NASA STTR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 T6.01-9943
RESEARCH SUBTOPIC TITLE: Formation Flying and Automated Rendezvous and Docking
PROPOSAL TITLE: Picosats for Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking Technology Demonstration

NAME: Emergent Space Technologies, Inc. NAME: The University of Texas at Austin
STREET: 6301 Ivy Lane, Suite 720 STREET: P. O. Box 7726
CITY: Greenbelt CITY: Austin
STATE/ZIP: MD  20770 - 6330 STATE/ZIP: TX  78713 - 7726
PHONE: (301) 345-1535 PHONE: (512) 471-6424

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Elfego Pinon

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 6 to 7

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Over the next decade, a host of new technologies and capabilities will be needed by NASA to support Project Constellation. For risk reduction considerations, it is desirable that they be flown on other missions prior to use on vehicles such as Orion or Altair. An innovative and cost-effective approach to doing so is to use picosats, which are miniaturized spacecraft with masses on the order of a few kilograms. Because of their size, weight and power requirements, they are ideal for low-cost, quick-turn-around technology demonstration missions. Picosats are now being developed at universities by teams of students for "hands on" experience with real space hardware. The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and Texas A&M University (TAMU), for example, are working with NASA Johnson Space Center to implement a series of four picosat missions that would culminate in an on-orbit demonstration of autonomous rendezvous and docking (AR&D). This is a mission-critical, system-level technology needed by Project Constellation, especially Orion. Accordingly, Emergent Space Technologies, Inc. (Emergent) proposes to team with UT to move the Platform for Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking with Innovative GN&C Methods (PARADIGM) picosats out of the university research realm and into the commercial marketplace. These spacecraft are being built by UT students to fly in concert with the picosats being built by their TAMU counterparts. The Flight 1 spacecraft are being readied for launch in early 2009 and are primed for transition to industry. Emergent will work with UT and TAMU in Phase 1 to design the 3 missions that will follow Flight 1. In Phase 2, we will use our considerable engineering expertise and AR&D spaceflight experience to help achieve a successful Flight 2. In Phase 3, we will successfully implement Flights 3 and 4 and in the process develop a picosat product line that can be applied to a variety of commercial space applications.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
There are many potential applications for picosats in the aerospace industry. For NASA, the primary application is the development and demonstration of new technologies and concepts. In particular, it is the achievement of TRL 9 for technologies required by Project Constellation. To explore the Moon, and eventually Mars, new technologies must be developed and tested before implementation on the vehicles that comprise Project Constellation. These include GN&C; autonomous flight software; systems health monitoring and fault detection, isolation and recovery, among others. With the Shuttle retiring and the launch date for Orion steadily moving to the right, picosats offer the opportunity for low-cost, quick-turn around technology demonstration flights.

Another application is the use of picosats for space vehicle inspection and situational awareness. Any of the visiting vehicles to the International Space Station, going to and returning from the Moon, etc. would benefit from a safety standpoint if there were miniaturized inspection satellites to support the docking/undocking and re-entry phases of flight.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Picosats are ideal for the test and validation of Micro-Electrical/Micro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). Making spacecraft subsystems and components lighter has always been a need for the space industry, and MEMS technology is being considered for use in smallsats, nanosats, and now picosats, which of these three are best matched for the purpose. Providing affordable platforms that are right-sized for the test and validation of MEMS technologies is a perfect application of picosats.

Picosats are well suited for universities to continue to use as training grounds for future spacecraft engineers, instrument builders, software developers, etc. For those with more of a science focus, picosats can be used to inexpensively fly university-built payloads.

Picosats represent a means to meet the need for more rapid response from space assets for the DoD. With the establishment of the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office at Kirtland AFB in 2007, the DoD took action to focus efforts to meet this need. The ORS Office is interested in finding ways to reduce the development time and cost of spacecraft that can help provide the warfighter in the field with timely and critical information. Picosats offer a means to meet the rapid and low development cost requirements and due to their size, offer flexibility when it comes to selecting a launch provider.

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.

Attitude Determination and Control
Guidance, Navigation, and Control
Pilot Support Systems
Sensor Webs/Distributed Sensors
Spaceport Infrastructure and Safety
Testing Facilities
Testing Requirements and Architectures

Form Generated on 11-24-08 11:59