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NASA Seeks Industry Partnerships on In-situ Resource

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
December 7, 2017
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NASA is seeking “proposals for trade studies and design, fabrication, and testing of critical components and subsystems for acquisition and processing of extraterrestrial resources into water, oxygen, and fuel.”

The broad agency announcement (BAA) came in an appendix to the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program, which has been working with commercial companies on facilitating space exploration and development beyond Earth orbit.

NASA is seeking proposals “using technologies and processes that leverage and support space or terrestrial commercial activities,” the announcement states.

“In-Situ Resource Utilization involves collecting and converting local resources into products that can reduce mission mass, cost, and/or risk of human exploration and lead to independence from Earth that would be required for more sustained human presence in deep space,” NASA says.

“While NASA has analyzed and developed ISRU component and subsystem technologies for several decades, many of the technologies and systems are still immature, do not meet collection and processing rates needed for sustained human exploration, and/or have not been operated for long durations under relevant mission environmental conditions,” the space agency adds.

“Primary products of interest are water from lunar and Mars regolith-based sources; oxygen from Mars atmosphere carbon dioxide; and oxygen and methane from Mars atmosphere carbon dioxide and extracted water, or from volatiles extracted from lunar regolith,” the announcement states. “Trade studies are also sought that address critical architecture and technology gaps at a variety of destinations including the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and the moons of Mars.”

NASA expects to award multiple fixed-price contracts in different technological areas. Partners will be required to meet cost-sharing and/or matching funds for their proposals, which could include prior investments.

Trade studies would be funded for up to $50,000 for less than one year. Component development and testing projects would received $250,000 to $500,000 per year for up to three years, with a two-year base and a one-year option. Projects that involve component development and testing followed by subsystem development would receive $250,000 to $750,000 per year for 70 to three and a half years, with an 18-month base and two-year option.

NASA anticipates that the majority of funded proposals will be for component testing and development. Follow-on contract modifications are possible to continue the work.