Future tech nasa’s new missions
The advances in technology that have made the space agency’s shortlist
naSa has recently financed technology projects that could make spaceflight more sustainable, safer and more cost-efficient. the organisation has handed out a total of $15 million (approximately
£12 million) to aid 20 technology and research proposals from 19 small american businesses as part of ‘phase ii’ of their Small business technology transfer (Sttr) program. each business is collaborating with a research institution from around america to ensure that each proposal is ultimately both feasible and has the potential for commercialisation.
“our Sttr program focuses both entrepreneurs and leading research institutions on naSa’s long-term goals, bringing the latest in aerospace research to our programmes," said Jim reuter, the acting associate administrator for the agency’s Space technology Mission Directorate (StMD) in Washington, United States. “We are excited to see the results of these latest awardees.”
although these technologies are not going to instantly revolutionise the industry, each proposal will boost naSa’s space exploration capabilities. there are proposals that intend to model the physics of rocket launches to identify possible improvements, from increasing fuel efficiency to improving the production of food in microgravity, and also harnessing the true potential of cubeSat swarms that can be scattered around the cosmos.
naSa refers to three projects that have been the lucky recipients of a phase ii contract, which lasts for 24 months and has maximum funding of $750,000 (around £570,000), exemplifying the different space exploration divisions that these small businesses hope to improve. the first, led by continuum Dynamics, inc and pennsylvania State University, looks to utilise the capabilities of Distributed electric propulsion (Dep) aircraft. this project will research innovative new approaches to build electric, or some form of hybrid, propulsion mechanisms for these aircraft. this project aims to reduce carbon emissions and fuel usage and improve cost efficiency for the United States’ military and urban air mobility programs.
another project has the intention of improving life higher up in the sky, especially space stations such as the collaborative international Space
Station (iSS) and the proposed Deep Space gateway, which is currently going through much planning and discussion. pc Krause and associates, inc and purdue University have come forth with an idea to create a completely new electrical grid for space stations – one that would be able to provide electricity in a highly autonomous and secure manner for space station operations.
“Sttr focuses both entrepreneurs and leading research institutions on naSa’s long-term goals, bringing the latest in aerospace research to our programmes”
the last one mentioned is one that will make the most dangerous part of an astronaut’s journey much safer – the launch. Solid rocket Motors (SrMs) were used in naSa’s Space Shuttle program and there are some undeniable concerns about them, one of which is a left-over aluminium oxide material known as slag. this material is a by-product of the combustion process within the rocket, and this can get into the inner workings of a rocket or spacecraft and cause a serious threat. this is why cFD research corporation and Mississippi State University are aiming to use highly detailed simulations to learn as much about the slag-accumulation process in spacecraft in order to avoid such scenarios and ultimately make the rockets more fuel efficient.
Safer start to spaceflightA lesson of NASA’s Space Shuttle missions was that launch is the most dangerous part of an astronaut’s adventure into space. Modelling the several aspects of slag accumulation that occur in the firing of the SRMs can make each launch safer for the astronauts, protect the internal instruments and equipment and more fuel efficient so that less fuel is made into a useless by-product.