Status Report

NASA Request for Information: Enabling Technology Development and Demonstration Program

By SpaceRef Editor
May 10, 2010
Filed under , , ,
NASA Request for Information: Enabling Technology Development and Demonstration Program

Synopsis – May 10, 2010

General Information

Solicitation Number: NNH10ZTT002L
Posted Date: May 10, 2010
FedBizOpps Posted Date: May 10, 2010
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: Jun 04, 2010
Current Response Date: Jun 04, 2010
Classification Code: A — Research and Development
NAICS Code: 541712 – Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)

Contracting Office Address

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


In Fiscal Year 2011, NASA plans to begin the Enabling Technology Development and Demonstrations (ETDD) Program. The primary goal of the ETDD Program is to develop and demonstrate the technologies needed to reduce cost and expand the capability of future space exploration activities. A secondary goal is to create opportunities for engineers and scientists from NASA, private industry, and academia to gain experience in designing, building, and operating new space technologies and spacecraft. A third goal is to develop technologies that can be relevant to non-exploration space activities and life on Earth.

To support program formulation and acquisition planning activities, the ETDD Program is seeking ideas relevant to an initial set of demonstration projects to mature and test enabling technologies for future human exploration and robotic precursor missions to the Moon, Lagrange points, Near Earth Objects, and Mars and its moons.

Each demonstration project is framed around answering a key question derived from architectural studies. To demonstrate new capabilities that help address the key questions, technologies will be integrated into prototype systems and validated in a relevant environment. Demonstration projects will have an expected project life cycle of two to four years.

Demonstration projects will transition relevant technologies from lower to higher technology readiness levels (TRLs). They will take advantage of the full range of available platforms, as appropriate to their need and specific objectives, including: ground-based test facilities and analogs, flight test aircraft, suborbital sounding rockets, commercial reusable suborbital vehicles, robotic spacecraft, the International Space Station, and other test platforms.

The initial set of demonstration projects are in the areas of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), In-Space Propulsion, Autonomous Precision Landing, Telerobotics, and Fission Power Systems Technology. Demonstration projects in other technical areas will be formulated later as plans for exploration beyond low Earth orbit become more definite.

NASA is inviting industry, academia, international, and other government and non-government organizations to provide information. Ideas are sought for demonstrations, technologies, systems, and platforms that will help to address the following five key questions and objectives:

1. In-Situ Resource Utilization: Lunar Volatiles Characterization This project will address the key question “How can we locate, access, and extract volatile resources on the Moon?”

The objective of the demonstration is to verify the presence of water and other volatiles on the Moon by direct in-situ measurements of the lunar regolith. The project will build upon recent field tests of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) technology by demonstrating operation of a prototype ISRU system in a thermal vacuum chamber. Then a flight experiment to demonstrate lunar resource prospecting, characterization, and extraction will be developed for testing on a robotic precursor mission around 2015.

The top-level requirements for this demonstration are:

  • Locate sub-surface areas of elevated hydrogen bearing compounds
  • Acquire sub-surface samples for analysis
  • Analyze soil samples for mineral composition, volatile content and bulk regolith characteristics.
  • Demonstrate the potential for volatiles and regolith utilization
  • Must be capable of flying on a variety of lunar lander precursor missions in a polar location.
  • Overall system mass must be less than 60kg and consume no more than 200W of peak power.

To enable this mission, information is sought on several key capabilities:

  • An instrument system that would be able to detect hydrogen with a concentration of at least the minimum required water ice abundance (0.5 wt%) for ISRU contained in a surface layer of at least 5 cm thickness on top of otherwise dry regolith. Additionally, the instrument should also be able to detect at least 1 wt% of water buried beneath 1 meter of dry regolith. The time required to measure abundance and approximate burial depth shall be no more than 10 minutes at a given location. Instrument system mass should not exceed 2.5 kg.
  • An instrument system that can quantify volatile gases released by sample heating below atomic number 64 (of particular interest H2, He, He-3, CO, CO2, CH4, H2O, N2, O2, Ar, NH3, HCN, H2S, SO2). The instrument system must also be able to withstand exposure to the release of HF, HCl, or Hg that may result from heating regolith samples to high temperatures. The instrument should be capable of detecting 1000 ppm to 100% concentration of the volatiles in the gas phase. The instrument should have a mass of less than 5 kg not including any vacuum components required to operate in the laboratory environment.
  • A thermal vacuum chamber will be required to test the experiment in simulated lunar conditions. This chamber would not only need to approximate lunar temperatures and pressure, but it would also have to allow a bed of lunar regolith stimulant to be inside the chamber so that a complete end-to-end test of the system could be conducted. The chamber size desired is roughly 8′ x 8′ x 8′. Information is sought on chambers that may already exist or could be modified to meet this requirement.

2. High-Power Electric Propulsion System This project will address the key question “How can we reduce travel time and cost for human deep-space exploration?”

The objective of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility (TRL 6) of an electric propulsion system that contains the combination of thrust, specific impulse, and efficiency required for human exploration architectures and a possible Flagship Demonstration mission to begin as early as 2016. The system should emphasize thruster technology and include power processing, a propellant feed system, and heat rejection. A digital control interface unit can be included as needed. The proposed system must offer advantages at a system level over state-of-the-art flight systems.

The demonstration project must include integrated propulsion system functional testing in a representative environment. The results of this testing will be used to determine the suitability of the technology for a flight demonstration project, and system-level performance for use by mission planners. A ground test in a thermally controlled vacuum chamber is an acceptable representative environment.

The top-level requirements for this demonstration are:

  • Demonstrate a high power (> 100 kW), high specific impulse, electric propulsion system in an environment representative of space. Individual thruster power levels should be 25 kWe or higher.
  • Electric propulsion system must be scalable to the power levels required for human exploration missions, providing the relevant combination of specific mass, specific impulse, and efficiency. Ranges for these parameters are: o Several hundred kWe to several MWe power; o <10 to 70 kg/kWe specific mass, including the power system but excluding propellant and propellant tankage; o 3,000 to 7,000 sec specific impulse; o >60 to 70+% efficiency.
  • Electric propulsion system lifetimes of 1 to 3 years of continuous operation
  • Leverage existing high-power, high-efficiency power generation systems

3. Autonomous Precision Landing This project will address the key question “How can we land autonomously, precisely, and safely on an extra-terrestrial surface in uncertain environments?”

The objective of the demonstration is to test an integrated autonomous landing and hazard avoidance system consisting of imaging sensors and navigation and control algorithms. NASA will initiate development of an Earth-based flight experiment to demonstrate an autonomous precision landing and hazard avoidance system on a small lander test bed. NASA will pursue use of this system on a U. S. or international robotic precursor mission to the Moon or other planetary body around 2014. This technology will enable autonomous cargo landers, and reduce risk for future human exploration missions.

The top-level requirements for this demonstration are:

  • Demonstrate autonomous landing of a robotic vehicle at any surface location certified as feasible for landing
  • Must be capable of identifying vehicle landing hazards in real-time, diverting to a selected safe landing aim point, and achieving a precise and controlled touch down at the selected location.
  • Must be capable of landing in any lighting conditions
  • Must be capable of precise and controlled landing within several meters of a landing aim point selected from the hazard map generated on-the-fly during the approach phase without using external navigational aids.
  • Must be capable of flying on a variety of lunar lander precursor missions

To enable this mission, information is sought on several key capabilities:

Terrestrial Free Flyer Test Bed

A terrestrial free flyer test bed is desired with the following attributes:

  • Payload capability of at least 100 kg for a NASA sensor and electronics package in addition to the mass required for the GN&C system and a power storage and distribution system capable of providing 500 W average power for 15 minutes.
  • Operational envelope of at least one kilometer in altitude with the capability of translating up to two kilometers laterally between the take off and landing locations.
  • Capability of approximating a range of lunar descent and landing trajectories. The reference trajectory is defined in terms of an approach phase with a flight path angle of ~30 degrees, an initial slant range of one kilometer, and a maximum horizontal velocity of 20 m/s followed by a vertical, or near vertical, terminal descent phase beginning at an altitude of ~30 m to 50 m.
  • Minimum flight time of 210 seconds while carrying the maximum payload.

Hazard Detection System

  • Components or sets of components with the following attributes are desired for a real-time hazard detection system (HDS) capable of mapping large contiguous areas of planetary terrain (10,000 m2 or greater) in five seconds or less at an operational slant range of 1000 m or greater. Low mass and low power solutions are highly preferred.
  • Key components of interest include:
  • Flash lidar sensor providing a data capture rate of ~2 Mpixels per second and capable of reliably identifying surface roughness variations on the order of 30cm and local slopes exceeding five degrees
  • High-speed gimbal (internal or external to the flash lidar) providing high-precision point tracking and mosaicing (map generation) modes of operation for the flash lidar during the descent and landing trajectory
  • High output laser (~50 mJ) with a short pulse width (~6 ns to 8 ns) and uniform energy distribution that is compatible with the flash lidar sensor in terms of repetition rate (~30 Hz) and wavelength (near infrared, 1 to 2 microns)
  • Zoom optics (4x or greater) for the flash lidar enabling control over the sensor field of view during descent
  • Fiber optics or other means for coupling the high output laser source with the transmit or combined transmit/receive flash lidar optics located on the gimbal
  • High-efficiency, high-performance, general purpose processor system for generating and parsing the 3-D terrain data provided by the flash lidar sensor. The ideal processor system would provide greater than 10 GFLOP effective computation rate, more than 1 GB of DDR memory, and greater than 1 Gb/s I/O. Components proposed for the HDS must have a practical maturation path leading to spaceflight qualification.

4. Human Exploration Telerobotics This project will address the key question “How do we use human-robotic partnerships to increase productivity, reduce costs, and mitigate risks?”

The objective of the demonstration is to assess how telerobotics can improve the efficiency, productivity, and scientific return of human exploration. Remotely operated and autonomous robots can perform a variety of tasks that are tedious, highly-repetitive, or long-duration. Robots can work before, during, and after human missions to increase the effectiveness and capability of crew. The central challenge is to understand how human and telerobot activities can be coordinated to maximize mission success, while minimizing risk.

In 2011, this project will initially demonstrate teleoperation of a robot on the ground by crew on the International Space Station (ISS). In 2012, this project will demonstrate human teams operating and working with multiple robots both on the ground (“orbit to ground”) and on the ISS (“ground to orbit”). The demonstration will simulate humans at Near Earth Objects or in Mars orbit controlling robot teams on the surface to explore and prepare for the crew landing.

The top-level requirements for this demonstration are:

  • Remotely operate robots to perform human exploration tasks: (a) surface robots at high-fidelity analogue sites controlled from space; (b) robots onboard space vehicles controlled from ground
  • Quantify benefits and limitations of humans in orbit controlling robots on the surface, and vice versa (must consider data network bandwidth, communications latency, control modes, concept of operations, autonomy level, etc.)
  • Demonstrate heterogeneous robots collaborating with human teams (various team configurations including Earth-based ground control)
  • Implement large-scale participatory exploration (real-time public involvement and/or citizen science in telerobotic missions)
  • Evaluate human-robot productivity, workload, performance, and human safety
  • Mature dexterous and human safe robotic technologies in 0g, radiation, EMI and other space environmental conditions.
  • Conduct high-fidelity experiments involving ISS (requires well-defined hypotheses, protocols, and metrics)
  • Develop approach for maturing and infusing prototype systems into flight missions (as demonstrations and/or experiments)

5. Fission Power Systems Technology This project will address the key question “How do we provide abundant, low-cost, and reliable electric power for long-duration missions?”

The objective is to perform a system-level test of an integrated (~1/4 power) nuclear power unit to establish the technology readiness of power conversion and thermal management technologies for a 40 kWe-class fission power system. The power unit must consist of a non-nuclear heat source that simulates a small reactor, power converters, a coolant loop, and a high-temperature deployable radiator. The test will validate the performance of the integrated system in a thermal vacuum chamber and be completed in 2014. This technology could then be demonstrated in space as part of an advanced electric propulsion system around 2016, or later as part of a robotic planetary surface mission. This project involves a partnership with the Department of Energy.

The top-level requirements for this demonstration are:

  • Perform an end-to-end, system-level test using full size components in an operationally relevant environment of a 40 kWe-class fission power system with the following characteristics: (a) Must ultimately be capable of operating on Mars, the Moon, or in deep space. (b) Continuous power independent of location (c) Low sensitivity to environment characteristics (e.g., temperature, dust, etc.) (d) Operational simplicity (self-regulating without human control for weeks) (e) Safe during all mission phases (f) Long life (~8 years or more) with no maintenance
  • Validate the results of the technology demonstration against model predictions for a conceptual power system with the above characteristics
  • To maintain affordability of the technology demonstration, an electrically-heated reactor simulator that has been validated with Department of Energy models based on historical reactor data should be used.


The information obtained will be used by NASA for planning and acquisition strategy development. NASA will use the information obtained as a result of this RFI on a non-attribution basis. Providing data and information that is limited or restricted for use by NASA for that purpose would be of very little value and such restricted/limited data/information is not solicited. No information or questions received will be posted to any website or public access location. NASA does not plan to respond to the individual responses, but will provide an update to development and acquisition plans.

The Government does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this RFI or to otherwise pay for the information solicited. As stipulated in FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not considered offers, shall not be used as a proposal, and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Inputs shall be compliant with all legal and regulatory requirements concerning limitations on export controlled items. 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.


Respondents to this RFI will have an opportunity to meet with NASA representatives to discuss the Enabling Technology Development and Demonstration program, and how their ideas may contribute to achieving the program’s goals at a NASA Exploration Enterprise Workshop to be held on May 25 and May 26 in Galveston, TX. Details about the workshop are posted on the web at


Responses must be submitted electronically. Interested respondents can use either the NSPIRES ( ) web site or the web site for response submission. Regardless of which web site is used for submission, all respondents are required to register with NSPIRES first, and are urged to access this site well in advance of the due date to familiarize themselves with its structure and enter the requested identifier information. This data site is secure and all information entered is strictly for NASA use only.

The requirements of this RFI shall be addressed in written format, and the document shall be uploaded no later than 5:00 PM EDT on June 4, 2010.

Instructions for submitting responses to NASA via may be found on the portal at

Respondents using NSPIRES are requested to submit the offered idea as a Notice of Intent (NOI) by following the online instructions. NSPIRES accepts fully electronic RFI responses through a combination of data-based information (the electronic Cover Page) and an uploaded PDF file (the attachment) that contains the body of the response.

To initiate an RFI Response:

  • Log in using your NSPIRES user name and password.
  • Access Proposals in the NSPIRES Options Page
  • Click on the “Create NOI” button in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Select the “Enabling Technology Development and Demonstration Program Request for Information” (NNH10ZTT002L).
  • Follow the step-by-step instructions provided in NSPIRES to complete your Cover Page.

The attachment must be uploaded as a single .PDF file and shall be no more than 10 pages (8.5″ x 11″, using not smaller than 12 point Arial font) in length. No additional documents should be uploaded. To ensure proper transmission, the size of the .PDF file should not exceed 10 MB in size.

The following information should be included in the attachment: 1. Description of the demonstration, technology, system, or platform being offered and its state of readiness. 2. Statement of offeror’s capabilities to provide the proposed demonstration, technology, system, or platform. 3. Proposed approach for partnering with NASA.

Electronic submission of the RFI responses through NSPIRES will be open between May 7, 2010 and June 4, 2010.

Requests for assistance in accessing and/or using the NSPIRES website should be submitted by E-mail to or by telephone to (202) 479-9376 Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM Eastern Time.

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.

All questions and/or comments shall be directed to Chris Moore via electronic mail only.

Point of Contact

Name: Dr. Christopher L. Moore
Title: Deputy Director, Advanced Capabilities Division
Phone: 202-358-4650
Fax: 202-358-3557

SpaceRef staff editor.