Showing posts with label NIAC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NIAC. Show all posts

August 10, 2014

10 meter Sub-Orbital Large Balloon Reflector (LBR)

A new NIAC Phase II project is hte “10 meter Sub-Orbital Large Balloon Reflector (LBR)”. They propose to develop and demonstrate the technology required to realize a suborbital, 10 meter class telescope suitable for operation from radio to THz frequencies. The telescope consists of an inflatable, half-aluminized spherical reflector deployed within a much larger carrier stratospheric balloon. Besides serving as a launch vehicle, the carrier balloon provides a stable mount for the enclosed telescope. Looking up, the LBR will serve as a telescope. Looking down, the LBR can be used for remote sensing or telecommunication activities. By combining successful suborbital balloon and ground-based telescope technologies, the dream of a 10 meter class telescope free of ~99% of the Earth’s atmospheric absorption in the far-infrared can be realized. The same telescope can also be used to perform sensitive, high spectral and spatial resolution limb sounding studies of the Earth’s atmosphere in greenhouse gases and serve as a high flying hub for any number of telecommunications and surveillance activities. LBR is a multi-institution effort between the University of Arizona (the PI institution), SWRI, JPL, and APL. LBR was selected in 2013 by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to proceed into Step B of the NIAC Phase I program. This makes LBR eligible to propose for a 2014 Phase II award. The goal of our NIAC Phase II effort is to bring LBR concepts to a Technology Readiness Level of at least 2 in maturity, by addressing key unknowns, assumptions, risks, and paths forward remaining after the completion of our Phase I study.

August 09, 2014

Spacecraft/Rover Hybrids for the Exploration of Small Solar System Bodies

NASA has awarded a $500,000 phase 2 grant for hybrid spacecraft - rovers.

The goal of this effort is to develop a mission architecture that allows the systematic and affordable in-situ exploration of small Solar System bodies, such as asteroids, comets, and Martian moons. Our architecture relies on the novel concept of spacecraft/rover hybrids, which are surface mobility platforms capable of achieving large surface coverage (by attitude-controlled hops, akin to spacecraft flight), fine mobility (by tumbling), and coarse instrument pointing (by changing orientation relative to the ground) in the low-gravity environments (micro-g to milli-g) of small bodies. The actuation of the hybrids relies on spinning three internal flywheels, which allows all subsystems to be packaged in one sealed enclosure and enables the platforms to be minimalistic, thereby reducing the cost of the mission architecture. The hybrids would be deployed from a mother spacecraft, which would then act as a communication relay to Earth and would aid the in-situ assets with tasks such as localization and navigation. In Phase I, we demonstrated that the bounding assumptions behind our proposed mission architecture are reasonable, and have a sound scientific and engineering basis. Phase II has two objectives. First, to advance from TRL 2 to TRL 3.5 the mobility subsystem of the hybrids (comprising planning/control and localization/navigation), with the aid of a unique test bed for low-gravity surface mobility and parabolic flight tests on a zero-g airplane. Second, to study at a conceptual level (TRL 2) system engineering aspects for the hybrids, with a focus on power, in the context of a mission to Mars' moon Phobos. Collectively, our study aims to demonstrate that exploration via controlled mobility in low-gravity environments is technically possible, economically feasible, and would enable a focused, yet compelling set of science objectives aligned with NASA's interests in science and human exploration. Indeed, while controlled mobility in low-gravity environments was identified by the National Research Council in 2012 as one of NASA's high priorities for technology development, it has never been demonstrated in a high-fidelity low-gravity test bed. Hence, this proposal, if successful, would provide a sought-after and currently unavailable capability for small bodies exploration.

August 08, 2014

NASA studies enabling massive lens in space from dust

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which has named five projects for $500,000 Phase 2 awards..

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is leading one of the Phase II projects, one called ‘Orbiting Rainbows,’. It involves clouds of dust-like matter being shaped into the primary element for ultra-large space lens.

Inspired by the light scattering and focusing properties of distributed optical assemblies in Nature, such as rainbows and aerosols, and by recent laboratory successes in optical trapping and manipulation, we propose a unique combination of space optics and autonomous robotic system technology, to enable a new vision of space system architecture with applications to ultra-lightweight space optics and, ultimately, in-situ space system fabrication. Typically, the cost of an optical system is driven by the size and mass of the primary aperture. The ideal system is a cloud of spatially disordered dust-like objects that can be optically manipulated: it is highly reconfigurable, fault-tolerant, and allows very large aperture sizes at low cost. This new concept is based on recent understandings in the physics of optical manipulation of small particles in the laboratory and the engineering of distributed ensembles of spacecraft swarms to shape an orbiting cloud of micron-sized objects. In the same way that optical tweezers have revolutionized micro- and nanomanipulation of objects, our breakthrough concept will enable new large scale NASA mission applications and develop new technology in the areas of Astrophysical Imaging Systems and Remote Sensing because the cloud can operate as an adaptive optical imaging sensor. While achieving the feasibility of constructing one single aperture out of the cloud is the main topic of this work, it is clear that multiple orbiting aerosol lenses could also combine their power to synthesize a much larger aperture in space to enable challenging goals such as exo-planet detection. Furthermore, this effort could establish feasibility of key issues related to material properties, remote manipulation, and autonomy characteristics of cloud in orbit. There are several types of endeavors (science missions) that could be enabled by this type of approach, i.e. it can enable new astrophysical imaging systems, exo-planet search, large apertures allow for unprecedented high resolution to discern continents and important features of other planets, hyperspectral imaging, adaptive systems, spectroscopy imaging through limb, and stable optical systems from Lagrange-points. Furthermore, future microminiaturization might hold promise of a further extension of our dust aperture concept to other more exciting smart dust concepts with other associated capabilities. Our objective in Phase II is to experimentally and numerically investigate how to optically manipulate and maintain the shape of an orbiting cloud of dust-like matter so that it can function as an adaptable ultra-lightweight surface. Our solution is based on the aperture being an engineered granular medium, instead of a conventional monolithic aperture. This allows building of apertures at a reduced cost, enables extremely fault-tolerant apertures that cannot otherwise be made, and directly enables classes of missions for exoplanet detection based on Fourier spectroscopy with tight angular resolution and innovative radar systems for remote sensing. In this task, we will examine the advanced feasibility of a crosscutting concept that contributes new technological approaches for space imaging systems, autonomous systems, and space applications of optical manipulation. The proposed investigation will mature the concept that we started in Phase I, identifying technology gaps and candidate system architectures for the spaceborne cloud as an aperture.

July 02, 2014

NanoTHOR: Low-Cost Multiuse Launching of Nanosatellites to Deep Space and near term 2016-2017 deployment and with future improvable performance with stronger carbon nanotube or graphene tethers

The full 72 page report and presentation on NanoThor - rotating tether launching of deep space nanosatellites

The rapid development of high performance nanosatellite platforms is enabling NASA and commercial ventures to consider performing missions to the asteroids, the Moon, and Mars at lower cost and on shorter timelines than traditional large spacecraft platforms. Currently, however, opportunities to launch secondary payloads to Earth escape are rare, and using chemical rockets to propel secondary payloads from LEO rideshares to escape is problematic due to the risks posed to primary payloads. The NanoTHOR effort has explored the technical feasibility and value proposition for using a simple momentum-exchange tether system to scavenge orbital energy from an upper stage in geostationary transfer orbit in order to boost nanosatellites to Earth escape. A NanoTHOR module will accomplish rapid transfer of a nanosatellite to an escape trajectory by deploying the nanosat at the end of a long, slender, high-strength tether and then using winching in the Earth’s gravity gradient to convert orbital angular momentum into rotational angular momentum. In the Phase I effort, we developed and simulated methods for controlling tether deployment and retraction to spin up a tether system, and these simulations demonstrated the feasibility of providing delta-Vs on the order of 800 m/s with a simple, low-mass tether system. Moreover, the NanoTHOR tether can act as a reusable in-space upper stage, boosting multiple nanosatellites on a single launch and doing so with a mass requirement lower than that of conventional rocket technologies. Serving as an escape-injection stage, NanoTHOR can enable a 6U CubeSat to deliver small payloads to Mars orbit, lunar orbit, and rendezvous with at least 110 of the known near-Earth asteroids. Evaluation of the technology readiness of the component technologies required for NanoTHOR indicate that the hardware required is all mid-TRL, and the lower-TRL controls and integration components can be advanced to mid-TRL with modest investment. By scavenging orbital energy from upper stages without any stored energy or propellant requirements, NanoTHOR permits deep-space nanosat missions to launch on rideshare opportunities, enabling NASA and commercial ventures to conduct affordable and frequent missions to explore deep space destinations.

Robert Hoyt, Tethers Unlimited, Inc, NanoTHOR: Low-Cost Launch of Nanosatellites to Deep Space

Watch live streaming video from niac2013 at

June 17, 2014

Balloons, Drones and Submarines for exploring Saturn's Moon Titan and other outer moons and planets

Quadcopter or other rotorcraft Drones and Balloons for Exploring Titan

Saturn’s giant moon Titan has become one of the most fascinating bodies in the Solar System. Titan is the richest laboratory in the solar system for studying prebiotic chemistry, which makes studying its chemistry from the surface and in the atmosphere one of the most important objectives in planetary science. The diversity of surface features on Titan related to organic solids and liquids makes long-range mobility with surface access important. This has not been possible, because mission concepts to date have had either no mobility (landers), no surface access (balloons and airplanes), or low maturity, high risk, and/or high development costs for this environment (e,g. large, self-sufficient, long-duration helicopters). We propose a mission study of a small (less than 10 kg) rotorcraft that can deploy from a balloon or lander to acquire close-up, high resolution imagery and mapping data of the surface, land at multiple locations to acquire microscopic imagery and samples of solid and liquid material, return the samples to the mothership for analysis, and recharge from an RTG on the mothership to enable multiple sorties. Prior studies have shown the feasibility of aerial mobility on Titan for larger aircraft, from 10 to 400 kg, but none of these studies were in the size range we address and none addressed the daughtercraft, sampling, and recharging scenarios we address. This concept is enabled now by recent advances in autonomous navigation and miniaturization of sensors, processors, and sampling devices. It revolutionizes previous mission concepts in several ways. For a lander mission, it enables detailed studies of a large area around the lander, providing context for the micro-images and samples; with precision landing near a lake, it potentially enables sampling solid and liquid material from one lander. For a balloon mission, it enables surface investigation and sampling with global reach without requiring a separate lander or that the balloon be brought to the surface, which has potential for major cost savings and risk reduction.

Both scenarios can involve repeated sorties due to the recharge capability.

Our phase 1 study activities will

(1) develop mission concepts of operations for deployment from a lander or balloon to acquire context imaging and mapping data, to sample from solid surfaces and/or lakes, and to return to the mothership to deposit samples and/or recharge;

(2) develop a parametric sizing model of the daughtercraft to characterize propulsion, power, range, endurance, and payload capability for total daughtercraft mass ranging from approximately 1 to 10 kg;

(3) develop a conceptual design and identify representative components for the entire daughtercraft hardware and software system for autonomous mobility, including estimates of approximate mass, power, and energy budgets and producing a representative CAD model; and

(4) develop a conceptual design and preliminary CAD model for a science payload on the daughtercraft, including specifying a nominal instrument suite on the balloon or lander, designing a compatible sampling mechanism to acquire solid and/or liquid samples on the daughtercraft, and studying mechanisms and daughtercraft behaviors necessary to transfer the samples to the instruments.

June 15, 2014

NASA Test Bed for Growing Earth Life on Mars to be developed

A Mars Ecopoiesis Test Bed concept is proposed for development in a three-phase program concluding with a device for studying the survival of terrestrial life forms on the surface of Mars prior to abiological planetary engineering. Ecopoiesis is the concept of initiating life in a new place; more precisely, the creation of an ecosystem capable of supporting life. It is the concept of initiating “terraforming” using physical, chemical and biological means including the introduction of ecosystem-building pioneer organisms. The proposed concept will be subjected to extensive laboratory testing directed toward the ultimate emplacement of a test bed on (in) the surface of Mars to test (demonstrate) the activity of pioneer organisms selected on the basis of research on earth. To achieve this a device is proposed to penetrate and surround a sample of Martian regolith at a carefully selected site likely to experience transients of liquid water , completely seal itself to avoid planetary contamination, release carefully selected earth organisms (extremophiles like certain cyanobacteria), sense the presence or absence of a metabolic product (like O2), and report to a Mars-orbiting relay satellite. This will be the first major leap from laboratory studies into the implementation of experimental (as opposed to analytical) planetary in-situ research of greatest interest to planetary biology, ecopoiesis and terraforming.

June 12, 2014

NASA NIAC - two orders of magnitude mass and power saving for Life Support and Reduced Complexity

The abundant high-energy light in space (with wavelengths as low as 190 nm, compared to 300 nm on Earth) makes the TiO2 co-catalyst an ideal approach for sustainable air processor to generate O2, without consuming any thermal or electrical energy. The combination of novel photoelectrochemistry and 3-dimensional design allows tremendous mass saving, hardware complexity reduction, increases in deployment flexibility and removal efficiency. The high tortousity photocatalystic air processor design will achieve at least two orders of magnitude mass and power saving respectively, and enable feasibility of compact processors for spacecraft. The proposed work will demonstrate these drastic reduction in reactor mass, volume and power consumption in comparison to current technology with delivery of high-tortuosity device components allowed by 3D printing (potentially in space) at the end of the proposed work.

Environmental control life support systems (ECLSS) are detailed at this link.

A 600 days Mars mission often have ECLSS that would weigh about 19 tons using chemical oxygen and CO2 scrubber systems. They then try to alter the design components to get the weight down to 4 tons. The NIAC project could bring the weight down to 200 kilograms or less.

June 11, 2014

NASA Project with Quantum Inertial Gravimetry and In Situ ChipSat Sensors

NASA NIAC has a new project - Exploration Architecture with Quantum Inertial Gravimetry and In Situ ChipSat Sensors.

They propose to break the two-mission space exploration cycle (remote survey eventually followed by in situ sensing) by creating mission architectures that perform both remote survey and in situ sampling. Through enabling technologies, such as high-accuracy quantum, or cold-atom, inertial sensors based on light-pulse atom interferometry (LPAI), and the extreme miniaturization of space components into fully functional spacecraft-on-a-chip systems (ChipSats), these combined missions can perform decadal-class science with greatly reduced time scales and risk.

NASA NIAC Solar Electric Space Sail that would be nine times faster than Voyager One

NASA NIAC has funded another solar electric space sail project called Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS) which wants to send a probe 150 kilometers per second or 30 AU per year [9 times faster than Voyage One].

Nextbigfuture has had dozens of articles on the electric space sail technology and projects to develop that technology for using the solar wind to propel spacecraft. Solar wind speed can be thirty to forty times faster [400-700 kilometers per second] than Voyager One [16 km per second, 3.6 AU per year].

The motivation for this technology comes from the Heliophysics Decadal Survey. The Heliophysics Decadal Survey, Section states in part; “… recent in situ measurements by the Voyagers, combined with all-sky heliospheric images from IBEX and Cassini, have made outer-heliospheric science one of the most exciting and fastest-developing fields of heliophysics... The proposed Interstellar Probe Mission would make comprehensive, state-of-the-art, in situ measurements…required for understanding the nature of the outer heliosphere and exploring our local galactic environment.” It goes on to say, “The main technical hurdle is propulsion. Advanced propulsion options should aim to reach the Heliopause considerably faster than Voyager 1 (3.6 AU/year)… It has high priority for the Solar and Heliospheric Physics (SHP) Panel that NASA develops the necessary propulsion technology for visionary missions like The Solar Polar Imager (SPI) and Interstellar Probe to enable the vision in the coming decades.” The concept proposed herein has been named the Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS) by the MSFC proposing team. The HERTS is a revolutionary propellant-less propulsion concept that is ideal for deep space missions to the outer planets, Heliopause, and beyond. It is unique in that it uses momentum exchange from naturally occurring solar wind protons to propel a spacecraft within the heliosphere. The propulsion system consists of an array of electrically biased wires that extend outward 10 to 30 km from a rotating spacecraft This idea has been explored and recently published in the open literature—primarily by Pekka Janhunen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI). This past year, MSFC’s Advanced Concepts Office (ACO) performed a top level feasibility study of this concept and determined that the HERTS system can accelerate a spacecraft to velocities as much as three to four times that possible by any realistic extrapolation of current state-of-the-art propulsion technologies—including solar electric and solar sail propulsion systems. Moreover, it can be reasonably expected that this system could be developed within a decade and provide meaningful Heliophysics Science in the 2025-2030 timeframe. Physical Principles: The basic principle on which the HERTS operates is the exchange of momentum between an array of long electrically biased wires and the solar wind protons, which flow radially away from the sun at speeds ranging from 300 to 700 km per second. A high-voltage, positive bias on the wires, which are oriented normal to the solar wind flow, deflects the streaming protons, resulting in a reaction force on the wires—also directed radially away from the sun. Over periods of months, this small force can accelerate the spacecraft to enormous speeds—on the order of 100-150 km per second (~ 20 to 30 AU per year). The proposed HERTS can provide the unique ability to explore the Heliopause and the extreme outer solar system on timescales of less than a decade. It is significantly more effective than any other near-to-mid-term propulsion system for deep space missions, meshes well with heliospheric science payloads, and could be implemented in the 2025-2030 timeframe. The Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS) fully supports NASA’s vision to “lead advances in space” by providing a revolutionary, in-space propulsion system that can open the frontier of Heliophysics to new discovery. With the performance and benefits of a HERTS mission, the Heliospheric physics community will have at its disposal the ability to carry out Heliophysics missions with one-way Earth to Heliopause trip times of less than 10 years. This study is a necessary step between a scientific dream and engineering development.

Getting one thousand times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope and an Tether based Asteroid wrangler are new NASA NIAC 2014 projects

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program announced its 2014 awards. NIAC has selected twelve new NIAC Phase I awards. These proposals have been selected based on the potential of their concepts to transform future aerospace missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter and improve current approaches.

Each Phase I study will receive approximately $100,000 for 9 months to one year, and each Phase II study will receive approximately $500,000 for approximately two years. These studies will advance numerous innovative aerospace concepts, and help NASA achieve future goals

The Aragoscope: Ultra-High Resolution Optics at Low Cost by Webster Cash. Webster Cash has had previous NIAC awards and done interesting leading edge space telescope research.

A new mission architecture for telescopes in space will shatter the cost barrier for large, diffraction-limited optics. The diagram in the summary chart shows a conventional telescope pointed at an opaque disk along an axis to a distant target. Rather than block the view, the disk boosts the resolution of the system with no loss of collecting area. This architecture, dubbed the “Aragoscope” in honor of the scientist who first detected the diffracted waves, can be used to achieve the diffraction limit based on the size of the low cost disk, rather than the high cost telescope mirror. One can envision affordable telescopes that could provide 7cm resolution of the ground from geosynchronous orbit or images of the sky with one thousand times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

May 28, 2014

Near Term Solar Sailing at NASA FISO

There was updated presentation on near term solar sails at NASA FISO (Future in Space Operations) by Bruce Campbell. Nextbigfuture also reviews the Spiderfab robotic assembly in orbit capability which could enable 1 kilometer diameter solar sails for dramatically superior space capabilities. A rudimentary interstellar solar sail is possible with a 400 meter diameter. So a 1 kilometer solar sail would have 6.28 times the area of the 400 meter sail.

March 02, 2014

Spiderfabs will have game changing future impact on solar sails and space based solar power

Previously NASA was looking at 20-30 years to get solar sails that are 250 meters by 250 meters or 400 meters by 400 meters.

Spiderfab will use robots to assemble structures in space.
Spiderfab on orbit assembly can reduce the mass of space structures by 30 times.

This will enable solar power arrays with over 120 watts per kilogram. This is needed for fast solar electric interplanetary missions.
Spiderfab can also enable solar sails that are over 1000 meters in diameter.

Watch live streaming video from niac2014 at

February 20, 2014

Intelligent Alien Life Could Be Found by 2040

SETI researcher is predicting good odds for detection of alien life by 2040

By 2040 or so, astronomers will have scanned enough star systems to give themselves a great shot of discovering alien-produced electromagnetic signals, said Seth Shostak of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif.

"I think we'll find E.T. within two dozen years using these sorts of experiments," Shostak said.

Seth gave a talk at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts. “Finding Cosmic Company: A Transformative Event of the 21st Century”

Watch live streaming video from niac2014 at

February 06, 2014

NASA NIAC 2014 symposium - cubesat propulsion, torpor human stasis, and Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System

NASA NIAC 2014 symposium, thursday early afternoon session

1:00 Nathan Jerred, Universities Space Research Association, 2013 Phase I Fellow
Dual-mode Propulsion System Enabling CubeSat Exploration of the Solar System

1:30 Hamid Hemmati, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2013 Phase I Fellow
Two-Dimensional Planetary Surface Landers

2:00 John Bradford, SpaceWorks Engineering, 2013 Phase I Fellow
Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitat For Human Stasis To Mars

2:30 Rob Adams, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, 2013 Phase I Fellow
Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System

Watch live streaming video from niac2014 at

NASA NIAC -Robert Hoyt Spiderfab and Yong Bae Photonic Laser Thrusters

Robert Hoyt, Tethers, Unlimited, Inc., 2013 Phase II Fellow
SpiderFab: Architecture for On-Orbit Construction of Kilometer-Scale Apertures

Spiderfab - build in space and make structures 10 times bigger
A starshade twice the diameter to enable 16 times the earth sized planet finding capability for the same price

On orbit constructed solar array using a tension structure would be five times lighter

Young K. Bae, Y.K. Bae Corporation, 2013 Phase II Fellow
Propellant-less Spacecraft Formation-Flying and Maneuvering with Photonic Laser Thrusters

Watch live streaming video from niac2014 at

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts project has a conceptual solution to asteroid threats

Watch live streaming video from niac2014 at

NASA NIAC project has determined a conceptual solution to asteroid impacts.

Use an interceptor which separates into two parts.
First part 10 meter ahead makes a crater.

The nuclear bomb part follows but is 20 times more effective by blowing up in the crater.

The fragmentation would reduce the impact to about 0.1% of non-fragmented asteroid. Fragmentation is 1000 times better than letting the whole asteroid hit.

Earth would pass through the fragment cloud.

We have to have the assembled interceptor rocket(s) so that it would be ready to launch.

Third talk
- Superconducting active radiation shielding

December 13, 2013

Elon Musk Provides More Details of his thinking on Mars Colonization and I provide background on work to develop plants to grow on Mars

Dr. Crystal Dilworth has a fireside chat with space entrepreneur Elon Musk and inventor and computational neuroscientist Philip Low to discover how they are changing the world and why. Special thank you to David Franzen for hosting this late night chat at the Canadian Consul General's Residence in Los Angeles.

Elon Musk compared the biological adaptations that could be required for humans or other organisms to live on Mars to the process of breeding cows to conform to our needs as a society. The problem is that modern cattle are the product of hundreds of generations of tweaking to various breeds, but future space explorers won’t have the luxury of being bred for the job of colonizing Mars through the centuries.

Instead, he suggests that “while it’s a tricky subject… we’d probably want to create synthetic organisms.” A tricky subject indeed — will we need to create more perfect clones of our finest astronauts to begin colonizing the rest of our solar system? Or maybe just start with some super radiation-resistant hermit crabs that can setup some burrows to get things going?

Musk didn’t directly answer a question about whether SpaceX would be interested in conducting initial research into the feasibility of a Martian colony, but he did make it clear that it’s something he’s looked into in detail. He explained that, in his view, a key step to getting established on Mars would be to compress the amount of time it takes to make the trip from Earth to our neighbor planet.

November 15, 2013

John Slough Personally Explains his Fusion Rocket and Fusion Energy Systems in Videos and Presentations

John Slough gives a presentation of his direct fusion drive rocket and his fusion energy system.

* they create ionized gases in two regions
* they create plasmoids (balls out of the ionized gases)
* they use magnets to accelerate and collide the gas
* they implode a metal liner around the plasmoids
* they accelerate the imploded liner and plasmoid out of spaceship for propulsion at the desired speed of the ship

November 12, 2013

Sample Return from hypervelocity flyby's of Moons and Asteroids

Since the Apollo era, sample return missions have been primarily limited to asteroid sampling. More comprehensive sampling could yield critical information on the formation of the solar system and the potential of life beyond Earth. Hard landings at hypervelocity (1-2 km/s) would enable sampling to several feet below the surface penetration while minimizing the Delta V and mass requirements.

Combined with tether technology a host of potential targets becomes viable. The proposed work seeks to design, develop and test a hard impact penetrator/sampler that can withstand the hard impact and enable the sample to be returned to orbit. Tether technology for release of the penetrator and capture of the sample eliminate many of the restrictions that presently inhibit the development of sample return missions. The work builds upon in hypervelocity laboratory testing that use 1" Al projectiles that investigate crater formation and penetration through hard surfaces. The proposed work will enable realistic size (6" diameter) projectiles to be studied by taking advantage of the development of cheap high power commercial rocket motors that will enable impacts up to Mach 2 for Phase I. With this data, methodologies for studying higher velocity impacts can be developed along with mission scenarios to test the viability of mission return samples in the near future. Successful development of sample return capabilities will provide a major impetus for solar system exploration.