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Space Station NASA Research Announcement Talks Tech
01.28.13
 
NASA currently is seeking proposals from the U.S. public for exploration technology demonstration and International Space Station National Lab utilization enhancements. (NASA) NASA currently is seeking proposals from the U.S. public for exploration technology demonstration and International Space Station National Lab utilization enhancements. (NASA)
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Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide, Expedition 33 flight engineer, services the Nano Step payload in the Japanese Experiment Module. Ideas submitted for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide, Expedition 33 flight engineer, services the Nano Step payload in the Japanese Experiment Module. Ideas submitted for the "Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements" may lead to new instruments or improvements on how to use existing hardware aboard the space station. (NASA)
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Put on your thinking cap! Beginning Nov. 30, NASA wants your ideas on how to use the International Space Station as a technology test bed. NASA's Technology Demonstration and National Lab Offices are asking for proposals on advanced and improved exploration technologies for testing and refinement that take advantage of the unique environment aboard the space station.

The NASA Research Announcement, or NRA, titled "Soliciting Proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements" was issued on Nov. 14. This opportunity to use the orbiting laboratory provides applicants access to the microgravity environment of space, crew support and robotic servicing.

"We are very excited to release this research announcement," said Andrew Clem, an engineer in NASA's Technology Demonstration Office. "We hope that it will provide an opportunity to either demonstrate an important technology necessary for the future of human spaceflight or to develop an upgrade of existing space station capability to improve the quality of research."

This NRA closes Sept. 30, 2013, providing nearly a year to brainstorm and submit proposals. NASA will review white papers and proposals throughout the year as they come in and will cover launch and integration costs for winning proposals. Successful submissions may be eligible for additional funding and should indicate if they require NASA funds.

"The International Space Station is a world-class facility and a critical part of NASA's plan to extend humankind's presence beyond low-Earth orbit," said Clem. "The space station allows for demonstration of critical capabilities for long-duration human spaceflight and generation of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education."

A potential inventor's recipe for success should include a concept to reduce mass, maintenance and power requirements, while also increasing efficiency, reliability and safety. This could be a new technology or an idea to modify and improve on existing space hardware. Proposals also may have the potential to yield benefits for humanity and even stimulate economic growth.

"The International Space Station National Lab represents an opportunity to utilize our unique research capacities to expand the U.S. economy using space-based research, applications and operations," said Clem. "We are excited that this capability is available for non-traditional NASA users."

Technologies should aid in advancing exploration and research capabilities aboard the station. Concepts must fit within existing NASA standards for mass and volume to meet requirements for current launch vehicles, as detailed in the NRA. A sample of suggested areas to get creative juices flowing include, but are not limited to, in-space propulsion; space power and energy storage; components of highly reliable, closed-loop, human health, life support and habitation systems; thermal systems; robotics, telerobotics and autonomous systems; and human exploration destination systems.

From a National Laboratory perspective, concepts also may delve into hardware and analytical upgrades to innovate research capabilities. This could include new uses for existing experiment tools and infrastructure aboard the space station, in addition to potential efficiencies, such as advances to data communications. For instance, the NRA suggests topics in the areas of ground equipment for space studies, on-orbit analytical tools and three dimensional cell and tissue culture hardware, as well as improvements or new uses for existing station research resources.

The analytical and equipment enhancements sought in this announcement will further the efforts made by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, to promote research aboard the portion of the station designated a U.S. National Laboratory. CASIS manages the national lab with the goal of supporting and accelerating innovations and new discoveries to benefit humanity here on Earth.

For assistance with the NRA process, access the "Guidebook for Proposers Responding to a NASA Research Announcement (NRA) or Cooperative Agreements Notice (CAN)." With ideas as varied as the individuals that dream them, there is no limit to the potential of these space-based technology advances, leaving NASA asking, what will YOU come up with next?

 
 
Jessica Nimon
International Space Station Program Science Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center