Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM) Overview
"Nothing tends so much to the advancement of knowledge as the application of a new instrument."
-- Sir Humphry Davy, 19th century English chemist
Bridging the gap. That's the mission of NASA's Technology Demonstration Missions, or TDM: to bridge the gap between need and means, between scientific and engineering challenges and the technological innovations needed to overcome them, between early proof-of-concept tests and the final infusion of cost-effective, revolutionary new technologies into robust NASA, government and commercial space missions.
The TDM program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, focuses on crosscutting technologies with strong customer interest that meet the needs of NASA and industry by enabling new missions or greatly enhancing existing ones. Chosen technologies will be thoroughly ground- and flight-tested in relevant operating environments -- reducing risks to future flight missions, gaining operational heritage and continuing NASA’s long history as a technological leader. These newly proven technologies will enable future NASA missions to pursue bolder goals; make human missions safer and more rewarding; and enable new expansion of space industry in the government and commercial sectors.
The Technology Demonstration Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is overseeing a portfolio of technology demonstration flight projects led by NASA centers and industry partners across the country.
Cryogenic Propellant Storage & Transfer: New advances in storing, transferring and measuring quantities of cryogenic propellants in space for long duration to prevent fuel loss because of "boil off" and to permit new missions beyond low-Earth orbit
Deep Space Atomic Clock: Flight validation of a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that potentially could reduce mission operations costs, deliver more science data and enable autonomous, deep-space radio navigation
Green Propellant Infusion Mission: The first spacecraft demonstration of a high-performance, high-efficiency fuel and propulsion system -- an alternative to the more toxic conventional fuel hydrazine -- promising improved performance for future satellites and space missions.
Human Exploration Telerobotics: Testing of numerous NASA robots to demonstrate how telerobotics - the remote control of robotic arms, rovers and other devices - can make astronauts safer and more productive and greatly enhance productivity in space
Laser Communications Relay Demonstration: A study to revolutionize how we send and receive data, video and other information from space, using lasers to encode and transmit data at rates 10 to 100 times faster than radio - the same data rate as today's fastest RF radios, but significantly less mass and power
Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator: Breakthrough flight technology research to demonstrate the use of inflated structures at high entry speeds to slow spacecraft decelerating through a planet's atmosphere - expanding payload mass, making landings more accurate to increase safe landing-site altitudes ranges
Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent & Landing Instrumentation: Instrumentation to conduct ground-breaking analysis of heatshield performance during the Mars Science Laboratory's atmospheric entry and descent at the red planet in 2012, rewriting thermal protection hardware design for future planetary landers
Solar Electric Propulsion: A highly efficient, solar-powered electric alternative to conventional chemical-propelled craft, potentially revolutionizing solar system exploration missions and commercial near-Earth applications.
Solar Sail Demonstration: An inventive alternative to conventional propellant-based spaceflight, this small-satellite project will deploy and operate a nearly 13,000-square-foot sail propelled by sunlight, offering a variety of propellantless spaceflight solutions