NASA Reaches Out To Universities For Small Satellite Technology Collaborations

Image Credit: MSU/Raymond Weber

Image Credit: MSU/Raymond Weber

April 10, 2016 – NASA is once again extending an opportunity to teams at colleges and universities with campuses in the U.S. to propose small spacecraft technology projects to be conducted in collaboration with NASA researchers.

The Smallsat Technology Partnerships solicitation is being issued by the Small Spacecraft Technology Program, as an appendix to the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) NASA Research Announcement (NRA) for 2016.

Small spacecraft, as small as the size of a four-inch cube, represent a growing field of space research in which universities have often led the way. Small spacecraft, or smallsats as they are commonly called, can provide an alternative to larger, more costly spacecraft as the platform of choice for rapid in-flight technology demonstrations and testing, or specialized scientific research and exploration. Using innovative approaches, smallsats can be developed relatively quickly and inexpensively and have opportunities to share a ride to orbit in the company of larger spacecraft.

NASA expects to competitively select about eight projects from among those proposed by this year’s university teams, which can form proposal partnerships with researchers from any of NASA’s ten field centers. Each project award includes up to $100,000 to each university team per year. In addition, NASA will fund the time for one NASA employee to work with each selected team and will provide project funding for one year with the potential to continue for a second year.

The scope of proposed projects could involve laboratory work to advance a particular small spacecraft technology or the development of a new smallsat. NASA will accept proposals in four topic areas:

  • Enhanced power generation and storage.
  • Cross-linking communications systems.
  • Relative navigation for multiple small spacecraft.
  • Instruments and sensors for small spacecraft science missions.
  • This new opportunity will engage undergraduate university students and graduate researchers in advancing technology of value to NASA and the nation while strengthening the next generation high-technology workforce. The universities will benefit from the deep experience that NASA has in space research and technology development, while NASA benefits from fresh ideas and cost-conscious innovation resident at universities.

    Thirteen projects were selected for Smallsat Technology Partnerships in 2013, two of which were later selected for NASA-sponsored launches to orbit. A second solicitation was issued in 2015 and the eight selected projects are well underway.

    Proposals for the current solicitation are due by May 25, 2016, and will continue what is now intended to be an annual opportunity for university and NASA collaboration. Details and instructions for submitting proposals are provided in the NRA Appendix that can be found at:

    http://go.nasa.gov/1qc751z

    NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California manages the Small Spacecraft Technology Program within STMD.