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  FY'11: Exploration Flagship Demonstrations

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Author Topic:   FY'11: Exploration Flagship Demonstrations
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-22-2010 12:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From NASA's FY2011 budget estimates:
Flagship Technology Demonstrations

In FY 2011, NASA will initiate several Flagship Technology Demonstrators, each with an expected lifecycle cost in the $400 million to $1 billion range, over a lifetime of five years or less, with the first flying no later than 2014. In pursuit of these goals, international, commercial, and other government agency partners will be actively pursued as integrated team members where appropriate. NASA will not give responsibility for all demonstrations to any single NASA center but rather looks forward to engaging with the expertise of various centers to accomplish these objectives. Specific architecture and approach for missions to demonstrate key capabilities will be developed for initiation in FY2011. Technologies targeted for demonstration will likely include:

  • In-Orbit Propellant Transfer and Storage:
    The capability to transfer and store propellant -- particularly cryogenic propellants -- in orbit can significantly increase the Nation's ability to conduct complex and extended exploration missions beyond Earth's orbit. It could also potentially be used to extend the lifetime of future government and commercial spacecraft in Earth orbit. This technology demonstration, building on previous ESMD technology investments and prior demonstrations such as Orbital Express, could test technologies and processes such as long-term storage of cryogenic propellant, automated physical connections between fuel lines in orbit, and verification of fuel acquisition, fuel withdrawal, and fuel transfer.

  • Lightweight/Inflatable Modules
    Inflatable modules can be larger, lighter, and potentially less expensive for future use than the rigid modules currently used by the International Space Station (ISS). Working closely with industry and international partners who have already demonstrated a number of capabilities and interest in this arena, and building on previous ESMD investments, NASA will pursue a demonstration of lightweight/inflatable modules for eventual in-space habitation, transportation, or even surface habitation needs. The demonstration could involve tests of a variety of systems, including closed-loop life support, radiation shielding, thermal control, communications, and interfaces between the module and external systems. Use of the ISS as the testbed for this technology is an option being considered to potentially benefit both programs.

  • Automated/Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking
    The ability of two spacecraft to rendezvous, operating independently from human controllers and without other back-up, requires advances in sensors, software, and real-time on-orbit positioning and flight control, among other challenges. This technology is critical to the ultimate success of capabilities such as in-orbit propellant storage and refueling, complex operations in assembling mission components for challenging destinations, in-space construction, and exploration operations far from Earth where the communications delay does not allow for effective human involvement.
NASA will also begin work in 2011 on an additional Flagship Technology Demonstrator mission to be selected within the Agency, and map out a sequence of Flagship missions to be initiated in 2012 and later. Potential candidates include but are not limited to:
  • Closed-loop life support system demonstration at the ISS
    This would validate the feasibility of human survival beyond Earth based on recycled materials with minimal logistics supply. A follow-on demonstration could involve an integrated inflatable module/closed-loop life support system demonstration.

  • Aerocapture, and/or entry, descent and landing (EDL) technology
    This could involve the development and demonstration of systems technologies for: precision landing of payloads on "high-g" and "low-g" planetary bodies; returning humans or collected samples to Earth; and enabling orbital insertion in various atmospheric conditions. Demonstrations could be ground-based or flight experiments.
Enabling Technology Development and Demonstration

Smaller scale development and testing of key, long-range exploration technologies will be pursued as part of the Enabling Technology effort. Projects will range from laboratory experiments to Earth-based field tests and in- space demonstrations and will be aimed at transitioning relevant technologies from lower to higher technology readiness levels. Although some work may be assigned to specific centers or other work groups in this program, we expect the majority of projects developing long-range, enabling technologies to be selected through full and open competition, including NASA centers, industry, academia, and international partners. International, commercial, and other government agency partners will also be actively pursued as integrated team members as appropriate;

In some cases, once technologies have been matured, the NASA centers will manage their integration into prototype systems for demonstration of advanced capabilities. These projects will be designed to take full advantage of available assets such as wind tunnels, ground-based analogs, flight test aircraft, suborbital sounding rockets, commercial reusable suborbital vehicles, robotic spacecraft, ISS, and other test platforms.

In FY 2011, NASA will initiate demonstration projects in the areas of in situ resource utilization (ISRU), autonomous precision landing and hazard avoidance, and advanced in-space propulsion, leading to demonstrations on either robotic precursor or flagship missions.

  • In Situ Resource Utilization
    NASA will fund research in a variety of ISRU activities aimed at using lunar, asteroidal, and Martian materials to produce oxygen and extract water from ice reservoirs. A flight experiment to demonstrate lunar resource prospecting, characterization, and extraction will be considered for testing on a future Flagship Technology Demonstration or robotic precursor exploration mission. Concepts to produce fuel, oxygen, and water from the Martian atmosphere and from subsurface ice will also be explored.

  • Autonomous Precision Landing
    In FY 2011, NASA will initiate development of a flight experiment to demonstrate an autonomous precision landing and hazard avoidance system. NASA will pursue use of this system on the first robotic precursor exploration mission to the Moon or other planetary body.

  • Advanced In-Space Propulsion
    NASA will work with partners in industry as appropriate, to conduct foundational research to study the requirements and potential designs for advanced high-energy in-space propulsion systems to support deep-space human exploration, and to reduce travel time between Earth's orbit and future destinations for human activity. These technologies could include nuclear thermal propulsion, solar and nuclear electric propulsion, plasma propulsion, and other high-energy and/or high-efficiency propulsion concepts. One or more concepts may mature to the level of a demonstration on a robotic precursor or Flagship mission.
In addition, the enabling technology projects line will consider a broad range of other technology development and demonstration projects in areas including:
  • Closed-loop life support systems
    NASA will demonstrate technologies for recycling air, water, and solid waste on the ISS to validate the feasibility of human survival beyond Earth on long-duration missions with minimal logistics supply. A follow-on demonstration could involve an integrated inflatable module/closed-loop life support project. Combined with ISRU, mastering this capability will enable extended exploration missions that are more fully and effectively based on a self-reliant, "live off the land" approach proven essential during centuries of terrestrial exploration.

  • Extravehicular Activity Demonstrations
    Building on current EVA technology projects, NASA will work with industry and academia to develop advanced spacesuits to improve the ability of astronauts to assemble and service in-space systems, and to explore the surfaces of the Moon, Mars, and small bodies. Spacesuit technologies such as life support systems, thermal control, power systems, and improved fabric materials will be demonstrated in EVA operations in space, including from the ISS.

  • Radiation Shielding Technology
    NASA will test the feasibility of existing concepts, and also develop new concepts, to protect astronaut crews from the harmful effects of radiation, both in low Earth orbit and while conducting long-term missions away from Earth. This is one of the most critical areas for technology investment and demonstration in support of long-duration human missions beyond Earth.

  • Human-Robotic Interactive Systems Demonstrations
    NASA will advance the state of the art in areas like tele- operation, autonomy, human-robot interaction, robotic assistance, and other advanced robotic concepts aimed at significantly increasing human and robotic efficiency and productivity in space.

  • High-Efficiency Space Power Systems
    NASA will develop technologies to provide low-cost, abundant power for deep-space missions, including advanced batteries and regenerative fuel cells for energy storage, power management and distribution, wireless power transmission, thermoelectric and Stirling power conversion, solar (photovoltaic and solar-dynamic systems), and nuclear power systems. A major focus will be on the demonstration of dual-use technologies for clean and renewable energy for terrestrial applications.

  • Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) Technology
    NASA will develop and test concepts for large aeroshells and advanced thermal protection system materials to enable aero-capture and atmospheric entry of heavy payloads. These technologies will enable the demonstration of EDL capabilities on future robotic precursor and flagship missions.

  • High-Performance Materials and Structures
    NASA will develop high-temperature materials for propulsion and power systems, nano-structured materials to increase strength-to-weight fabric materials for spacesuits, and super-lightweight composite structures for exploration vehicles and crew habitats. New materials and structures will be tested in the space environment as components of other system-level flight experiments.

Editor's note: This topic is for the discussion of the the projects outlined above. General commentary about NASA's new direction should be posted to this topic.

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