Status Report

NASA and NSF Select 6 Proposals for Dusty Plasma Investigations

By SpaceRef Editor
February 10, 2017
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NASA’s Physical Sciences Research Program and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund 6 proposals to investigate dusty plasmas, a state of plasma that contains microparticles in addition to electrons, ions, and neutral gas. Four of the projects will be flight investigations that will be performed under microgravity conditions on the joint ESA (European Space Agency) and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, Plasma Kristall-4 (PK-4, launched 29 Oct 2014) experimental facility on board the International Space Station. Two of the projects will be ground investigations related to the PK-4 experiments and potential follow-on microgravity experiments in the field of dusty plasma physics.
Dusty plasma research provides fundamental insights into solid state, plasma and fluid physics, as well as informs applications in space physics, plasma technology and fusion research. Manipulation of dusty plasmas is being actively explored as a pathway to development of new materials, while in nature dusty plasmas occur in a range of environments from the Earth’s atmosphere to planet-forming disks around young stars. Studying dusty plasma in microgravity allows researchers to minimize Earth’s gravitational forces to prevent the dust particles from settling.
The proposals were submitted in response to the joint NASA/NSF solicitation “Research Opportunities in Fundamental Physics – NASA/NSF Partnership on Science of Dusty Plasmas: Utilizing the PK-4 Facility on board the International Space Station.” The selected proposals are from five institutions in five states, with the total combined NASA and NSF award amount of approximately $3M during a four-year period.
NASA’s Physical Sciences Research Program is managed by the  Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The Physical Science Research Program furthers fundamental research, which investigates physical phenomena and fundamental laws of the universe in the absence of gravity, and applied research, which contributes to the basic understanding underlying space exploration technologies that will further our journey to Mars. Both have led to improved space systems or new products on Earth.
NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Directorate for Geosciences, and Office of International Science and Engineering co-sponsored the solicitation, with the Plasma Physics Program in the Division of Physics taking the lead role within the Foundation. NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense. It is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by colleges and universities.
The full text of the announcement, which includes the complete list of the selected proposals, lead proposers and organizations, can be found at:

SpaceRef staff editor.