NASA seeks Small spacecraft Tipping Point technologies

NASA announces opportunities for public-private partnerships to achieve the agency’s goals of expanding capabilities and opportunities in space. NASA seeks to enable industry to develop and qualify selected technologies for market through the solicitation titled “Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies” released on August 10.

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is seeking industry-developed space technologies that can foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions. A technology is considered at a ‘tipping point’ if an investment in a demonstration of its capabilities will result in a significant advancement of the technology’s maturation, high likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application, and significant improvement in the ability to successfully bring the technology to market.

“The Tipping Point solicitation represents a continued focus on collaborations with the commercial space sector that leverage emerging markets and capabilities to meet NASA’s strategic goals,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for STMD at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These technologies should bring substantial benefit to both the commercial and government sectors on completion, and could enable NASA’s next generation of science and human exploration missions.”

NASA is looking at two technology topic areas:

Topic 1: Small Launch Vehicle Technology Development
Small spacecraft, largely due to their low cost, have become ubiquitous in the expanding commercial space market. NASA will continue to utilize them for technology development and for science missions, as well as to support deep space human exploration. The objective of this topic is to accelerate the development of commercial capabilities to enable frequent launches of small spacecraft to low-Earth orbit (LEO), at a cost per kilogram of payload much lower than currently available. Small spacecraft launchers are defined here as those delivering spacecraft with a total mass less than 300 kg to LEO.

Topic 2: Small Spacecraft Capability Demonstration Mission
The objective of this topic is to advance small spacecraft capabilities through a flight demonstration with aggressive schedule and cost targets. NASA will leverage this investment in flight-proven, highly capable small spacecraft platforms in future competitive science and exploration missions and other applications.

Each proposal to the Tipping Point solicitation must be spearheaded by U.S. private industry. Funding will occur through milestone payments as part of firm-fixed-price contracts that require a minimum 25 percent contribution from the industry partner.

NASA expects to select up to seven proposals from U.S. industry across the two technology topics, worth a combined total of approximately $15 million.