NASA SBIR 2006 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:Antenna Technology for Spacecraft and Planetary Surface Vehicles
PROPOSAL TITLE:High Gain, Very Low Areal Density, Scalable RF Apertures Enabled by Membrane Aperture Shell Technology (MAST)

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
1121 San Antonio Rd, Suite B-100-B
Palo Alto, CA 94303-4311
(650) 965-4912

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Eric   Flint
1121 San Antonio Rd, Suite B-100-B
Palo Alto, CA  94303-4311
(650) 965-4912

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT ( Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
We propose that the Membrane Aperture Shell Technology (MAST) approach be expanded with a specific focus on space exploration orbiting comm network RF aperture applications. The approach is based on a proven combination of 1) thin film materials with space heritage, 2) inherent low areal density (40 to 200 g/m2), 3) structural shell stiffness provided through the induction of permanent curvature, 4) sufficiently low surface roughness and thickness variation (verging on optical grade), and global figure to satisfy all RF wavelength operations, 5) proven RF reflectivity, 6) compact stack or roll stowage, 7) robust passive self deployment with stowed strain energy, and when needed, 8) compatibility with boundary control/adjustment to provide initial phasing, rigid body fine pointing and environmental disturbance effect rejection. Recent advances in shell fabrication technology enable easily scaleable aperture systems based on hexagons segments. By optimizing local segment figure and alignment large scale on axis (or even off axis) parabolas can be adequately approximated. In the PI we will demonstrate fabrication of suitable hexagon shaped segments, determine optimal system architectures, confirm RF performance, numerically show sufficient stiffness in the face of environmental and launch loads, review figure mitigation and control techniques. This prepares the way for a detailed PII focused on demonstrating performance in realistic environments (TRL 6), a key step in any realistic commercialization plan for space hardware.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS ( Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed technology development is directly relevant to the needs of the 2006 NASA Strategic Goals, Specifically Sub Goal 6.4. When developed, the hexagon based membrane aperture shell technology RF apertures will enable reliable 10 to 20+m class high bandwidth communication from orbital and Lagrangian relay assets to/from earth and to/from solar system exploration assets. Once proven at the lunar orbital-earth and orbital-ground link application the technology could be scaled and applied to Mars and Jupiter planetary and Lagrangian relay applications. Additionally, once developed the same basic technology could transition to supporting planetary lander /explorer ground station relay needs as well as more traditional space telecom markets. Due to the lower surface figure requirements, the basic approach could possibly also find immediate application to realize MLI blankets, and sun shields for RF apertures and IR telescopes. Once space flight heritage is achieved and as global surface figure metrics continue to improve, NASA relevant applications in the areas of microwave, THz, Laser ranging, altimitry, LIDAR (incoherent then coherent), spectroscopy, and eventually optical quality imaging could one day be supported as well. There are also perceived potential NASA applications as solar concentrators for use in solar dynamic power generation and future space orbital propulsion (solar thermal propulsion or solar sails).

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS ( Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The same space based applications of interest to NASA (RF/Lasercomm, Science or Observation based on RF, Microwave, IR, Optical wavelengths, Solar Concentrator based Power Generation and Solar Thermal Propulsion) are of interest to other national organizations. Immediate transitions to terrestrial ground applications (remote location telecom and also commercial com sats) are also envisaged. Terrestrially, military applications are seen in man portable VSAT terminals, and increased range spotting scopes and laser designators. Consumer applications in transportable emergency apertures for commercial telecom, back-packable solar concentrators for water heating, cooking, distillation, and as surface figure increases, possible optical apertures for prosumer amateur astronomy, university level 1-2 m telescopes, and as secondaries for professional astronomy telescopes, are foreseen as well.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Beamed Energy
Large Antennas and Telescopes
Optical & Photonic Materials
Wireless Distribution

Form Printed on 09-08-06 18:19