NASA Selects 10 CubeSat-Related Projects for SBIR Phase 2 Funding

Pathfinder technology demonstrator CubeSat (Credit: NASA)

NASA has selected 10 CubeSat-related projects for funding under its most recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects. The space agency will enter into negotiations with the proposers for Phase II contracts worth up to $750,000 apiece over two years.

The selected projects range from antennas to mono-propellants to solar arrays. The proposals include:

  • Loop Heat Pipe Manufacturing via DMLS for CubeSAT Applications – Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc., Lancaster, PA
  • DRG-Based CubeSat Inertial Reference Unit (DCIRU) — Applied Technology Associates, Albuquerque, NM
  • 200W Deep Space CubeSat Composite Beam Roll-Up Solar Array (COBRA) — Composite Technology Development, Lafayette, CO
  • Ka-Band Klystron Amplifier for CUBESATs — e beam, Inc., Beaverton, OR
  • Ultracapacitor Based Power Supply for CubeSats — FastCAP Systems Corporation, Boston, MA
  • Ka-Band Electronically Steered CubeSat Antenna — Kymeta Government Solutions, Redmond, WA
  • Green Monopropellant Propulsion for Small Spacecrafts — Plasma Processes, LLC, Huntsville, Ala.
  • Bonding and Analysis of Composite TRAC Booms for NASA Science Missions — ROCCOR, LLC, Longmont, CO
  • High Frequency Reflective Mesh for Small Aperture Antennas — Tendeg, LLC, Louisville, CO
  • Monofilament Vaporization Propulsion (MVP) System — CU Aerospace, LLC, Champaign, IL

Summaries of the proposals follow.

Proposal Title: Loop Heat Pipe Manufacturing via DMLS for CubeSAT Applications
Subtopic Title: Thermal Control Systems

Small Business Concern
Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.
Lancaster, PA

Principal Investigator/Project Manager

William Anderson

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:

Begin: 4
End: 6

Technical Abstract

Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. (ACT) proposes to develop a low-cost Loop Heat Pipe (LHP) evaporator using a technique known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), otherwise known as 3D printing, to produce low-cost LHPs to be used in CubeSat and SmallSat applications. The wick structure in an LHP assumes the role of a pump in a standard loop, pumping liquid from the lower pressure condenser to the higher pressure evaporator by capillary forces. The overall thermal performance of the system is therefore highly dependent on the in-situ characteristics of the wick structure. Current LHP wick manufacturing and installation processes are cumbersome, labor intensive, and suffer from a low yield rate. It is estimated that the cost to produce an LHP evaporator, including the attachment of the bayonet, secondary wick and compensation chamber, accounts for approximately 75% of the total system?s manufacturing cost. By 3D printing an evaporator envelope with an integral porous primary wick structure, the overall complexity and cost of the design can be significantly reduced.

The Phase I program was fully successful. In Phase I, an LHP with a DMLS evaporator was built using ammonia as the fluid, and carried the predicted 45 W. The overall technical objective of the Phase II program will be to design, build, and test a complete LHP thermal management system for a CubeSat. Phase II work will include further optimization of the LHP manufacturing parameters, and the development of advanced wick structures such as a graded wick design. The deliverables at the end of the Phase II will include an LHP that has been thermal vacuum tested, and a second LHP flight unit with ethanol working fluid, that can be tested at NASA?s option on the ISS.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

Ammonia and propylene LHPs are currently used in most NASA and commercial satellites. In comparison with Constant Conductance Heat Pipes (CCHPs), they carry much higher powers (1 kW vs. 100 W) over longer distances (10 m vs. 2-3 m). They also are better suited for ground testability. An LHP can operate with the evaporator 2 meters above the condenser, versus 2.5 mm for a CCHP. Their main drawback is that they are two orders of magnitude more expensive to fabricate and test than CCHPs. Fabricating, machining, and inserting the primary and secondary wicks into the pump is the bulk of the fabrication expense (The remainder of the LHP is just plumbing). The first benefit of the proposed evaporator/wick fabrication will be a significant reduction in cost of LHPs supplied to NASA. A second benefit of reduced costs it that LHPs will be much more attractive for the smaller satellites, such as SmallSat and CubeSat, that NASA is now considering for future missions. The overall budget for these satellites is severely constrained when compared to the larger satellites that NASA has fabricated in the past. LHPs have not been considered in the past for these small satellites, partially due to their high cost. The reduced fabrication costs will allow ACT to fabricate smaller LHPs for these smaller satellites, at a price that is acceptable with their smaller budgets.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

ACT is one of only two companies in the United States that sells heat pipes, Variable Conductance Heat Pipes (VCHPs), and LHPs to the government and commercial customers for spacecraft thermal control. The benefits for the Air Force are similar to the benefits for NASA, both for today?s spacecraft, and for smaller satellites in the future. The commercial communications satellite market is the current primary market for LHPs. For example, one prime uses 5 to 6 LHPs on each satellite, and would also benefit from reduced costs.

Finally, Universities are able to fabricate their own CubeSats for research in space; however, their budgets are much too limited to allow them to use LHPs as a thermal control tool. In addition, these SmallSats have no need for the high powers and long lengths of current LHPs. They could benefit from small size LHPs, if the cost can be significantly reduced. ACT plans to explore this market, after satisfying the higher end government and commercial markets.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Passive Systems

Proposal Title: DRG-Based CubeSat Inertial Reference Unit (DCIRU)
Subtopic Title: Guidance, Navigation and Control

Small Business Concern
Applied Technology Associates
Albuquerque, NM

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Darren Laughlin

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 5

Technical Abstract

CubeSats currently lack adequate inertial attitude knowledge and control required for future sophisticated science missions. Boeing?s Disc Resonator Gyro (DRG) integrated into the ATA DRG-based CubeSat Inertial Reference Unit (DCIRU) in conjunction with a star tracker or sun sensor would provide the Inertial Attitude Knowledge (IAK) and position measurements needed for precision acquisition, pointing, and tracking (APT) control. Accurate attitude and position measurements provided by the DCIRU would also be required for future CubeSat constellation or formation flying missions, and for laser communication between other CubeSats, other satellites or Earth. There are currently no small Inertial Reference Units (IRUs) suitable for CubeSats that exist due to size, weight, and power constraints. The ATA/Boeing Team is proposing the development of the DRG for potential integration into the DCIRU in Phase II. The highly symmetrical and scalable DRG disc standing wave design was selected by DARPA and NVESD as the only MEMS design capable of navigation grade performance. The DRG consists of a MEMS disk resonator that provides rotation sensing capable of both tactical and navigation grade precision.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

ATA has successfully developed and transitioned SBIR innovations into government and commercial programs. One example is our recent success transitioning technologies first developed on the NASA Phase I SBIR, MIRU I. The DRG-based CubeSat Inertial Reference Unit, or DCIRU, will be integrated into an original design that will directly benefit NASA?s future GNC systems for future CubeSat missions, i.e., NASA?s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CLI) that actively solicits CubeSat opportunities for low cost space exploration. ATA?s DCIRU specifically addresses NASA?s desire for advanced autonomous navigation and attitude control that would facilitate significant advances in independence from Earth supervision by enabling high bandwidth CubeSat inertial attitude knowledge (IAK) and control required for future sophisticated science missions. There are currently no precision space-qualified IRUs available for CubeSats today due to SWaP limitations. The proposed DRG/DCIRU developments will ultimately fulfill the crucial need for a CubeSat compatible IRU.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

ATA is working to insert our DCIRU technology into many air and space markets. Potential applications include missions having stringent line-of-sight stabilization (LOSS) and IAK requirements. OIRUs are used in airborne HEL and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) applications along with space-based Laser Communications (Lasercomm). ATA anticipates capturing significant market share, as OIRUs are a very specialized product niche in which we own most of the Intellectual Property (IP). We continually work to enhance and improve our OIRU designs and technology to maintain our competitive edge while reaching out to competitors to supply their specific mission needs. Our goal is to be the Number One supplier of DCIRUs worldwide.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Attitude Determination & Control
  • Autonomous Control (see also Control & Monitoring)
  • Inertial
  • Inertial (see also Sensors)
  • Relative Navigation (Interception, Docking, Formation Flying; see also Control & Monitoring; Planetary Navigation, Tracking, & Telemetry)

Proposal Title: 200W Deep Space CubeSat Composite Beam Roll-Up Solar Array (COBRA)
Subtopic Title: Large Deployable Structures for Smallsats

Small Business Concern
Composite Technology Development, Inc.
Lafayette, CO

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Alexi Rakow

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 6

Technical Abstract

Solar arrays that have very high specific power (W/kg) and compact stowed volume (W/m3), while still providing shielding to the solar cell, are an enabling technology for Deep Space CubeSat missions. Current CubeSat and small satellite solar arrays employ either fixed panels mounted directly to the Satellite side-wall(s) or small hinged rigid panels. These arrays generate very low power (4-20W) due to the limited area available for solar cell installation, thereby constraining CubeSat payload capacity, capability and mission applications. Composite Technology Development, Inc. (CTD) proposes to develop an approach for a high-power, flexible and compact deployable solar array for Deep Space CubeSat Applications. The Composite Beam Roll-up Array (COBRA) is a very high specific power solar array that combines the Photovoltaic Assembly with the deployable boom structure into a unified integrated laminated assembly that can achieve >265 W/kg at the array level, including the deployable structure. The integrated structure will also shield the solar cells from the harsh space environment. The objective of this SBIR is to develop a COBRA for a 6U Spacecraft that generates at least 200W for Deep Space Applications. The unique design is also inherently low cost due to the design simplicity and very low part count. Furthermore, the COBRA technology is highly modular and scale-able, and could be easily scaled to provide in excess of 600W for a small satellite.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

CubeSats? fast time to market and modular architectures open up a new paradigm for NASA scientists and mission planners to consider more cost effective ways to perform a greater variety of science or exploration space missions. Multipoint scientific investigations have been presented in the most recent NASA Roadmap and it is likely that these and other science objectives will be expanded upon in future decadal studies. The high cost of access to space makes deploying constellations of traditional satellites impractical. It is therefore desirable to develop much smaller and lower-cost sensor/satellite systems such that the largest number of distributed measurements can be economically made in the space environment. However, meaningful science investigations will require highly capable CubeSats with attitude determination and control systems, communications systems, data handling subsystems, and scientific payloads, all of which require high levels of power which will be enabled by the proposed technology.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

CubeSats are already demonstrating commercial Earth Imaging capabilities. This market will continue to grow as other customers and agencies such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency realize the benefits offered from these CubeSat operators. Other applications in asset tracking and surveillance around the globe can also be performed using CubeSat constellations. In addition, today?s armed services are looking for faster / cheaper ways to gain eyes, ears and crosslink communication for the dynamic battlefield. Several CubeSat subsystems are being developed that will drastically improve functionality. However, higher power will be necessary to realize the full capability of these small satellites.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Composites
  • Deployment
  • Generation
  • Polymers
  • Prototyping
  • Smart/Multifunctional Materials
  • Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)
    Structures

Proposal Title: Ka-Band Klystron Amplifier for CUBESATs
Subtopic Title: Microwave Technologies for Remote Sensing

Small Business Concern
e beam, Inc.
Beaverton, OR

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Bernard Vancil

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 7

Technical Abstract

We offer an ultra-compact klystron amplifier for remote sensing on CubeSats. It will operate at 35.7 GHz, have 400 MHz bandwidth, and output greater than 32 watts with 35 dB gain. It employs a two-stage depressed collector, allowing prime efficiency of 50%. Comparable solid state power amplifiers have 15% efficiency and output only 7 W. klystrons are the only amplifier technology that can be miniaturized to this degree. Volume with power conditioner and driver is less than 0.500 cm3, half the allowed space. It uses a breakthrough ultra-miniature scandate cathode capable of 100A/cm2 at 1000 degrees C and 5A/cm2 at less than 800 degrees C. At this temperature, life is more than 100,000 hours. The klystron uses cathode ray tube construction, which lowers weight, size and cost (two to five times less than standard brazed ceramic-metal construction). Parts are fastened via glass rods or mechanical capture or by spot welding. Most parts are standard off-the-shelf, which further lowers cost. It uses a glass vacuum envelope, glass feedthroughs, combination RF window-coupler and barium getters to maintain vacuum. In Phase I we successfully built two beam testers. In Phase II we construct an entire amplifier package in CubeSat volume. E beam, inc. is a leader in innovative miniature cathodes, electron guns and vacuum electron devices generally. It has long promoted cathode ray tube construction as a way to mass produce medium power microwave tubes.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

A major objective of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is to use smaller, more affordable spacecraft. Another goal is multiple experiments on the same launch. This lowers cost and risk. The rapid deployment of small, low-cost remote sensing instruments is essential in meeting these objectives. It has an explicit mission to reduce the risk, cost, size and development time of SMD observing instruments. This invention meets all those requirements and will find a ready market in NASA earth satellite missions.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

CubeSats are the enabling technology for space research by universities. This device will provide them with remote sensing capability of clouds, the ionosphere, other satellites, and earth features.
The larger commercial application is its potential for communications. Not only klystrons but broadband TWTs can be fabricated at a fraction of the cost of standard TWTs using this construction technology. There is an important market between 100 and 1000 watts not adequately addressed. These are powers too high for solid state to address efficiently. The power is too low for standard ceramic-metal tube construction to address cost effectively. The dollars/watt is too high. Glass electrostatically focused TWTs and klystrons with glass rod fastening can be manufactured at one-fifth the cost of ceramic-metal tubes. There are 300,000 cell towers in the U.S. Frequency and power need to go up. This technology provides a way forward.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Amplifiers/Repeaters/Translators
  • Materials (Insulator, Semiconductor, Substrate)
  • Microwave
  • Models & Simulations (see also Testing & Evaluation)
  • Nanomaterials
  • Processing Methods
  • Prototyping

Proposal Title: Ultracapacitor Based Power Supply for CubeSats
Subtopic Title: Power Electronics and Management, and Energy Storage

Small Business Concern
FastCAP Systems Corporation
Boston, MA

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Joseph Lane

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 6

Technical Abstract

Traditionally, the relatively small surface area and volume of a cube satellite has restricted the practical power limit of cube satellites. To the extent that the power will be generated by solar panels, cube satellites have a limited round trip energy budget. Increasing solar panel efficiency and complexity alleviates the energy issue to some degree. Both however, occur at the expense of the original cube satellite advantages of being inexpensive, small, and reliable. As such, the objective of high power capabilities must also assume fairly short time scales in order to preserve the energy budget. It’s this mode of operation, maximum energy and short high power events, where hybrid system designs typically make practical sense.

In all cases, the energy storage requirements will depend on the payloads power profile and mission requirements. Cube satellite payloads are becoming more sophisticated and, in many cases, power hungry. Interesting high power payloads currently in development for small satellites include Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and mechanical actuators for performing larger satellite maintenance. In order to continue the trend of increasing cube satellite capabilities, it’s important to be ready with energy storage that is both capable of supplying high power and flexible to suit the range of payload possibilities.

The hybrid ultracapacitor module proposed is a flexible, high efficiency, novel design that will enable satellite engineers to quickly and easily realize benefits such as extended battery lifetime, high peak power, and smaller size and weight that may be possible through a hybrid energy storage system. Additionally, the technology will translate to additional multifunctional, structural applications such as microsatellites, light aircraft, ordinance, and many more.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

Hybrid ultracapacitor power supplies enable high power density well beyond traditional capabilities of bulk Li-Ion battery storage. The targeted application that this proposal will focus on is a high power (> 100W) HPS for integration into CubeSats. The CubeSat platform was chosen for its inherent size and weight restrictions and as a relatively low cost and standardized platform for this new technology. Future development of ultracapacitor based HPS systems will leverage the size, weight, and performance benefits demonstrated on the CubeSat platform for expansion into larger more powerful systems.

Beyond cube satellites, hybrid power systems have applications in which there are high peak power but relatively low average power demands. Such systems include microsatellites, motor actuation, stage separation, burst radar and communication systems, and pulsed laser systems.

The multifunctional structural technology included in the ultracapacitor cell and module design have numerous NASA applications. Multifunctional energy storage design seeks to improve overall energy and power density by incorporating energy storage into devices that traditionally serve a different function. The cell under development is a structural cell that may be incorporated into structures such as airplane housings for light electric aircraft, satellite frames, actuator casings, and many more. With a high temperature chemistry, the cell may also be used for heat sinking and back-up power storage.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

The cube satellite platform is a fast growing market both in academia and industry. Many companies are also growing to develop larger microsatellites as the technology and business is proven on cube satellites. This technology is easily translated to all cube satellite and microsatellite developers.

Beyond satellites, the multifunctional structural technology has garnered a significant amount of interest by other government groups and companies for a wide range of application. The structural technology is able to conform to custom shapes to provide high efficiency, long life cycle energy storage in areas where it was impractical to do so previously. For example, the cell may be shaped to conform to void spaces in small aircraft such as drones and ordinance missiles. With FastCap’s high temperature electrode and electrolyte, the same technology can be used as heat sinks for power loss back up supplies on memory and computation boards. With the progression of light aircraft and electric automobiles, the structural cell is being considered to drastically improve system level energy and power density. Additionally, long lifetime and ultra-high reliability system such as smart weaponry and land mines are beginning to realize the benefits of a ruggedized structural cell for pulse communication, actuation, and ignition. FastCap is aggressively pursuing all of these opportunities with Phase II funding a critical element in achieving their technological goals.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Actuators & Motors
  • Circuits (including ICs; for specific applications, see e.g., Communications, Networking & Signal Transport; Control & Monitoring, Sensors)
  • Conversion
  • Distribution/Management
  • Manufacturing Methods
  • Nanomaterials
  • Robotics (see also Control & Monitoring; Sensors)
  • Smart/Multifunctional Materials
  • Storage
  • Structures

Proposal Title: Ka-Band Electronically Steered CubeSat Antenna
Subtopic Title: Advanced Space Communication Systems

Small Business Concern
Kymeta Government Solutions
Redmond, WA

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Margo Godon

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 4

Technical Abstract

Kymeta Government Solutions (KGS) designed, analyzed, built, tested, and delivered a small, lightweight, low-cost, low-power electronically steered Ka-band prototype antenna subsystem module (ASM) intended for use on 3U or larger CubeSats. This antenna uses a tunable dielectric material and an array of radiating elements to create an interference pattern that steers the beam in the desired direction. This method provides moderate gain without the use of mechanical steering and similar functional performance to a traditional phased array at a fraction of the size, weight, power, and cost (SWAP-C).

The Ka band ASM is specifically designed to be a flexible component in the communications chain. All of the interfaces to the ASM are simple, non-proprietary interfaces, and the KGS ASM is agnostic to radio, waveform, and network selections. A receiver can be readily integrated with the ASM to enable closed loop tracking, and the simple command interface of the ASM provides the communication system with the ability to easily and rapidly refine the beam position to maximize gain and ultimately improve link margins and data throughput without incurring additional power draw or mechanical stability effects.

Modifications to the aperture to better integrate, survive launch, and operate in space were designed during Phase I; during Phase II, KGS plans to update the control electronics and software that drive the antenna and then build and perform RF test on the overall system to verify compliance with requirements.

To date, a low-SWAP Ka-band steerable antenna for small satellites has not been successfully demonstrated in space. At the conclusion of this Phase II contract, the KGS ASM will be ready to go to space qualification testing and then a demonstration launch, where KGS will have the opportunity to prove the ASM’s capability in the target environment.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

This Ka-band ASM is a small, lightweight antenna which provides moderate gain without the use of mechanical steering or power-hungry phase shifters. This technology provides a high data rate communications solution for small satellites which, when paired with sensors, would provide NASA with the ability to transfer high volumes of sensor data from LEO satellites directly to the Earth via the Near Earth Network. In addition, because the frequency range of this antenna supports communication with NASA’s Tracking Data Relay Satellite (TDRS), it could allow transfer of data from LEO satellites to other satellites in LEO or GEO orbits as defined in the Space Network User Guide. This technology is generally not expected to form the basis of the primary science activity on a satellite, but its ability to support the transfer of large amounts of data for relatively little size, weight, power, and cost means that it has the ability to enhance or enable a variety of NASA programs, ranging from earth observation activities to science experiments.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

This antenna is appropriate for a variety of applications that require high data rate communications but do not have the funding or the weight budget to allow a phased array antenna, including university CubeSat teams, commercial companies, and government entities. This antenna is an especially good fit for entities that have low weight and power requirements, as these are areas where it performs exceptionally well compared to traditional mechanically-steered antennas as well as phased-array antennas. A variety of space-based ventures or early demonstrations that are expected to require high data rate communications have been announced recently, including Earth observation projects where the satellite itself captures large amounts of data that needs to be transferred back to the ground quickly and efficiently for analysis, as well as communications projects where a satellite acts as a node in a larger communications system and needs to be in a position to receive and transmit large amounts of data for as much of its orbit as possible.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Antennas

Proposal Title: Green Monopropellant Propulsion for Small Spacecrafts
Subtopic Title: Propulsion Systems for Robotic Science Missions

Small Business Concern
Plasma Processes, LLC
Huntsville, Ala.

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Anatoliy Shchetkovskiy

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technical Abstract

One of the biggest obstacles preventing the widespread implementation of small satellites is the process of actually getting them into space. Current methods include hitching rides as secondary payloads. Although this initiative has provided significant new launch capacity for CubeSat-class spacecraft, it is not without issues, most specifically limited orbits and orbital lifetime. Many missions need higher orbits to perform their missions; and lower orbits are subject to atmospheric drag that may cause premature reentry. Safe and affordable miniaturized propulsion can overcome these limiting factors and is a high-visibility capability sought by the CubeSat community. Even basic capabilities to push in one direction will allow nanosats to remain in orbit longer, or allow a satellite placed into low-Earth orbit to propel itself to a higher or more circular orbit. In Phase I, Plasma Processes designed, fabricated and delivered to NASA a miniaturized propulsion system compatible with non-toxic HAN- and ADN-based green monopropellants for small spacecraft propulsion. In Phase II, the green propellant thrusters will be tested will both monopropellants for pressure fed and pump fed 1U propulsion modules. The use of advanced, non-toxic propellants will increase mission capabilities including longer mission durations, additional maneuverability, increased scientific payload space, and simplified launch processing. Adding propulsion will also enable de-orbiting of the satellite after completion of the mission.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

Potential NASA Applications include small spacecraft and satellite missions requiring Orbit change & Attitude Control, Precision Propulsion, Formation Flying and Target Reentry. Examples of future mission implementation are next-generation Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT); Lunar Flashlight; NEA Scout; and SLS secondary payloads.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

Commercial application of the technology will provide safe and affordable miniaturized propulsion to support the emerging small, micro- and nano- satellite community; and small satellite constellations to provide global internet and mapping by joint ventures including SpaceX/Google, TerraBella (Skybox), Planet Labs and One Web LLC. The technology will also benefit low cost launch providers, Space-X, Virgin Galactic, Firefly, ULA, and Orbital ATK, with an increase in secondary payload demand.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Coatings/Surface Treatments
  • Fuels/Propellants
  • Joining (Adhesion, Welding)
  • Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
  • Metallics
  • Processing Methods
  • Prototyping
  • Relative Navigation (Interception, Docking, Formation Flying; see also Control & Monitoring; Planetary Navigation, Tracking, & Telemetry)
  • Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)
  • Spacecraft Main Engine

Proposal Title: Bonding and Analysis of Composite TRAC Booms for NASA Science Missions
Subtopic Title: Joining for Large-Scale Polymer Matrix Composite (PMC) Structures

Small Business Concern
ROCCOR, LLC
Longmont, CO

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Tom Murphey

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technical Abstract

A new deployable spacecraft boom technology called the Triangular Rollable And Collapsible Boom (TRACTM Boom), invented by the Air Force Research Laboratory and exclusively licensed by Roccor, is being considered by NASA for numerous missions including the Comet Rendezvous, Sample Acquisition, Isolation, and Return (CORSAIR) mission being developed by NASA Goddard. For CORSAIR, NASA has baselined a rather robust high strain composite (HSC) TRAC Boom to tether a comet Sample Acquisition and Retrieving Projectile (SARP) to the spacecraft and prevent the harpoon-like penetrator from recoiling back and impacting the spacecraft during retrieval. However, questions remain as to how to design and build a composite TRAC Boom with sufficient strength so as to tolerate the relatively long storage time (several years in-transit to the comet) and relatively high deployment speeds (~30-150 f/s) necessary for the CORSAIR harpoon system.

To address this challenge during Phase II, Roccor proposes to improve the performance of the bondline in composite TRAC Booms by reinforcing the adhesive joint and developing mechanical end fittings that allow higher packaging strains while minimizing creep. We also propose to validate a relatively low cost, out-of-autoclave process for affecting the bond, and validate analytical models to simulate the time- and temperature-dependent viscoelastic behavior of composite TRAC bonded joint, and guide engineering qualification of the joints for future NASA missions, including CORSAIR. Moreover, Roccor will also further optimize the system design, including proximal and distall end fittings that connect TRAC Boom into the CORSAIR storage canister and sample return projectile to validate strength and creep performance to mission requirements, and to incorporate load-limiting features that prevent catastrophic failure of the TRAC boom during operation.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

CORSAIR comet sample return “harpoon”
Deployable solar sails (NEA Scout)
Deployable mono-pole and di-pole antennas for CubeSats
Deployable CubeSat decelerators

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

Deployable solar sails
Deployable mono-pole and di-pole antennas for CubeSats
Deployable CubeSat decelerators

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Actuators & Motors
  • Characterization
  • Composites
  • Deployment
  • Polymers
  • Prototyping
  • Simulation & Modeling
  • Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)
  • Spacecraft Instrumentation & Astrionics (see also Communications; Control & Monitoring; Information Systems)
  • Structures

Proposal Title: High Frequency Reflective Mesh for Small Aperture Antennas
Subtopic Title: Microwave Technologies for Remote Sensing

Small Business Concern
Tendeg, LLC
Louisville, CO

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Gregg Freebury

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 6

Technical Abstract

The proposed Phase II program would develop and prototype a high frequency, high performance reflective mesh that is well suited to the emerging small aperture antenna designs. The program will build on the testing knowledge of the Phase I prototyped mesh. 40 OPI gold mesh will be prototyped and integrated to a cubesat Ka-band reflector. Carbon nanotube yarn will also be knitted into a 30 OPI mesh and tested on a similar antenna. The Phase II program will move the mesh to TRL 6. The goal is to make cost effective and robust mesh for the small aperture antenna community. RF test samples and a complete deployable Ka-band antenna will be delivered to NASA JPL for RF testing.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

NASA commercial applications include any Ka-Band small aperture antennas used for Earth observing science missions (RainCube radar), deep space communications, and any mission needing high data rate downlinks. The mesh technology can be expanded to larger apertures as well for any high gain mission needs.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

There is strong market potential in CubeSat up to smallsat size satellites in the commercial arena. There are numerous communication and data transfer constellations on-orbit and under construction. There are also numerous commercial Earth observation constellations under development. Billions of dollars are being invested in these constellations. Most of these commercial networks are small to nano sized satellites. Many of them would benefit from the lightweight, small packaged volume and high gain antenna performance for either high speed RF communications or weather and ground looking radar. In the terrestrial market, the U.S. Military is actively seeking man-packable high gain antennas for forward operating Warfighters.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Antennas
  • Characterization
  • Metallics
  • Nanomaterials
  • Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE; NDT)
  • Textiles

Proposal Title: Monofilament Vaporization Propulsion (MVP) System
Subtopic Title: Propulsion Systems for Robotic Science Missions

Small Business Concern
CU Aerospace, LLC
Champaign, IL

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Curtis Woodruff

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 6

Technical Abstract

Monofilament Vaporization Propulsion (MVP) is an innovative new propulsion technology targeted at secondary payload applications. The approach with MVP, rather than using exotic propellants to achieve maximum specific impulse and system performance, is to use an inexpensive, inert, solid propellant. This enables the use of a propulsion system on lower budget missions by lowering the unit cost (no valves or pressure vessels), and minimizes range safety expenses. By using a commercially available, space rated polymer as propellant, MVP overcomes potential issues associated with liquid propellants such as freezing, over-pressurization, degradation (of tank wall and/or propellant itself), and cg perturbations due to sloshing. As a result, MVP’s standalone risk to the primary payload is no greater than that of a CubeSat not equipped with propulsion. MVP harnesses technology used in 3D printing applications to feed propellant into proven electrothermal propulsion technology developed by CU Aerospace. To date, MVP has demonstrated a continuous 105 seconds specific impulse with 20 W input power, with 107 seconds peak. Phase II performance is expected to exceed 130 seconds. This should provide 900 N-s total impulse with a 1U (10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm) system, attributable to the high storage density and permissible thin walled construction. A 4 kg, 3U CubeSat equipped with MVP could achieve 250 m/s Delta-V while expending less than 25 W during operation. CU Aerospace will design, fabricate, and deliver a 1U MVP system to NASA at the end of the Phase II program.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

The MVP thruster system supports the NASA Roadmap for In-Space Propulsion Systems, nonchemical propulsion. MVP offers CubeSats and other small satellites a propulsion capability sufficient for various orbital maneuvers with several millinewtons of thrust requiring minimal thrust-control ACS and a minimal volume and system integration cost. The baseline MVP, occupying a 1U volume, has minimal impact on the CubeSat bus and payload. The solid propellant has no handling, storage, or operational restrictions beyond those of the CubeSat. The ease of handling and storage for the solid propellant can extend operation to planetary missions with no additional monitoring or controls.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

The MVP thruster will provide a compact, light-weight, non-hazardous, propulsion technology solution that will be made available in a family of sizes that can meet the differing needs of users in DOD, industry, and academia for CubeSat and small-satellite missions. MVP will require no safety equipment for storage, transportation, integration, and testing, and place no demanding requirements on the launch provider, making it an ideal low-cost solution for industry, research, and academic small-satellite propulsion needs.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Fuels/Propellants
  • Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
  • Relative Navigation (Interception, Docking, Formation Flying; see also Control & Monitoring; Planetary Navigation, Tracking, & Telemetry)
  • Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)
  • Spacecraft Main Engine