Wanted: U.S. colleges and universities to work on small spacecraft with NASA researchers

satellite cyclone photo 15 June 2012

WASHINGTON, 3 April 2013. NASA officials seek small spacecraft technology project proposals from U.S. colleges and universities open to collaborating with agency researchers.

Universities have often led the way in technology development for small spacecraft, called smallsats, which represent a growing field of space research and operations, reveals a NASA spokesperson. Smallsats, which can be as small as a four-inch cube, are not expected to replace conventional spacecraft, but sometimes can provide an alternative to larger, more costly spacecraft.

"There is a vibrant small spacecraft community emerging within America's universities and NASA is taking steps to increase our collaboration with that community. The universities will benefit from the deep experience NASA has in space research and technology, while NASA will benefit from fresh ideas and cost-conscious innovation at the universities," says Andrew Petro, program executive for the Small Spacecraft Technology program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Smallsats can serve as platforms for rapid technology testing or specialized scientific research and exploration not otherwise possible. Smallsats also can be developed relatively quickly and inexpensively, and can share a ride to orbit with larger spacecraft.

"This new opportunity will engage university students and graduate researchers in advancing technology of value to NASA and the nation, and help strengthen our high-tech work force," says Petro.

NASA expects to select approximately 10 proposals. Each team will form proposal partnerships with researchers from any of NASA's field centers. Awards for each project will include as much as $100,000 ($150,000 for teams of more than one school). Proposals submitted in response to this NASA cooperative agreement notice are due June 5.

In addition, NASA will fund the time for NASA employees to work with each selected team. Project funding is for one year with the potential to continue for a second year. Proposed projects could include anything from laboratory work to advance a particular spacecraft technology to flight testing of a new smallsat. For example, projects might focus on a technology area, such as propulsion, power, or communications, or on a smallsat capability, such as formation flight or satellite rendezvous.

The Small Spacecraft Technology program is part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing, and flying hardware for use in NASA's future missions. Details of the opportunity and instructions for submitting proposals are provided in a Cooperative Agreement Notice online at: http://tinyurl.com/cb3mqdw

NASA's Orion spacecraft
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