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Forum:Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
Topic:NASA's Orion Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)
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See here for discussion of NASA's planned asteroid retrieval mission.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
Asteroid Initiative Request for Information

NASA has released a Request for Information (RFI) on system concepts and innovative approaches for both aspects of the recently announced Asteroid Initiative. The initiative includes an Asteroid Redirect Mission, and an increased focus on defending our planet against the threat of catastrophic asteroid collisions.
  • Solicitation Number: NNH13ZCQ001L
  • Reference Number: N/A
  • NAIS Posted Date: June 18, 2013
  • FedBizOpps Posted Date: June 18, 2013
  • Response Date: July 18, 2013
  • Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action? No
  • Classification Code: A - Research and Development
  • NAICS Code: 336414 - Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Manufacturing
  • Set-Aside Code: N/A

Download the RFI from FedBizOpps

Respondents should review RFI submission guidelines outlined in the RFI. On June 27 at 2 p.m., NASA will host a Google+ Hangout session in which technical experts will address a selection of respondent questions.

See here for discussion of NASA's planned asteroid retrieval mission.
Robert PearlmanNASA release (July 26, 2013)
NASA Sees Enthusiastic Response to Asteroid Call for Ideas

NASA has received more than 400 responses to its request for information on the agency's asteroid initiative, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Friday.

"Under our plan, we're increasing the identification, tracking and exploration of asteroids, and the response to this initiative has been gratifying," said Garver, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. "The aerospace industry, innovative small businesses and citizen scientists have many creative ideas and strategies for carrying out our asteroid exploration mission and helping us to protect our home planet from dangerous near-Earth objects."

Released June 18, the RFI was the first opportunity for industry and other potential partners, including private individuals, to offer ideas on planning for NASA's mission to redirect an asteroid for exploration by astronauts and the agency's asteroid grand challenge.

Garver noted about a third of the responses were in areas relevant to the asteroid grand challenge, which is to identify all asteroid threats to human population and know what to do about them. All other responses were related to the five mission components.

All the responses are being evaluated and rated. NASA will explore the highly rated responses for inclusion in future planning during a public workshop in September.

Grand challenges are ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. NASA's asteroid grand challenge will support planetary defense by use of multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists.

The asteroid grand challenge complements NASA's mission to find and capture a near-Earth asteroid, redirect it to a stable lunar orbit and send humans to study it. The asteroid redirect mission is included in President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget request for NASA, and leverages the agency's progress on its Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and cutting-edge technology development. The mission is one step in NASA's plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Releases New Imagery of Asteroid Mission

NASA released Thursday (Aug. 22) new photos and video animations depicting the agency's planned mission to find, capture, redirect, and study a near-Earth asteroid. The images depict crew operations including the Orion spacecraft's trip to and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid, as well as astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid.

Part of President Obama's FY 2014 budget request for NASA, the asteroid initiative capitalizes on activities across the agency's human exploration, space technology and science programs. NASA is enhancing its ongoing efforts to identify and characterize near-Earth objects for scientific investigation, and to find potentially hazardous asteroids and targets appropriate for capture and exploration.

The agency is creating an asteroid mission baseline concept to develop further in 2014 to help engineers establish more details about the mission. Meanwhile, engineers and scientists across the agency continue to evaluate several alternatives, as well as ideas from the public, for consideration throughout mission planning.

The asteroid initiative will incorporate advanced solar electric propulsion technology as a power source for spacecraft, offering greater flexibility to the spacecraft and mission planners. The mission also leverages the agency's progress on the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and other cutting-edge technology developments.

In late July, NASA conducted its asteroid mission formulation review, which brought together agency leaders from across the country to examine internal studies proposing multiple concepts and alternatives for each phase of the mission, and assessed technical and programmatic aspects of the mission. Currently, NASA is assessing the more than 400 responses received to a request for information in which industry, universities and the public offered ideas for the initiative.

The agency will host a technical workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 to discuss those responses and the potential for ideas from them to be incorporated into the mission concept. Virtual participation will be available to the public. Participation details will be provided prior to the event.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Selects Top 96 Asteroid Initiative Ideas

NASA has chosen 96 ideas it regards as most promising from more than 400 submitted in response to its June request for information (RFI) about protecting Earth from asteroids and finding an asteroid humans can explore.

The ideas provide the agency with fresh insight into how best to identify, capture and relocate a near-Earth asteroid for closer study and respond to asteroid threats. They include pointers on how to decrease an asteroid's spin, nudge it away from a path toward Earth, take samples to return to Earth and create activities to heighten public awareness of not only the threat asteroids pose, but the valuable resources and scientific benefits they may offer.

"This rich set of innovative ideas gathered from all over the world provides us with a great deal of information to factor into our plans moving forward," said Robert Lightfoot, Associate Administrator for NASA. "We're making great progress on formulating this mission, and we look forward to discussing further the responses we received to the RFI."

These ideas were submitted by industry, universities, international organizations, and the public. NASA's selection process involved agency scientists, engineers and mission planners who are formulating details of the asteroid initiative.

NASA's request for information was the first opportunity for industry and other potential partners to offer ideas for the asteroid initiative.

NASA plans a public workshop Sept. 30 - Oct. 2 to examine and synthesize the 96 highly rated ideas. The workshop will feature discussions by experts from inside and outside NASA. The other approximately 300 ideas, which were not selected for examination, may be fed into planning for the asteroid initiative.

NASA's asteroid initiative has two parts: the mission by astronauts to explore an asteroid and a grand challenge to protect the planet. It is included in President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget request for NASA, and leverages the agency's progress on its Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and cutting-edge technology development. The mission is a key step in NASA's plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA seeks proposals on Asteroid Redirect Mission concepts development

In support of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission – a key part of the agency’s stepping stone path to send humans to Mars – agency officials are seeking proposals for studies on advanced technology development.

Through a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), released Friday, NASA hopes to solicit proposals for concept studies in areas including asteroid capture systems, rendezvous sensors, adapting commercial spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Mission and feasibility studies of potential future partnership opportunities for secondary payloads and the crewed mission.

"As NASA continues to make great progress refining our mission concepts, we're reaching out to seek new and innovative ideas as we extend the frontier of space exploration," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "To reach Mars, we'll rely on new technologies and advanced capabilities proven through the Asteroid Initiative. We're looking forward to exciting ideas from outside NASA as well to help realize that vision."

Following evaluations of the proposals, NASA plans to select no more than 25 proposals and make total awards of as much as $6 million. Contracts would begin and end this year. More information can be found in the BAA, available here.

The announcement precedes a Wednesday, March 26, Asteroid Initiative Opportunities Forum at NASA Headquarters. The forum will provide status updates from ongoing Asteroid Redirect Mission concept and extensibility refinement and expand on the BAA, which is a follow-on step from the 2013 Request for Information in mission planning activities. The event also will highlight opportunities for public engagement in the mission and activities associated with the agency's Asteroid Grand Challenge. The forum will be carried on NASA Television and streamed online for virtual participants. For the agenda and to register as a virtual participant, go here.

NASA's Asteroid Initiative includes the Asteroid Grand Challenge and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The grand challenge will develop new partnerships and collaborations to accelerate the agency's existing planetary defense work, and the mission will collect and redirect an asteroid where astronauts can explore and sample it.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission has three major elements: target identification; a robotic mission to capture and redirect the selected asteroid into a stable orbit beyond the moon; and a crewed segment in which astronauts in NASA's Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System rocket will rendezvous with the captured asteroid, conduct spacewalks to collect samples from it, and return them to the Earth for analysis. New capabilities and systems tested through the Asteroid Initiative will advance NASA's ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars.

Robert PearlmanNASA video release
Asteroid Redirect Mission: Concept Highlights

A one-minute video of Asteroid Redirect Mission highlights featuring concepts of capturing an asteroid by encapsulation and robotically collecting a boulder from its surface.
Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA selects studies for Asteroid Redirect Mission

NASA has selected 18 proposals for studies under the Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). These six-month studies will mature system concepts and key technologies and assess the feasibility of potential commercial partnerships to support the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission, a key part of the agency's stepping stone path to send humans to Mars.

The agency is working on two concepts for the mission. The first concept would fully capture a very small asteroid in free space and the other would retrieve a boulder off of a much larger asteroid. Both concepts would redirect an asteroid mass less than 10 meters in size to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) would rendezvous with the captured asteroid mass in lunar orbit and collect samples for return to Earth.

The BAA solicited proposals for studies in five key areas: asteroid capture systems, rendezvous sensors, adapting commercial spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle, partnerships for secondary payloads, and potential partnerships to enhance U.S. exploration activities in cis-lunar space in conjunction with the crewed mission. Proposals were selected in collaboration with NASA's Space Technology and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorates.

"With these system concept studies, we are taking the next steps to develop capabilities needed to send humans deeper into space than ever before, and ultimately to Mars, while testing new techniques to protect Earth from asteroids," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

The BAA builds upon more than 400 ideas that were gathered from the community through a Request for Information issued in June 2013, and the synthesis of the most promising ideas in a two-part public workshop held in September and November 2013.

"By investing in these studies, NASA will gain valuable insight into affordable ways to perform the Asteroid Redirect Mission while also advancing technologies needed to drive future exploration missions," said James Reuther, deputy associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The total funding to be awarded for the selected six-month studies is approximately $4.9 million.

Four companies will conduct studies for an asteroid capture system:

  • Airborne Systems North America in Santa Ana, California: The "Asteroid Capture System" study will fabricate and test a proof-of-concept inflatable capture system.
  • Jacobs in Houston: "Asteroid Capture System Conceptual Study" that will test a subscale capture system using mechanically deployed booms.
  • Altius Space Machines in Louisville, Colorado: The "Kraken Asteroid Boulder Retrieval System" will test prototype grasping arms and innovative gripper concepts for capturing a boulder off the surface of an asteroid.
  • Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California: The "Autonomous Boulder Liberation Equipment" study will demonstrate robotic arms for placement and handling of pneumatic excavation tools, boulder jacking devices, and positive capture and restraint tools.
Rendezvous sensors will be the focus of two selected proposals:
  • Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado: "Rendezvous Sensor Suite Development" to upgrade a visible camera and LIDAR developed for Orion to meet Asteroid Redirect Mission automated rendezvous and docking requirements.
  • The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, California: The "Asteroid Redirect Mission Rendezvous Sensors" activity leverages existing visible and infrared sensors and a 3D LIDAR to meet Asteroid Redirect Mission automated rendezvous and docking requirements.
Four studies will examine how to adapt commercial spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle:
  • Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Denver-: The "Adapting Commercial Spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle" study will define system concepts for a Solar Electric Propulsion Module based on an existing commercial spacecraft bus and NASA Hall thrusters.
  • ExoTerra Resource in Littleton, Colorado: The "Multipurpose SEP Module for ARM and Beyond" study will define concepts for an extensible multipurpose Solar Electric Propulsion module designed for launch on Falcon 9.
  • The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, California: The "Adapting Commercial Spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle" study will define and analyze variants of an existing commercial spacecraft with NASA-furnished solar arrays and Hall thrusters.
  • Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California: The "Adapting Commercial Spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle" study will define system concepts that leverage an existing high-power commercial satellite bus to reduce costs.
Partnerships for secondary payloads will be the focus of five studies:
  • The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California: "LIFE on ARM: Accommodating the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment (LIFE) on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)" whose small passive payload on the Asteroid Retrieval Vehicle would transport extremophiles through deep space and return them to Earth to test panspermia and astrobiology.
  • Planetary Resources Development Corp. in Redmond, Washington: The "Arkyd Spacecraft Collaboration with NASA's Asteroid Initiative" study will determine how three classes of small, low-cost spacecraft being developed by Planetary Resources could be modified to enhance NASA's planned asteroid missions.
  • Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland: "Planetary Object Geophysical Observer (POGO)," a secondary payload that is a hopper to be dropped on the asteroid surface by the Asteroid Retrieval Vehicle to measure elemental composition of asteroid regolith at multiple locations.
  • Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corp. in Pasadena, California: "Shotgun," a secondary payload that would deploy multiple small kinetic impactors from the Asteroid Retrieval Vehicle to characterize asteroid regolith.
  • Deep Space Industries in Houston-: "Secondary Spacecraft in Support of ARM," which will assess three spacecraft types being developed by DSI for compatibility with the ARV or launch on SLS, and examine public-private partnership approaches.
Three studies will address potential partnerships to enhance U.S. exploration activities in cis-lunar space in conjunction with the crewed mission:
  • Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corp. in Pasadena, California: The "NanoDrill and Caching System" study will develop concepts for drilling tools and sample caching systems that could be used by astronauts during a spacewalk on the asteroid.
  • Deep Space Industries in Houston: The "Industry Funded Participation in the Asteroid Initiative" study will analyze the economic fundamentals of a commercially oriented Asteroid Initiative and develop figures of merit that are relevant to commercial needs. Potential demonstrations of in-situ resource utilization will also be assessed.
  • Planetary Resources Development Corp. in Redmond, Washington: The "Planetary Resources ISRU Partnership with NASA's Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission" study will provide the commercial perspective on the challenges and opportunities that both government and businesses will face in partnering towards exploration and exploitation of space resources.
Robert PearlmancollectSPACE
To boulder go: NASA picks to pluck rock off asteroid for redirect mission

NASA will grab a boulder, rather than bag an asteroid, for its astronauts to then explore near the moon, space agency officials said on Wednesday (March 25).

The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which NASA first proposed in 2013 to test a number of capabilities needed for human expeditions into deep space, including to Mars, was at first planned to move a small asteroid into a stable orbit around the moon. A second option however, to pluck a boulder off the surface of a large asteroid won the favor of a NASA review on Tuesday for its applicability to future missions, in addition to its potential to enable science and demonstrate planetary protection techniques.

"There was a significant debate around extensibility," said Robert Lightfoot, NASA's associate administrator, in a call with reporters on Wednesday. "What's more extensible for us; systems we can use as we continue our journey after this mission."

"ARM is an important part of the overall mission of taking humans further into space," Lightfoot said.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission Completes Robotic Design Milestone

Following a key program review, NASA approved the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to proceed to the next phase of design and development for the mission's robotic segment. ARM is a two-part mission that will integrate robotic and crewed spacecraft operations in the proving ground of deep space to demonstrate key capabilities needed for NASA's journey to Mars.

The milestone, known as Key Decision Point-B, or KDP-B, was conducted in July and formally approved by agency management Aug. 15. It is one in a series of project lifecycle milestones that every spaceflight mission for the agency passes as it progresses toward launch. At KDP-B, NASA established the content, cost, and schedule commitments for Phase B activities.

Above: In the Robotics Operation Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, an engineering development unit of the robotic capture system is tested at full scale.

Earlier this year, NASA updated the target launch date for the robotic mission to December 2021 in order to incorporate acquisition of the industry robotic spacecraft development into the project schedule. To reflect this new target date, the project's cost cap was increased at KDP-B from $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion. This figure does not include the launch vehicle or the post-launch operations phase. The crewed segment, targeted for launch in 2026, remains in an early mission concept phase, or pre-formulation.

The robotic ARM will demonstrate advanced, high-power, high-throughput solar electric propulsion; advanced autonomous high-speed proximity operations at a low-gravity planetary body; controlled touchdown and liftoff with a multi-ton mass from a low-gravity planetary body, astronaut spacewalk activities for sample selection, extraction, containment and return; and mission operations of integrated robotic and crewed vehicle stack—all key components of future in-space operations for human missions to Mars.

During Phase B of the robotic mission, the program will develop a baseline mission design to meet requirements consistent with NASA's direction on risk, cost and schedule, and will conduct an independent review of the baseline project design.

"This is an exciting milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission," said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. "Not only is ARM leveraging agency-wide capabilities, it will test a number of new technologies already in development."

Completing KDP-B is a catalyst for increased external involvement in the robotic mission development, explained Michele Gates, program director for ARM at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"Since its early formulation, NASA has invited mission concept feedback and development ideas from the planetary science community, general public, U.S. and global industry, and international partners," said Gates. "With KDP-B under our belt, ARM can now move forward to define partnerships and opportunities for long-term engagement."

The robotic ARM project, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will issue a request for proposals for the spacecraft to a set of aerospace companies that previously worked with the ARM robotic design team on a six-month study of spacecraft concepts to meet mission requirements. KDP-B serves as authority for JPL to proceed with the next procurement phase.

NASA plans to issue a solicitation in September that will include a call for partner-provided payloads on the robotic flight system. This call for partner-provided payloads is in addition to potential cooperation under discussion with the Italian Space Agency. NASA will provide spacecraft integration, power, data storage and communication capabilities for selected payloads, which the agency will choose based on contributions to both partner goals and ARM objectives, with consideration for those that may support risk reduction for the mission.

This solicitation also will include a membership call for an ARM Investigation Team, which will be a multidisciplinary group of U.S. industry, academia, government, and international members. The Investigation Team will operate on an initial three-to-five year term, providing technical expertise to the ARM robotic and crewed project teams.

Above: The HERMeS (Hall Effect Rocket with Magnetic Shielding) Technology Development Unit thruster exceeds over 1300 hours of operational wear testing in a vacuum facility at GRC. Magnetic shielding protects the walls of the thruster from erosion, a major breakthrough in Hall thruster design that could hold the key to long-life, reusable electric propulsion systems.

The team will conduct analyses of spacecraft and mission design, and investigate concepts to support robotic mission objectives, including overall science, planetary defense, asteroid resource use, and deep-space capability demonstrations. Led out of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the Investigation Team work will continue some of the research conducted by the ARM Formulation Assessment and Support Team, which helped define mission concepts and inform mission requirements and risks over a three-month period in 2015.

The robotic component of the ARM will demonstrate the world's most advanced and most efficient solar electric propulsion system as it travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA). NEAs are asteroids that are fewer than 121 million miles (1.3 AU) from the sun at the closest point in their orbit. Although the target asteroid is not expected to be officially selected until 2020, NASA is using 2008 EV5 as the reference asteroid while the search continues for potential alternates.

A target asteroid such as 2008 EV5 is particularly appealing to the scientific, exploration, and industrial communities because it is a primitive, C-type (carbonaceous) asteroid, believed to be rich in volatiles, water, and organic compounds. The ability to extract core samples from the captured boulder will allow us to evaluate how its composition varies with depth and could unlock clues to the origins of our solar system. Astronaut sampling and potential commercial activities could indicate the value of C-type asteroids for commercial mining purposes, which in turn could have significant impacts on how deep space missions are designed in the future.

After collecting a multi-ton boulder from the asteroid, the robotic spacecraft will slowly redirect the boulder to an orbit around the moon, using the moon's gravity for an assist, where NASA plans to conduct a series of proving ground missions in the 2020s. There, astronauts will be able to select, extract, collect, and return samples from the multi-ton asteroid mass, and conduct other human-robotic and spacecraft operations in the proving ground that will validate concepts for NASA's journey to Mars.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
Prototype Capture System, Mock Asteroid Help Simulate Mission Sequence

A prototype of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) robotic capture module system is tested with a mock asteroid boulder in its clutches at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The robotic portion of ARM is targeted for launch in 2021.

Located in the center's Robotic Operations Center, the mockup helps engineers understand the intricate operations required to collect a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid's surface. The hardware involved here includes three space frame legs with foot pads, two seven degrees of freedom arms that have with microspine gripper "hands" to grasp onto the boulder.

NASA and students from West Virginia University built the asteroid mockup from rock, styrofoam, plywood and an aluminum endoskeleton. The mock boulder arrived in four pieces and was assembled inside the ROC to help visualize the engagement between the prototype system and a potential capture target.

Inside the ROC, engineers can use industrial robots, a motion-based platform, and customized algorithms to create simulations of space operations for robotic spacecraft. The ROC also allows engineers to simulate robotic satellite servicing operations, fine tuning systems and controllers and optimizing performance factors for future missions when a robotic spacecraft might be deployed to repair or refuel a satellite in orbit.

See here for discussion of NASA's planned asteroid retrieval mission.

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