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NASA Secures Partnerships to Advance Robotic and Human Exploration of the Solar System

NASA has secured partnerships with 22 U.S. companies through two solicitations to advance the agency’s goals for robotic and human exploration of the solar system by shepherding the development of critical space technologies.

"These awards enable us to continue to foster partnerships with the commercial space sector that not only leverage capabilities to meet NASA's strategic goals, but also focus on U.S. industry markets that are at a tipping point for commercialization and infusion,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “At NASA, technology drives exploration and partnering with the private sector in this way supports the innovation economy and creates jobs.”

Through the "Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies” solicitation, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate selected nine companies to mature technologies beyond their “tipping point” with the goal of enabling private industry to develop and qualify them for market, stimulating the commercial space industry while delivering technologies and capabilities needed for future NASA missions and commercial applications.

A technology is considered at the tipping point if an investment in a demonstration of its capabilities would result in a significant advancement of the technology's maturation, high likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application, and significant improvement in the ability to successfully bring the technology to market.

Through the Tipping Point solicitation, NASA has selected the following nine projects and U.S. companies:

Robotic In-Space Manufacturing and Assembly of Spacecraft and Space Structures

  • Public-Private Partnership for Robotic In-Space Manufacturing and Assembly of Spacecraft and Space Structures -- Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
  • Versatile In-Space Robotic Precision Manufacturing and Assembly System -- Made in Space, Inc. of Moffett Field, California
  • Dragonfly: On-Orbit Robotic Installation and Reconfiguration of Large Solid RF Reflectors -- Space Systems Loral of Palo Alto, California

Low Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) Instruments for Remote Sensing Applications

  • EGO-XO: Nanosats for Advanced Gravity Mapping and Crosslink Occultation -- Geo Optics LLC of Pasadena, California
  • Advanced 1.65 Micron Seed Laser for LIDAR Remote Sensing of Methane -- Freedom Photonics LLC of Goleta, California

Small Spacecraft Attitude Determination and Control (ADC) Sensors and Actuators

  • Hyper-XACT, A Long Life, High Performance Attitude Determination and Control System -- Blue Canyon Technologies LLC of Boulder, Colorado
  • Tipping Point Proposal for Reaction Sphere -- Northrop Grumman Support Services Corporation of Millersville, Maryland

Small Spacecraft Propulsion Systems

  • HYDROS Thruster -- Tethers Unlimited of Bothell, Washington
  • Enabling High Thrust High Delta-V Green Propulsion for CubeSats -- Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. of Redmond, Washington

These fixed-priced contracts include milestone payments that require a minimum 25 percent corporate or customer contribution, though all awards are contingent on the availability of appropriated funding. The contracts range in value from $1 million to $20 million, and each have an approximate two-year performance period culminating in a system-level demonstration of the technology.

NASA also secured partnerships with 13 U.S. companies through the Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity (ACO) solicitation, "Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Emerging Space Technology System Capabilities.” Through these partnerships, NASA provides technical expertise and test facilities to aid industry partners in maturing key space technologies.

These awards will result in Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreements between the selected companies and NASA for the following technology projects:

Nanosatellite and Suborbital Reusable Launch Systems Development

  • Technology Maturation and Flight Validation for Air Launched Liquid Rockets -- Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. of Atlanta
  • LauncherOne Collaborative Opportunity to Advance Emerging Space Capabilities -- Virgin Galactic LLC of Long Beach, California
  • Spyder: A Dedicated CubeSat Launcher Project -- UP Aerospace, Inc. of Littleton, Colorado
  • Advanced Design and Manufacture of Cryogenic Propellant Tanks for Air Launched Liquid Rockets -- Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. of Atlanta

Thermal Protection System Materials and Systems Development

  • Validation of Fiber Optic Temperature Sensor Arrays for Thermal Protection System Materials -- Intelligent Fiber Optic Systems Corp. of Santa Clara, California
  • Development and Characterization of 3D Woven Thermal Protection System via Arc Jet Testing -- T.E.A.M, Inc. of Woonsocket, Rhode Island
  • Arc Jet Exposure of Ablative and Non-Oxide CMC TPS for Planetary Probe and Sample Return Applications -- Boeing of Huntington Beach, California

Green Propellant Thruster Technology Qualification

  • Flight Qualification of Busek’s 5N Green Monopropellant Thruster, BGT-5 -- Busek Co., Inc. of Natick, Massachusetts
  • Green Propellant Thruster Technology Qualification -- Orbital ATK of Elkton, Maryland
  • GR-1 Aerojet Rocketdyne Glenn Goddard (ARGG) Collaboration -- Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. of Redmond, Washington

Small, Affordable, High Performance Liquid Rocket Engine Development

  • Enhancement of Nanosat Launch Vehicle Booster Main Engine Using 3D Additive Manufacturing Techniques -- Garvey Spacecraft Corp. of Long Beach, California
  • Hydrogen Peroxide/Kerosene Engine Development -- Dynetics, Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama
  • Risk-Reduction Testing for the DESLA Upper Stage Engine -- Exquadrum, Inc. of Adelanto, California

“These new partnerships between NASA and U.S. industry can accelerate the development and infusion of these emerging space system capabilities,” Jurczyk said. “Sustained technology investments must be made to mature the capabilities required to reach the challenging destinations and meet the agency’s exploration goals, such as our journey to Mars.”

For more information about STMD’s continued investments in space technology development, demonstration and infusion, visit:


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