities for future science and human exploration missions. Early stage, or low technology readiness level concepts, could mature into tools that solve the hard challenges facing future NASA missions. Researchers should propose unique, disruptive or transformational space technologies that address the specific topics described in this new solicitation.

“Both science and human deep space missions pose serious challenges that require new, innovative technological solutions,” said Space Technology Program Director Michael Gazarik at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Radiation, thermal management and optical systems were all identified in the National Research Council’s report on NASA Space Technology Roadmaps as priority research areas. This call seeks new ideas in these areas.”

Space radiation poses a known danger to the health of astronauts. NASA is seeking proposals in the area of active radiation shielding (such as “shields” of electromagnetic force fields surrounding a spacecraft to block incoming radiation) or new, multifunction materials that are superior to those that exist today are sought. NASA also is interested in new technologies for active monitoring and read-out of radiation levels astronauts receive during long space trips.

Current space technology for thermal management of fuels in space is limited. NASA is seeking early-stage technologies to improve ways spacecraft fuel tanks and in-space filling stations store cryogenic (very low temperature) propellants, such as hydrogen, over long periods of time and distances. NASA also is seeking novel, low-TRL heat rejection technologies which operate reliably and efficiently over a wide range of thermal conditions.

The next generation of lightweight mirrors and telescopes requires advanced optical systems. NASA is seeking advancement of early-stage active wavefront sensing and control system technologies that enable deployable, large aperture space-based observatories; technologies which enable cost-effective development of grazing-incidence optical systems; and novel techniques to focus and detect X-ray photons and other high-energy particles.

NASA expects to make approximately 10 awards this fall, based on the merit of proposals received. The awards will be made for one year, with an additional year of research possible. The typical annual award value is expected to be approximately $250,000. Second year funding will be contingent on the availability of appropriated funds and technical progress. Only accredited U.S. universities may submit proposals to this solicitation. Notices of intent are due by June 21, 2012, with proposals due July 12.

To view the Early Stage Innovation NASA Research Announcement and information for submitting proposals, visit

The solicitation is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Program, managed by the Office of the Chief Technologist.


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