NASA is seeking proposals for flight demonstrations of small satellite technologies with the goal of increasing the technical capabilities and range of uses for this emerging category of spacecraft.
Small satellites typically weigh less than 400 pounds (180 kg) and are generally launched as secondary payloads on rockets carrying larger spacecraft. The small satellite category includes softball-sized "CubeSats," which are standardized, small, cube-shaped spacecraft that can carry small payloads, and even smaller experimental spacecraft.
"NASA's Edison SmallSat program helps to continue America's leadership in space through the further development of this class of satellites -- small, agile and relatively inexpensive spacecraft that could perform many tasks in space enabling new missions and providing unique educational opportunities," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "These spacecraft represent a new opportunity among the many ways that NASA can approach its diverse goals in science, exploration and education."
NASA's Edison Small Satellite Demonstration Program has released a broad agency announcement seeking low-cost, flight demonstration proposals for small satellite technology. The topic areas for this solicitation will be limited to demonstrations of communications systems for small satellites, proximity operations with small satellites and propulsion systems for Cubesat-scale satellites. Other technology and application demonstrations will be addressed in future solicitations.
"Encouraging the growth of small-spacecraft technology also benefits our economy," said Andrew Petro, Edison program executive at NASA Headquarters. "Many of the technologies that enable small spacecraft come from the world of small business, where commercial practices provide innovative and cost-effective solutions. Those technologies will continue to advance as demand and competition drive companies to excel."
The advancement of small spacecraft technologies offers the potential for small satellites to expand the types of science and exploration at NASA. These spacecraft can accomplish new types of missions never before possible, and they are expected to provide space access to more technologists and scientists. Their small size means that they are less expensive to build and launch, which allows NASA to engage the expanding small-space community, including small businesses and university researchers, in technology that helps enable larger goals.
Executive summaries of proposals must be submitted by March 4, 2012. NASA expects to invite full proposals this spring, with selections made this fall. A selected project must be completed within two to three years at a total cost of no more than $15 million. The number of awards will depend on the quality and cost of proposals and availability of funding.
The Edison Small Satellite Demonstration Program is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., for the Space Technology Program, which works to provide the technologies and capabilities that will enable NASA's future missions.
Date: Feb 3, 2012