Exploration Technology Development Program

A "centaur" robot.

The Exploration Technology Development Program (ETDP) develops new technologies that will enable NASA to conduct future human exploration missions, while reducing mission risk and cost. The primary customers of the ETDP are the designers of flight systems in the Constellation Systems Program. By maturing new technologies to the level of demonstration in a relevant environment early enough to support a flight system's Preliminary Design Review (PDR), NASA can significantly reduce both cost and risk. ETDP is currently maturing near-term technologies to enable first flight of the Orion in 2014, and developing long-lead technologies needed for the lunar exploration missions no later than 2020.

Exploration Technology Development Program Projects

The projects in the ETDP were formulated to address the high priority technology needs for lunar exploration identified by the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), with further refinement by the Lunar Architecture Team (LAT). All technology projects are managed at NASA Centers.

inflatable habitat Structures, Materials, and Mechanisms
This project develops technologies for lightweight vehicle and habitat structures and low-temperature mechanisms. Lightweight composite and inflatable structures will reduce the mass of what is launched, in addition to lowering cost. Low-temperature mechanisms will allow rovers and other equipment to operate in the colder, shadowed craters at the lunar poles.
> Read the Feature Article: Camping on the Moon will be One Far Out Experience

arc jet Protection Systems
This project is developing a prototype, human-rated, ablative heat shield for Orion (the crew vehicle); advanced thermal protection system materials; and technologies for protecting lunar surface systems from the adverse effects of lunar dust.
> Read the Feature Article: NASA Developing New Heat Shield for Orion
> Read the Feature Article: Dust Management Project Prepares for Lunar Surface Missions

non-toxic propulsion Non-toxic Propulsion
This project develops non-toxic propulsion systems for Orion and the lunar lander, and technologies for long-term storage of cryogenic propellants. Non-toxic propulsion systems will reduce ground operations costs associated with handling hazardous propellants. Cryogenic propellant storage will minimize propellant boil-off in the ascent stage of the lunar lander during long stays on the surface.
> View the Propulsion and Cryogenic Advanced Development Web site
> Read the Feature Article: Rocket Tests Move NASA Closer to the Lunar Vision

life support system Energy Storage and Power Systems
This project develops advanced lithium-ion batteries and regenerative fuel cells for energy storage. These technologies will allow a solar power system to store energy for use by the outpost during the lunar night, and provide power for mobile systems such as extravehicular activity (EVA) suits and rovers.

thermal control Thermal Control for Surface Systems
This project develops the heat pumps, evaporators, and radiators for thermal control of Orion, and lunar surface systems such as habitats, power systems, and extravehicular activity (EVA) suits.
> Read the Feature Article: Advanced Thermal Control Systems Enhance Astronaut Comfort and Safety

Avionics Avionics and Software
This project develops radiation-hardened and reconfigurable, high-performance processors and electronics; autonomous, precision-landing and hazard avoidance systems; and tools to produce reliable software. Low-temperature electronics will enable systems to operate in the colder, shadowed craters at the lunar poles. Autonomous precision landing systems will allow missions to land in close proximity to the lunar outpost. Reliable software tools will improve mission safety.

prototype life support Environmental Control and Life Support
This project develops technologies for atmospheric management, environmental monitoring and control, advanced air and water recovery systems, and waste disposal. These technologies allow for sustainable, life support systems for long-duration missions, and protect the crew from hazardous contaminants. Demonstrations of environmental monitoring instruments will be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS).
> Read the Feature Article: Glenn Develops New Critical Life Support Systems for Astronauts
> View the Exploration Life Support Web site
> View the Advanced Environmental Monitoring and Control Web site

rover and astronauts on the moon Crew Support and Accommodations
This project develops component technologies for an advanced extravehicular activity (EVA) suit, which will be used for lunar surface exploration. The current Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) spacesuit cannot be used for walking on the moon because of its limited mobility and high mass.

iss ISS Research and Operations
This project performs fundamental microgravity research in biology, materials, fluid physics, and combustion using facilities on the International Space Station (ISS). It includes using the ISS as a testing ground for exploration technology development, and non-exploration research that sustains microgravity science capabilities.
> View the ISS Exploration and Non-Exploration Research Project Web site
> Read the Weekly Research Summary
> Read the Alphabetical List of Experiments
> Read the Expedition List of Experiments
> Read the List of Publications by Experiments

in-situ resource utilization In-Situ Resource Utilization (Development and Use of Localized Resources)
This project develops technologies for regolith (loose, rock layer on moon's surface) excavation and handling, for producing oxygen from regolith, and for collecting and processing lunar ice and other volatiles (substances that readily change from solid or liquid to a vapor). Using in-situ resources will help to create a sustainable lunar outpost by reducing the amount of consumables that must be resupplied from Earth, including water, oxygen, and rocket propellants.

rover Robotics, Operations, and Supportability
This project develops technologies for surface mobility and equipment handling, human-system interaction, and lunar surface system repair. Dexterous robots and autonomous rovers that can traverse rough terrain will help the crew explore, assemble, and maintain the lunar outpost. Prototype robots will be demonstrated in annual desert field tests that simulate lunar surface operations.
> View the Robonaut Web site
> View the ATHLETE Rover Web site

fission reactor on the moon Fission Surface Power Systems
This project develops concepts and technologies for affordable nuclear fission surface power systems for long-duration stays on the moon and the future exploration of Mars. NASA is collaborating with the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop fission surface power system concepts.