NASA Announces New Partnerships to Develop Space Exploration Technologies

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 "tipping point" technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including lunar lander and deep space rocket engine technologies.

Selections are based on the agency's third competitive Tipping Point solicitation, and have a combined total award value of approximately $44 million - a significant investment in the U.S. space industry.

A technology is considered at a "tipping point" if investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improving the company's ability to bring it to market.

"These awards focus on technology collaborations with the commercial space sector that leverage emerging markets and capabilities to meet NASA's exploration goals," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "While these key technologies will support NASA's science and human exploration missions in the future, these awards are yet another example of NASA's commitment to our nation's growing commercial space industry today."

This solicitation targeted three Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) strategic technology focus areas: Expand Utilization of Space, Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space, and Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces.

The selected proposals, organized by strategic technology focus areas, are:

Expand Utilization of Space

    --  Blue Origin, L.L.C., in Kent, Washington, $10 millionProposal: Cryogenic
        Fluid Management-Enhanced Integrated Propulsion Testing for Robust
        Lander ServicesBlue Origin will mature cryogenic liquid propulsion
        through a combination of technologies in a lunar lander-scaled
        integrated propulsion system. The project will culminate in testing of
        the integrated propulsion system and a separate experiment on Blue
        Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

    --  Space Systems/Loral, L.L.C., (SSL) in Palo Alto, California, $2
        millionProposal: In-Space Xenon Transfer for Satellite, Servicer and
        Exploration Vehicle Replenishment and Life ExtensionThis project will
        advance satellite servicing and in-space platform propellant
        replenishment capabilities by developing the capability to transfer
        xenon in space from a servicer or tanker to an active, operational
        satellite. The incremental addition of xenon transfer to existing
        robotic refueling payload opens new refueling opportunities. The project
        will demonstrate that in-space xenon transfer can be performed reliably

    --  United Launch Alliance, L.L.C. (ULA) in Centennial, Colorado, $10
        millionProposal: Integrated Vehicle Fluids Flight DemonstrationAn
        Integrated Vehicle Fluids (IVF) system supports extended-duration
        cryogenic upper stage operations and has applications for lunar landers.
        It takes advantage of available liquid hydrogen and oxygen to provide
        multiple kilowatts of power while potentially eliminating battery power,
        helium pressurization, and the hydrazine reaction control system. This
        effort includes qualification of key elements of the IVF subsystem and
        integration and flight on a Centaur upper stage.

Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space

    --  Frontier Aerospace Corporation in Simi Valley, California, $1.9
        millionProposal: Flight Qualification of the DSE, MON-25 MMH Rocket
        EngineThis project will advance Frontier's Deep Space Engine (DSE) by
        flight demonstration as part of the first Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar
        Lander mission planned for 2020. The DSE engine uses a propellant that
        has a lower freezing point, which provides benefits for exploration
        landers and deep space missions by lowering system weight and required

    --  Paragon Space Development Corporation in Tucson, Arizona, $1.6
        millionProposal: Cryogenic Encapsulating Launch Shroud and Insulated
        Upper Stage (CELSIUS) CELSIUS is a system that can be installed on the
        surface of the cryogenic upper stage tank of a space launch vehicle to
        provide enhanced insulation capabilities and protection from meteoroids
        and debris.

    --  SSL, $2 millionProposal: High Efficiency 6kW Dual Mode Electric
        Propulsion Engine for Broad Mission ApplicationsThis project will expand
        SSL's electric propulsion capabilities by developing a selectable "dual
        mode" power processing unit (PPU) capable of providing 300 or 600 volts
        to a 6 kilowatt Hall thruster, increasing overall mission efficiency and
        flexibility. This provides faster, more efficient, propulsive
        capabilities for future NASA missions.

    --  ULA, $2 million Proposal: Cryogenic Fluid Management Technology
        DemonstrationThis cryogenic fluid management (CFM) demonstration project
        seeks to prove that very low cryogenic fuel boil off is achievable and
        can support long duration missions. ULA will perform critical testing of
        the existing space launch vehicle Centaur Cryote-3 tank.

Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces

    --  Astrobotic Technology, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, $10
        millionProposal: Stand-Alone Sensor for High Precision Planetary
        LandingThis project will culminate in a lunar technology demonstration
        mission, advancing a low-cost, reliable, high-performance, stand-alone
        Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) sensor suite. This lower-mass,
        lower-power, passive-optical sensor suite is designed to precisely
        deliver robotic landers to planetary surfaces. Demonstrating these
        capabilities will allow the team to assist NASA in dramatically
        improving the performance of lunar and planetary landing missions.

    --  Blue Origin, $3 millionProposal: Advancing Sensor Suites to Enable
        Landing Anywhere on the Lunar SurfaceThis project will mature critical
        technologies that enable precision and soft landing on the Moon. The
        project team will integrate Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN),
        navigation doppler lidar, and altimetry sensors and conduct flight tests
        prior to lunar mission implementation. Testing will be performed at
        approximately 100 km altitude on board the Blue Origin New Shepard
        vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) suborbital vehicle. The
        resulting sensor suite will enable precision landing anywhere on the
        lunar surface.

    --  ULA, $1.9 million Proposal: Mid-Air Retrieval (MAR) DemonstrationThis
        project will flight demonstrate mid-air retrieval capabilities up to
        8,000 pounds, increasing current capabilities by a factor of four.
        Paired with the NASA Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable
        Decelerator (LOFTID) project, this effort will demonstrate mid-air
        retrieval on a vehicle returning to Earth from orbital velocity. The
        project will utilize an ocean-going ship capable of transporting a
        helicopter to the recovery zone and the demonstration will conclude with
        recovery of the LOFTID reentry vehicle.

Through firm-fixed-price contracts, STMD will make milestone payments that cover as much as $10 million per award, over a performance period of up to 36 months. Each industry partner is required to contribute a minimum of 25 percent of total cost for each project.

STMD is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering technologies and capabilities needed to achieve NASA missions. Projects resulting from the Tipping Point solicitation will enable public-private partnerships managed by programs within STMD.

For more information about the Tipping Point solicitation, visit:

View original content with multimedia: