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Ames Engineering Directorate: Mission Design Division
Early Prototyping workshop in use by Engineering Team
Mission Design Team Working on Prototype Hardware

Code RD conducts early-stage concept development and technology maturation supporting the Center's space and aircraft mission proposals. Personnel have experience in generating proposals, designing spacecraft busses in support of instruments, and designing instruments in support of science objectives

The principal activities are encompassed by the following three topic areas:

Mission Design Tools and Capabilities The NASA Ames' Mission Design Center (MDC) provides concurrent engineering facilities and software for rapid mission development and analysis. The MDC is staffed by subject matter experts covering the domains required to fully develop successful spacecraft mission concepts. The MDC staff use and develop design tools supporting the full mission, including for example, orbit / trajectory design, thermal and electrical analyses, avionics and guidance, navigation and control design, development of operations concepts, and costing. The MDC facilities and staff conduct scheduled and rapid-response design cycles to develop initial mission concepts into proposal-ready, fully supportable technical packages.

Technology Incubators Low technology readiness level (TRL) hardware or software that promises to be mission-enabling, transformative, or disruptive often requires a period of incubation or R&D during which it can be developed in an unfettered environment sufficiently to determine if the technology is worth a larger investment. The Directorate provides this opportunity for engineers and scientists to engage in basic development work with a minimum of "red tape". Contractor participation in this activity potentially spans all aspects of technology creation and maturation.

Proposal Development A key role for the MDC is creation, leadership and support of proposals. These may be in response to NASA or other agency solicitations, or developed by the Center as unsolicited proposals. Directorate staff may serve as capture lead, principal investigator, project manager, or in a variety of other supporting roles as appropriate to the proposal. Staff provides technical and programmatic input throughout the course of proposal development, as well as editorial and graphics support.

The Mission Design Division, or MDD, supports the full mission life cycle in the areas of:

  • Early Concept Development
  • Mission Design
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Mission Implementation

Our capabilities include flight hardware development, integration and test, launch and operations.

We have a number of strong Education & Public Outreach initiatives, including partnerships with local and international universities and multiple internship programs.


The Mission Design Division maintains a number of facilities, including:

  • Mission Design Center
  • Development Labs
  • Cleanrooms
  • Operations Center

Our capabilities include mission design and development, toolsets for spacecraft design and mission simulation, concurrent engineering tools and processes, rapid prototyping, and integration and test.

Missions & Projects

The Mission Design Division provides spacecraft mission design capabilities and complete mission implementation for projects ranging in size from nanosatellites (5-50 kg) to deep space Class B (1200 kg) missions. Specific capabilities include:

  • Conceptual Mission Design
  • Spacecraft and Payload Design
  • Analysis and Fabrication
  • Project Management and Systems Engineering
  • System Assembly, Test and Integration
  • Mission Operations

While experienced in multiple levels of design and mission implementation, the Mission Design Division focuses on low-cost, small satellite missions that can be executed in 12-18 month timeframes.

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Page Last Updated: November 21st, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator