NASA develops new game-changing technology

Nov 18, 2011 By Priscilla Vega
This picture shows three High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensors, mounted on leadless chip carriers. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Two NASA California centers have been selected to develop new space-aged technologies that could be game-changers in the way we look at planets from above and how we safely transport robots or humans through space and bring them safely back to Earth.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will use advanced compound semiconductor materials to develop new technologies for the High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration. The higher the temperature at which an infrared detector can operate, the less power is required to cool it. Reduced power needs can translate into operational cost and system weight savings. If successful, this sensor technology could be used in many future NASA Earth and planetary science instruments, as well as for U.S. commercial and defense applications.

"The effort is different in the fact that we're focused on affordability concurrently with performance," said Sarath Gunapala of JPL, who is project manager for the High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration. "This technology has excellent potential for transitioning from laboratory demonstration to NASA and commercial product lines."

The overall goal for this technology development effort is to achieve 100 percent cost savings as compared with traditional cryogenically cooled . The weight and volume savings allow for more compact instruments -- an important consideration for a spacecraft's payload size and cost. This state-of-the-art technology also will have spinoff applications for commercial instrument manufacturers.

Seeking to radically change the way protect spacecraft during atmospheric entry, NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., is developing the Woven Thermal Protection System. The project is a revolutionary approach to thermal protection system design and manufacturing for . Ames is the lead center for the project, partnering with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Partnering with the U.S. textile industry, NASA is employing an advanced, three-dimensional weaving approach in the design and manufacture of thermal protection systems. Today, lightweight aircraft parts are being manufactured using similar weaving technologies. This will be expanded to include spacecraft heatshield applications. The system will enhance performance using advanced design tools with cost savings from a shortened product development and testing cycle.

"Woven TPS has the potential to significantly impact future NASA missions by changing heat shield development from a challenge to be overcome into a mission-enabling component," said NASA Langley's Ethiraj Venkatapathy, principal investigator of the project. "By delivering improved heat shield performance and affordability, this technology will impact all future exploration missions, from the robotic science missions to Mars, Venus and Saturn to the next generation of human missions."

NASA's Game-Changing Technology Division focuses on maturing advanced space technologies that may lead to entirely new approaches for the agency's future space missions while finding solutions to significant national needs. NASA Langley oversees project management of the Game Changing Technology programs.

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User comments : 15

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Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (10) Nov 18, 2011
Much valuable science is being done at NASA.

What a shame the Republicans have long had NASA's destruction as one of their treasonous goals.
CapitalismPrevails
3 / 5 (10) Nov 18, 2011
Yeah, damn those pesky Republicans. CURSE THEM AND THEIR EVIL!

When you have the private sector(SpaceX) sending cargo into space a $1000 per pound vs. the NASA space shuttle's $10,000-$15,000 per pound, then you tell me which is the bigger crime!? Government is inherently inefficient(E.G. USPS and DMV) and is no where near as incentivised and motivated to produce better end results as the private sector at anything.

http://www.calwat...ace-age/
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (4) Nov 18, 2011
Much valuable science is being done at NASA.

What a shame the Republicans have long had NASA's destruction as one of their treasonous goals.


In point of fact, both sides of the aisle, along with multiple Administrations, have had a hand in playing politics with NASA. Fiddling with its mission statement, budget, priorities, etc.

In any case, it's good to see valuable work being done at NASA. Most Americans have a very favorable view of it and look to it as a leader in science and technology.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (5) Nov 18, 2011
When you have the private sector(SpaceX) sending cargo into space a $1000 per pound vs. the NASA space shuttle's $10,000-$15,000 per pound, then you tell me which is the bigger crime!? Government is inherently inefficient(E.G. USPS and DMV) and is no where near as incentivised and motivated to produce better end results as the private sector at anything.


I agree. NASA does certain things well, like basic research, and it should be free to stick to its core strengths while allowing some of these areas like LEO hauling to be opened up completely to whomever does it best.
that_guy
3.7 / 5 (6) Nov 18, 2011
Yeah, damn those pesky Republicans. CURSE THEM AND THEIR EVIL!

When you have the private sector(SpaceX) sending cargo into space a $1000 per pound vs. the NASA space shuttle's $10,000-$15,000 per pound, then you tell me which is the bigger crime!?


God you guys are idiots. Typical politics. You both managed to be on different sides, and you both managed to be wrong as well.

1. Republicans tend to support NASA, believe it or not.
2. Obama pushed to have NASA to work with private companies like SpaceX etc to a much greater extent. The republicans protested - They wanted to keep NASA as it was - A govt dominated enterprise.

Obviously this situation is backwards from the typical, but just goes to show that partisans aren't to be bothered with facts.

Also, CP, If the Post Office was allowed to charge cost - it would be 50c a letter (VS $7 for a competitor) they are efficient - they just need to be able to adjust their prices appropriately, among other things.
Jotaf
5 / 5 (4) Nov 18, 2011
Please, this article is not about politics.

This is great -- now that NASA doesn't have to allocate as many resources to its space-taxis, it can focus on its core business which is going where no one has gone before!

I just attended a talk from a NASA senior researcher and he seemed really passionate about this direction. It seems that they're starting to realize the implications, that they can start thinking big again.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (2) Nov 18, 2011
Lest we forget, in regards to the issue of SpaceX vs. NASA, the factor that is often overlooked but is more important than any other is this: it was time for private spaceflight to take off.

I sometimes see comments about privatization being "forced". While this may or may not be the case, it's irrelevant. Because, now that the science is achievable for individual organizations (a select few, to be sure), there are plenty of people who want to explore space, on their own terms, without government involvement or interference.

Frankly, that's a good thing for everybody. Why should a cutting-edge group like NASA be focused on cranking repetitively cranking out communication satellites or other very mundane tasks? Let SpaceX have their fun. And let NASA stay focused.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2011
The overall goal for this technology development effort is to achieve 100 percent cost savings as compared with traditional cryogenically cooled infrared sensors.
Ehhh... LOLWUT?

They want the new sensors to cost nothing at all?

(Well, at least their cost reduction projections didn't EXCEED 100%...)
Pkunk_
3 / 5 (3) Nov 18, 2011
Please, this article is not about politics.

This is great -- now that NASA doesn't have to allocate as many resources to its space-taxis, it can focus on its core business which is going where no one has gone before!


If SpaceX fails , then NASA can focus on its core business - which is going NOWHERE.
kochevnik
not rated yet Nov 18, 2011
Government is inherently inefficient(E.G. USPS and DMV)
Is government more inefficient that Randoid Internet trolls? You're not exactly yielding any converts to your lunacy. Government and community serves the people's interests. Privatization is thievery of community property.

As for SpaceX all the best. But cost per kilogram is a different metric that cost per astronaut safely returned. To date I have a record as good as SpaceX: zero.

1. Republicans tend to support NASA, believe it or not.
Sure, for militarization purposes. Can't have those secrets falling into private hands.
DocM
not rated yet Nov 19, 2011
Actually, it's Republicans that are pressing NASA to release the full version of trade studies that indicate orbital and deep space fuel depots would be both cheaper and faster to field than the massively expensive Space Launch System rocket. If wanting to get more bang/buck out of our scarce space program dollars is a "crime" then I plead guilty.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 19, 2011
The overall goal for this technology development effort is to achieve 100 percent cost savings as compared with traditional cryogenically cooled infrared sensors.
Ehhh... LOLWUT?

They want the new sensors to cost nothing at all?

(Well, at least their cost reduction projections didn't EXCEED 100%...)


"The overall goal for this technology development effort is to achieve 100 percent cost savings as compared with traditional cryogenically cooled infrared sensors."

So, if the traditional cryogenically cooled infrared cost $1,000 each, NASA's goal is to bring the new ones in at $500.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 19, 2011
As for SpaceX all the best. But cost per kilogram is a different metric that cost per astronaut safely returned. To date I have a record as good as SpaceX: zero.


True. But, look at that glass as half-full. SpaceX has lost 18 fewer astronauts than NASA and the Russians!
astro_optics
1 / 5 (1) Nov 20, 2011
Does NASA get these chips from eBay CHINA?
PinkElephant
not rated yet Nov 21, 2011
@Nerdyguy,
So, if the traditional cryogenically cooled infrared cost $1,000 each, NASA's goal is to bring the new ones in at $500.
Yes, that's probably what they meant. However, notice that when talking about cost _reduction_, this is a 50% decrease -- not 100%. If it went in the other direction (increasing from $500 to $1000), then that would be a 100% cost _growth_.

Perhaps the difference is too subtle for JPL/NASA publicists, but it could be the difference between an A and an F in fourth-grade math...

;)