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Early Career Initiative (ECI) at Armstrong

NASA's Flight Research Team
A NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center team is looking to improve parachute systems for planetary missions by providing designers with sensors that will provide information on strain. Members of the Enhancing Parachutes by Instrumenting the Canopy, or EPIC, team are Lydia Hantsche, project manager, Erick Rossi De La Fuente, principal investigator, and Dan Budolak, project chief engineer. Budolak is holding one of the test articles.
NASA / Joshua Fisher

Armstrong Wins Its Second ECI Award

Congratulations to the members of the Armstrong team that won a fiscal year 2022 ECI award for their project: Enhancing Parachutes by Instrumenting the Canopy (EPIC). The EPIC team will receive $2.5 million over the next two years to support their research into reducing mission risks through parachute canopy instrumentation.

Led by principal investigator Erick Rossi De La Fuente, along with Armstrong co-investigators Lydia Hantsche and Dan Budolak as well as Ames Research Center’s Matthew Nguyen, the team will adhere highly elastic strain sensors to the surface of parachute canopy material. Supersonic parachutes used for Mars entry, descent, and landing suffer from poorly understood structural margins and unvalidated structural models due to lack of flight data. Canopy instrumentation could collect that data.

Armstrong’s FY2021 ECI Award

Andrew Holguin prepares an experiment to verify the strength of the magnetic forces as two mounted magnets are moved closer and closer to each other.
Andrew Holguin prepares an experiment to verify the strength of the magnetic forces as two mounted magnets are moved closer and closer to each other.
NASA / Lauren Hughes

This team’s project proposed to develop a dust-tolerant magnetic coupler for cryogenic fluids for lunar/Mars applications. Led by Armstrong researchers working with collaborators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Kennedy Space Center and a commercial partner, the team is working to lab-demonstrate an electrostatic cryogenic coupler that employs patterned magnets. The Armstrong-led research team includes:

  • Shideh Naderi, principal investigator
  • Jonathan Lopez
  • Paul Bean
  • Nic Heersema
  • Scott Stebbins
  • William Manley

About NASA’s ECI Program

Started in FY2015 as part of NASA’s Center Innovation Fund (CIF), ECI’s goal is to engage NASA early-career researchers with world-class partners to develop the innovative leaders and technologies of the future, invigorating NASA’s technological base and best practices for project management. ECI provides the opportunity for NASA’s early career workforce to propose and develop innovative aerospace technology projects, engage with leading industry and academic partners, and develop the skills required to manage and transition transformative concepts into future NASA missions.

For more information about ECI, view this presentation or contact Armstrong’s Center Chief Technologist.

What Are the Requirements for an ECI Project?

Projects can be up to 2 years in duration and can receive up to $1.25 million in total annual funding per year (i.e., $2.5 million maximum allowable project lifecycle cost, including procurement, labor, and travel). ECI projects also must engage a highly qualified external (non-NASA) partner that brings an element of technical or programmatic excellence and innovation to the project. More details are provided in the solicitation.

What Does “Early Career” Mean?

For the ECI program, it is typically defined as service within 10 years following completion of terminal degree.

Who Is Eligible?

  • All NASA early career civil servants can serve as a principal investigator or team member.
  • Early career on-site contractors may participate only as team members.

Begin Planning for Next Year Now

Armstrong researchers are encouraged to begin thinking about potential projects for the development of new and revolutionary advanced technologies for next year’s solicitation. Contact Armstrong’s Center Chief Technologist to discuss your ECI project ideas and review the most recent solicitation to gain an understanding of what is required for ECI proposals.  

NASA Early Career Initiative (ECI) FY22 Solicitation



Last Updated
Jul 12, 2023
Dede Dinius
Armstrong Flight Research Center