The NASA Engineering & Safety Center (NESC) was established in 2003 to provide an independent technical resource for the resolution of challenging technical problems (through the use of studies, analysis, tests, etc.). Since its inception, NESC has completed nearly 1000 technical assessments for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operation Mission Directorate (HEOMD), Science Mission Directorate (SMD), Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), and Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). Of the SMD related assessments, several were for the resolution of technical problems, analysis, or studies related to NASA’s Earth science missions in various phases of the project from design to operation. Some of the recent examples of NESC technical support for NASA (or NOAA) Earth science missions have been for: Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-II), Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), and the soon to be launched collaboration mission with India, NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR). In this paper, we outline some of the technical challenges faced by these Earth science missions and describe how NESC contributed to their resolution. The case studies cover a wide range of disciplines involving space lidars, radars, electronics, attitude control systems, as well as Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) risk assessment impact to NASA missions. The efforts include strategies for risk mitigation, technical resolution of challenging problems, and failure root cause investigations combined with lessons learned reports to advance discipline knowledge, enhance NASA capabilities, and avoid future problems.
Over the past decade, SmallSats have been established as having great potential for science exploration and commercialization of space. The SmallSat revolution aims to decrease the cost of space development, making space exploration accessible to students, educators, and public citizens. These efforts have focused on miniaturization of instruments and space platforms, as well as reducing their cost, mass, and needed power. In addition to enabling scientific exploration, SmallSats provide affordable means for the public to purchase remote sensing and communication products on a global scale. SmallSat mission concepts are particularly powerful when they are deployed in distributed architecture or constellations. For example, the most promising observation techniques for global science measurements of the Earth system and space weather require multi-point distributed observations of the Earth system at a feasible cost. The high cost of access to space has long been a barrier, especially with the prohibitive cost of large satellites. Affordable SmallSat constellations can be game-changers, enabling scientific exploration as well as commercial global data products. In this paper, we highlight investments made by NASA to date (specifically a study in developing and prototyping a SmallSat platform with standard interfaces), along with several example mission concept scenarios in Earth and space science (astrophysics, heliophysics, and planetary) applications that can be achieved using this platform.
The NASA Strategic Astrophysics Technology (SAT) Program was established in 2009 as a new technology maturation program to fill the gap in the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range from 3 to 6. Since the inception of the program, 47 tasks have been awarded under the auspices of the NASA Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) Program in the areas of optics and detectors as well as lasers, electronics, and micro-thruster subsystems. In addition, 31 tasks have been awarded under the auspices of the NASA Cosmic Origins (COR) Program to develop optics, coatings, cooling subsystems, and detectors from the Far-IR to the Far-UV. We present the PCOS/COR portfolio distribution in terms of specific technology areas addressed and show an analysis of the rate and cost of TRL advancements. We present highlights of the infusion success stories that have emerged from the SAT maturation program as it relates to enabling future NASA astrophysics strategic missions. Finally, we present an outlook for future technology priorities for investment by the SAT Program.
In late 2005 the NASA Earth Science Technology Office convened a working group to review decadal-term technology needs for Earth science active optical remote sensing objectives. The outcome from this effort is intended to guide future NASA investments in laser remote sensing technologies. This paper summarizes the working group findings and places them in context with the conclusions of the National Research Council assessment of future Earth science and applications requirements, completed in 2007.
In late 2005 the NASA Earth Science Technology Office convened a working group to review decadal-term technology
needs for Earth science active optical remote sensing objectives. The outcome from this effort is intended to guide future
NASA investments in laser remote sensing technologies. This paper summarizes the working group findings and places
them in context with the conclusions of the National Research Council assessment of Earth science needs, completed in
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