February 01, 2012

NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities

NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities: Restoring NASA's Technological Edge and Paving the Way for a New Era in Space (468 pages)

The report is designed to give the agency feedback on draft roadmaps they submitted in 2010 and to help the space agency prioritize its research. The council took into account NASA's "likely" level of funding for new technology, about $500 million to $1 billion a year.

The report warns, however, that the U.S. should restart its supply of plutonium-238, or "it will be impossible for the United States to conduct certain planned, critical deep-space missions after this decade."

NASA should save 10 percent of their budget for technologies in their earliest stages.

The 16 high-priority technologies include:

* Improved Access to Space: Dramatically reduce the total cost and increase reliability and safety of access to space.
* Space Radiation Health Effects: Improve understanding of space radiation effects on humans and develop radiation protection technologies to enable long-duration space missions.
* Precision Landing: Increase the ability to land more safely and precisely at a variety of planetary locales and at a variety of times.
* New Astronomical Telescopes: Develop a new generation of astronomical telescopes that enable discovery of habitable planets, facilitate advances in solar physics, and enable the study of faint structures around bright objects by developing high-contrast imaging and spectroscopic technologies to provide unprecedented sensitivity, field of view, and spectroscopy of faint objects.
* Robotic Maneuvering: Enable mobile robotic systems to autonomously and verifiably navigate and avoid hazards and increase the robustness of landing systems to surface hazards.
* Lightweight Space Structures: Develop innovative lightweight materials and structures to reduce the mass and improve the performance of space systems such as (1) launch vehicle and payload systems; (2) space and surface habitats that protect the crew, including multifunctional structures that enable lightweight radiation shielding, implement self-monitoring capability, and require minimum crew maintenance time; and (3) lightweight, deployable synthetic aperture radar antennas, including reliable mechanisms and structures for large-aperture space systems that can be stowed compactly for launch and yet achieve high-precision final shapes.
* Long Duration ECLSS: Achieve reliable, closed-loop Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) to enable long-duration human missions beyond low Earth orbit.
* Life Detection: Improve sensors for in-situ analysis to determine if synthesis of organic matter may exist today, whether there is evidence that life ever emerged, and whether there are habitats with the necessary conditions to sustain life on other
* Rapid Crew Transit: Establish propulsion capability for rapid crew transit to and from Mars or other distant targets.
* High Power Electric Propulsion: Develop high power electric propulsion systems along with the enabling power system technology.
* Higher Data Rates: Minimize constraints imposed by communication data rate and range.
* Autonomous Rendezvous and Dock: Achieve highly reliable, autonomous rendezvous, proximity operations and capture of free-flying space objects.
* Design Software: Advance new validated computational design, analysis and simulation methods for design, certification, and reliability of materials, structures, thermal, EDL and other systems.
* Mass to Surface: Deliver more payload to destinations in the solar system.
* Structural Monitoring: Develop means for monitoring structural health and sustainability for long duration missions, including integration of unobtrusive sensors and responsive on-board systems.
* Improved Flight Computers: Develop advanced flight-capable devices and system software for real-time flight computing with low

The idea is that in the next few months NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist will lead an agency-wide analysis and coordination effort to update the 14 technology area roadmaps with the NRC report's findings and recommendations.

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