Status Report

Request for Information Seeking Potential Interest and Use of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Unique Capabilities

By SpaceRef Editor
December 13, 2012
Filed under , ,

Synopsis – Dec 12, 2012

General Information

Solicitation Number: NNM13Z52001L
Posted Date: Dec 12, 2012
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Dec 12, 2012
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: Feb 12, 2013
Current Response Date: Feb 12, 2013
Classification Code: 99 — Miscellaneous
NAICS Code: 927110

Contracting Office Address

NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Procurement Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL 35812


This notice is issued by the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)to post a Sources Sought for Potential Partnering for MSFC Environmental Test Facility (ETF), Flight Robotics Laboratory (FRL), and X-ray & Cryogenic Facility (XRCF) to enhance the use of unique capabilities to support government, university, and commercial activities. The unique interdisciplinary yet integrated resources available within the ETF, FRL, and XRCF can be of great benefit to the nation and enhance technological research and development.

This is a Request For Information (RFI) issued solely for information and planning purposes — It does not constitute a Request For Proposal — The purpose of this RFI is to engage prospective partners in dialogue leading to research and development (R&D) efforts that enhance utilization of these unique capabilities by industry, universities and other government agencies. The expectation is that NASA MSFC will be reimbursed for all costs incurred through the use of Space Act Agreements (SAA). This first step is to assess interest regarding the unique MSFC Environmental Test capabilities that have the greatest prospects to expand partnerships, customer base and economic opportunities consistent with the NASA mission. The Government seeks responses from organizations interested in utilizing the unique combination of expertise, labs, tools, and facilities, hereafter referred to as “capabilities” on a reimbursable basis. These capabilities have broad application within diverse industries including the aerospace industry.


A. MSFC ETF operates a variety of vacuum chambers nominally used to develop and qualify flight hardware for “in space” environments. Chambers can reach pressures of 10-6 to 10-8 torr. Many are equipped with thermal liners (“shrouds”) which use liquid nitrogen to cool the environment to roughly 80 K. Colder temperatures can be obtained locally with liquid helium (about 8 K.) Most chambers can be equipped with heat lamps which can provide temperatures up 600 K. Automatic thermal and vacuum cycling is possible using modernized control and data acquisition systems. All chambers provide electrical and mechanical pass throughs, and cameras are available for monitoring a test article. The ETF has over a dozen variously equipped smaller chambers. Larger chambers that are capable of handling test articles weighing several thousand pounds (depending on footprint) include:

V15 – a horizontal axis cylinder 12 ft. diameter, 20 ft. long. V20 – a horizontal axis cylinder 20 ft. diameter, 28 ft. long. Sunspot – a top loading (via 3 ton bridge crane) vertical axis chamber, 10 ft. diameter, 12 ft. long.

B. MSFC ETF has developed the capability of simulating the pressure profile to which a vehicle may be exposed on ascent. The vehicle’s proposed altitude-time profile is converted to a pressure-time profile using the KSC Range Reference Atmosphere. This profile is then executed in a chamber having a controllable exhaust valve leading to a large vacuum reservoir. Testing to altitudes to 130,000 ft. is currently possible. This facility may also be used for rapid decompression testing within certain limits.

C. MSFC ETF operates several thermal humidity chambers capable of simulating “in-cabin” environments. Test articles approximately 4 ft. x 4 ft. x 4 ft. may be exposed to temperatures ranging from 200 K to 430 K and relative humidities ranging from 0 to 100% in these chambers. Viewports, cameras, and electrical pass throughs for control and data acquisition can be provided.

D. MSFC ETF maintains a Salt Fog Test Chamber nominally used for simulating the environmental conditions of the KSC on-pad pre-launch environment. Humidity, temperature, airflow and salt content can be varied as needed.


A. Dynamic Overhead Target Simulator (DOTS) – a robotic arm with an 800 lb payload capacity that can move the payload within a 30 x 20 x 160 foot volume. The Robotic Arm can be moved in pre-canned motions or used in a closed-loop fashion for sensor testing, video testing, proximity operations, docking, and capture testing. The arm is equipped with a force-torque sensor on the front to measure the forces and torques on the payload.

B. Solar Simulator – a bank of six solar-spectrum equivalent lights, totaling 42 kW. Lights can move the length of the facility and rotate on their carriage to put the light at any angle onto the test article. Useful for camera testing, lighting tests, and optical sensor testing.

C. Air-bearing vehicles and flat-floor – several air-bearing vehicles of different sizes can be used for realistic motions, capable of carrying payloads of up to 1000 lbs. Small vehicles (such as cubesats) can be tested on the floor with smaller, lighter air-bearings. Useful for physics-based motion, pointing, proximity operations, sensor, and capture testing.

D. Automated motion/test platforms – two different robotic platforms available to provide relative sensor and target motions of 5 or 6 degrees of freedom utilized for testing/verifying sensor performance and accuracy.

E. Star Field Simulator (arriving by the end of 2012) – monitor, lens, and computer system capable of displaying star fields at 20 Hz update rates. Useful for testing star tracker sensors. Outside the FRL, but in line with the FRL sensor & camera test capabilities, two other facilities exist that should be included:

E1. Stray-light Test Facility – 100 meter vacuum-capable optical system test chamber and tunnel utilized for testing optics, sensors or cameras in a vacuum environment or for comparing vacuum performance with in-air performance at different ranges.

E2. 300 meter tunnel – 300m x 2m x 2m concrete-lined tunnel with a robotic system to translate a target down the length of the tunnel and pitch, yaw, and roll the target. Since the tunnel is controlled access, it is useful for laser testing as well as sensor and camera testing.


A. ET20 operates a wind tunnel capable of testing over a range of Mach 0.5 to 5.0. The facility has a 14″ x 14″ test section 24″ long and a newly modernized control and data acquisition system. Flow visualization is available. Run times are in excess of 30 seconds at dynamic pressures of 2 to 20 psia. This facility has supported NASA and military vehicle development for over sixty years.

B. A variety of “cold flow” test facilities that are available. Those using air include the Nozzle Test Facility which can measure thrust up to 1500 lbf and provide flow visualization. Similarly the Turbine Test Facility can be used to evaluate the performance of radially and axially loaded turbines. The Inducer Test Loop and the Pump Test Facility use water to evaluate test article performance. All of these facilities are readily customized to accommodate a variety of test articles and test conditions.


MSFC also maintains and operates the X-ray & Cryogenic Facility (XRCF) – a unique optical, cryogenic, and x-ray vacuum test facility. The extremely clean, thermally-controlled, vacuum chamber is a horizontal cylinder 20 feet in diameter and 65 feet long capable of achieving temperatures from 20 Kelvin to 160*F and vacuum levels less than 10-6 Torr. The chamber is connected to a 5 ft diameter x 1700 ft long horizontal, evacuated tunnel (illumination beam-line). As the world’s largest x-ray optical test facility, the XRCF enables development, performance, and calibration testing of grazing-incidence x-ray optics, detectors and telescopes. The XRCF’s cryogenic optical test capabilities enable the development and pre-flight evaluation of large direct-incidence telescope mirrors and structures in relevant environments.


The Government and partner will jointly define potential R&D efforts; develop mutually agreed to statements of work, cost, and schedule as defined in a reimbursable Space Act Agreement (SAA). The Government anticipates some respondents may be interested in only one area or sub-area while others may be interested in broad efforts requiring more than one capability. Some organizations may want to partner because of direct needs, or there may be respondents who desire to utilize specific support to meet needs of third parties. Such activities can be accommodated utilizing a SAA, either for a single project or for a group of projects (“umbrella” SAA), consistent with the NASA mission. Based on the quantity and quality of responses, NASA MSFC ETF expects to engage selected organization(s) in further discussions regarding expanded partnerships, customer base and economic opportunities consistent with the NASA mission. Site visits are welcomed and the ETF encourages face-to-face meetings to foster additional dialog pertaining to any proposed partnerships.

Prospective offerors are invited to submit written comments or questions to: Barry S. Kaigler, Contracting Officer, 256-544-0426 or via electronic transmission at, and the following points of contacts:

Questions of a general nature should be directed to Mr. Kevin Burks,256-544-6554, or Questions of a technical nature should be directed to Mr. Richard Cooper, 256- 544-3544, or Questions related to reimbursable rates should be directed to Mr. Chris Crump, 256-544-4418, or

Responses are required no later than close of business (COB) February 12, 2013. When responding reference NNM13Z52001L. Information received after this date will only be considered if deemed in the Government’s best interest. Respondents are cautioned to mark any information confidential if it is to be treated as proprietary.

This RFI synopsis is not to be construed as a commitment by the Government, nor will the Government pay for the information submitted in response. Respondents will not be notified of the results.

An Ombudsman has been appointed- See NASA Clause 1852.215-84. The Center Ombudsman for this acquisition can be found at .

The solicitation and any documents related to this procurement will be available over the Internet. These documents will reside on a World Wide Web (WWW) server, which may be accessed using a WWW browser application. The Internet site, or URL, for the NASA/MSFC Business Opportunities home page is It is the offeror’s responsibility to monitor the Internet cite for the release of the solicitation and amendments (if any). Potential offerors will be responsible for downloading their own copy of the solicitation and amendments, if any.

Point of Contact

Name: Barry S. Kaigler
Title: Contract Specialist
Phone: 256-544-0426
Fax: 256-544-9354

Name: James W. Bailey
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 256-544-7409
Fax: 256-544-9354

SpaceRef staff editor.