Small satellites are increasingly being used for missions in Earth orbit and deep space. Although they are easy to launch, their size limits their capabilities and usefulness to scientists. NASA has selected a pair of research and development (R&D) projects designed to address some of these limitations for continued funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
The space agency selected Flight Works for a Phase II award to continue developing a high-performance, pump-fed transfer stage for Venture Class cislunar and deep space missions. The space agency also selected Nanohmics of Austin, Texas, for a SBIR Phase II award to continue working on adaptive optics for low-cost CubeSat optical systems. Each award is worth up to $750,000 over 24 months. Both companies received smaller SBIR Phase I awards.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program has awarded $15 million to U.S. small businesses and research institutions to continue developing technologies in areas ranging from aeronautics to science and space exploration.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., August 27, 2021 (CASIS PR) – The International Space Station (ISS) is an incredible research platform that has hosted more than 3,000 experiments—but not all that research takes place inside the orbiting laboratory. On the outside of the ISS, the extreme space conditions provide an unparalleled environment to test new materials and advance technologies in ways not possible on Earth.
All stars exhibit intensity fluctuations over several time scales, from nanoseconds to days; these intensity fluctuations echo off planetary bodies in the star system and provide an opportunity to detect and possibly image exoplanets using modern computational imaging techniques.
A mission utilizing stellar echo detectors could provide continent-level imaging of exoplanets more readily than interferometric techniques, as high temporal resolution detection is less technically challenging and more cost effective than multikilometer-baseline fringe-tracking, particularly in a photon-starved regime.
The concept is also viable for survey missions for detecting exoplanets at more diverse orbital inclinations than is possible with transit or radial velocity techniques.
Under a Phase I NIAC program, we evaluated the feasibility of the stellar echo technique and, while several practical constraints have been identified, we have not identified any fundamental limitations.
We determined that the foundational technology already exists and has high TRL in space missions. Furthermore, the measurements required to demonstrate the feasibility of stellar echo detection are complementary to asteroseismology measurements, so a demonstration mission would provide high-value scientific information to other active astrophysics programs.
Under the Phase II program, we will continue to advance the theoretical understanding of stellar echo imaging, improve on the computational methods developed in Phase I, evaluate specific hardware implementations, and ultimately produce a roadmap for the demonstration of stellar echo detection and imaging of exoplanets.
NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently selected 13 proposals for Phase I awards. Below is a proposal submitted by Chris Mann of Nanohmics, Inc.
Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets
Chris Mann Nanohmics, Inc.
All stars exhibit intensity fluctuations over several time scales, from nanoseconds to days; these intensity fluctuations echo off planetary bodies in the star system and provide an opportunity to detect and image exoplanets using modern computational imaging techniques. A mission utilizing distributed-aperture stellar echo detectors could provide continent-level imaging of exoplanets more readily than interferometric techniques, as high temporal resolution detection is less technically challenging and more cost effective than multi-kilometer-baseline fringe-tracking, particularly in a photon-starved regime. The concept is viable for detecting exoplanets at more diverse orbital inclinations than is possible with transit or radial velocity techniques.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 13 proposals through NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that invests in transformative architectures through the development of pioneering technologies.
Among the selected are: a concept for reprogramming microorganisms that could use the Martian environment to recycle and print electronics; a two-dimensional spacecraft with ultra-thin subsystems that may wrap around space debris to enable de-orbiting; and a method of computational imaging that leverages extrasolar intensity fluctuations to detect “echoes” from planets and other structures orbiting a distant star.
So far, CubeSats have been used exclusively in Earth orbit. But, imagine a fleet of these tiny spacecraft fanning out to the moon and other deep-space destinations.
That’s what NASA has in mind. The space agency has just committed about $1.1 million to fund nine research projects that address different deep-space cubesat technologies. The funding is part of the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Select Phase 1 grants announced earlier this week.