Status Report

Asteroid Initiative Request for Information

By SpaceRef Editor
June 18, 2013
Filed under ,

NASA has released a Request for Information (RFI) on system concepts and innovative approaches for both aspects of the recently announced Asteroid Initiative. The initiative includes an Asteroid Redirect Mission, and an increased focus on defending our planet against the threat of catastrophic asteroid collisions.

Solicitation Number: NNH13ZCQ001L
Reference Number: N/A
NAIS Posted Date: June 18, 2013
FedBizOpps Posted Date: June 18, 2013
Response Date:July 18, 2013
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action? No
Classification Code: A – Research and Development
NAICS Code: 336414 – Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Manufacturing
Set-Aside Code:N/A
Internet Address:TBD

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Headquarters Acquisition Branch, Code 210.H, Greenbelt, MD 20771



The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is seeking information on system concepts and innovative approaches for both aspects of the recently announced Asteroid Initiative: (1) the Asteroid Redirect Mission, and (2) an increased focus on defending our planet against the threat of catastrophic asteroid collisions. The two activities are mutually supportive, and NASA will pursue them simultaneously. The Asteroid Redirect Mission plans to capture a small asteroid, redirect it into a stable orbit in translunar space, and explore it with astronauts carried onboard the Orion spacecraft as early as 2021. The Asteroid Initiative will leverage NASA’s activities in human exploration, space technology, and space science in order to make progress toward a range of goals, including:

– Advancing technologies and capabilities applicable to future exploration, as well as science, commercial, and other U.S. government space activities; – Integrating these efforts to lead to the first-ever human mission to an asteroid; and – Accelerating efforts to improve detection, characterization, and mitigation of potentially hazardous asteroids to help plan for the defense of our planet against the threat of catastrophic collisions (planetary defense).

To help NASA refine the Asteroid Redirect Mission concept, formulate plans for flight systems development, and gather ideas for broadening participation in the mission and planetary defense, information is requested in six main areas:

1. Asteroid Observation: NASA is interested in concepts for augmenting and accelerating ground and space-based capabilities for detecting all near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) – including those less than 10 meters in size that are in retrievable orbits – determining their orbits, and characterizing their shape, rotation state, mass, and composition as accurately as possible.

2. Asteroid Redirection Systems: NASA is interested in concepts for robotic spacecraft systems to enable rendezvous and proximity operations with an asteroid, and redirection of an asteroid of up to 1,000 metric tons into translunar space. a. Solar electric propulsion system concepts available for launch as early as 2017, but no later than June 2018, that have the following general characteristics: i. Capable of launch on a single Space Launch System (SLS) or preferably a smaller launch vehicle, as part of the complete asteroid redirect vehicle, which includes power generation, propellants, spacecraft bus, and asteroid capture system. ii. Propulsion system power output approximately 40 kW to 50 kW. iii. Thruster specific impulse approximately 3,000 seconds. iv. Operate at a system level efficiency of greater than 60%. v. Capable of operating over the range of 0.7 AU to 1.3 AU. vi. Deliver thrust required to propel a robotic spacecraft to a target near-Earth asteroid and redirect the captured asteroid to a distant lunar retrograde orbit.

b. Integrated sensing systems to support asteroid rendezvous, proximity operations, characterization, and capture. The sensing systems should be capable of characterizing the asteroid’s size, shape, mass and inertia properties, spin state, surface properties, and composition. Some of the same sensors will also be needed in closed-loop control during capture.

c. Refinements of the Asteroid Redirect Mission concept such as removing a piece (boulder) from the surface of a large asteroid, and redirecting the piece into translunar space, and other innovative approaches. For a description of early asteroid redirect approaches, see the Keck Institute for Space Studies Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study on the references website listed later in this RFI.

d. Applications of satellite servicing technology to asteroid rendezvous, capture, and redirection, and opportunities for dual use technology development are also of interest.

3. Asteroid Deflection Demonstration: NASA is interested in concepts for deflecting the trajectory of an asteroid using the robotic Asteroid Redirection Vehicle (ARV) that would be effective against objects large enough to do significant damage at the Earth’s surface should they impact (i.e. > 100 meters in size). These demonstrations could include but not limited to: a. Use of the ARV to demonstrate a slow push trajectory modification on a larger asteroid. b. Use of the ARV to demonstrate a “gravity tractor” technique on an asteroid. c. Use of ARV instrumentation for investigations useful to planetary defense (e.g. sub-surface penetrating imaging) d. Use of deployables from the ARV to demonstrate techniques useful to planetary defense (e.g. deployment of a stand alone transponder for continued tracking of the asteroid over a longer period of time).

4. Asteroid Capture Systems: NASA is interested in concepts for systems to capture and de-spin an asteroid with the following characteristics: a. Asteroid size: 5 m < mean diameter < 13 m; aspect ratio < 2/1 b. Asteroid mass: up to 1,000 metric tons c. Asteroid rotation rate: up to 2 revolutions per minute about any axis or all axes. d. Asteroid composition, internal structure, and physical integrity will likely be unknown until after rendezvous and capture. NASA is interested in evaluating a variety of concepts and supporting technologies for an asteroid capture system, such as deployable and inflatable structures, capture bags, robotic mechanisms, modeling and simulation, telerobotic operations, and other innovative approaches. Consistent with section 2c above, NASA is also interested in concepts to separate and capture a small piece (1 m to 10 m) from a larger asteroid. 5. Crew Systems for Asteroid Exploration: NASA is interested in concepts for lightweight and low volume robotic and extra-vehicular activity (EVA) systems, such as space suits, tools, translation aids, stowage containers, and other equipment, that will allow astronauts to explore the surface of a captured asteroid, prospect for resources, and collect samples. 6. Partnerships and Participatory Engagement: NASA is interested in ideas and concepts for potential partnerships to support both aspects of the Asteroid Initiative: enhancements to planetary defense activities and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. NASA wants to expand upon current NEA observation efforts through the use of innovative methods such as crowd sourcing, prizes and challenges, citizen science, and public-private partnerships to increase the resources for tackling the planetary defense problem and to broaden participation. NASA is interested in ideas that address the following questions: a. How can NASA encourage commercial and international partnerships to leverage the Asteroid Initiative to advance human exploration goals such as in-situ resource utilization, and to strengthen planetary defense? b. What organizations are potential partners, and how can we involve a broad community? c. What would make participating in the Asteroid Initiative highly desirable for your organization or agency from financial, strategic, technological, and cultural perspectives? d. How can we generate momentum with near-term goals? e. What do we need to know with more certainty to expand planetary defense capabilities? f. What other applications may result from investments in technologies to support the Asteroid Initiative? g. How do you see the Asteroid Initiative contributing to our nation’s future role in space? Respondents may address any or all of the six primary areas identified in this RFI: (1) Asteroid Observation, (2) Asteroid Redirection Systems, (3) Asteroid Deflection Demonstration, (4) Asteroid Capture Systems, (5) Crew Systems for Asteroid Exploration, or (6) Partnerships and Participatory Engagement. For each area, please include the following information: – Organization information: Organization name and address, point-of-contact name, email address, phone number. – Indicate the primary area that the response addresses. – Abstract: Brief summary of the system concept or participatory engagement approach. The abstract should not include any proprietary or ITAR information because it may be used in public workshops. – System concept: Describe the system concept and its functions, how it addresses the objectives and requirements in this RFI, and its maturity (Technology Readiness Level). – Development approach: Outline the approach and timeline for developing and testing the proposed system concept. Responses are limited to no more than 10 pages per primary area, and should be submitted via email by July 18 at 5 PM Eastern Time to the Point of Contact listed below. The subject line of the submission should be “RFI for Asteroid Redirect Mission” and attachments should be in PDF format. Files should not be greater than 8MB in size. The information is requested for planning purposes only, subject to FAR Clause 52.215-3, entitled “Solicitation for Information for Planning Purposes.” It is not NASA’s intent to publicly disclose vendor proprietary information obtained from this RFI. To the full extent that it is protected pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations, information identified by a respondent as “Proprietary or Confidential” will be kept confidential. The abstract should not include any proprietary information because it may be used in public workshops. NASA will host an online forum on June 27, 2013 at 2 PM Eastern Time to answer questions about the Asteroid Initiative and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The website for accessing the online forum and reference information about the Asteroid Initiative is: .

This RFI is open to all types of organizations, including U. S. industry, universities, non-profit organizations, NASA Centers, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, other U. S. government agencies, and international organizations.

It is emphasized that this RFI is for planning and information purposes only and is NOT to be construed as a commitment by the Government to enter into a contractual agreement, nor will the Government pay for information solicited. If NASA decides to proceed with a new procurement or announcement, we will synopsize our intent on FedBizOpps.

No solicitation exists; therefore, do not request a copy of the solicitation. If a solicitation is released, it will be synopsized in FedBizOpps and on the NASA Acquisition Internet Service. It is the interested party’s responsibility to monitor these sites for the release of any solicitation or synopsis.

NASA is planning to hold a public workshop in September 2013 to obtain input from the broad community on system concepts for the Asteroid Redirect Mission and innovative approaches for planetary defense. NASA will use the responses to the RFI for inviting presenters to this workshop and other opportunities for discussion.

All questions about the RFI shall be directed by email to the Point of Contact listed below.

Point of Contact
Name: Dr. Christopher L. Moore
Title: Deputy Director, Advanced Exploration Systems
Phone: 202-358-4650
Fax: 202-358-0000

SpaceRef staff editor.