NASA Announces 19 Partnerships For Moon and Mars Enabling Technology

NASA has 19 new technology research projects for technology to enable Moon to Mars exploration.

SpaceX will work with NASA for a moon landing project (landing the Starship on the moon) and for in-space refueling.

Advanced Communications, Navigation and Avionics

* Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, will partner with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to advance lunar navigation technologies. The collaboration will help mature a navigation system between Earth and the Moon that could supplement NASA’s Deep Space Network and support future exploration missions.

* Vulcan Wireless of Carlsbad, California, also will partner with Goddard to test a CubeSat radio transponder and its compatibility with NASA’s Space Network.
Advanced Materials

* Aerogel Technologies of Boston will work with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to improve properties of flexible aerogels for rocket fairings and other aerospace applications. The material can result in 25% weight savings over soundproofing materials currently used in rocket fairings.

* Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, will work with NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to test materials made from metal powders using solid-state processing to improve the design of spacecraft that operate in high-temperature environments.

* Spirit AeroSystem Inc. of Wichita, Kansas, will partner with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to improve the durability of low-cost reusable rockets manufactured using friction stir welding. This welding method, already being used for NASA’s Space Launch System, results in a stronger, more defect-free seal compared to traditional methods of joining materials with welding torches.

Entry, Decent and Landing

* SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, will work with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to advance their technology to vertically land large rockets on the Moon. This includes advancing models to assess engine plume interaction with lunar regolith.

* Anasphere of Bozeman, Montana, will partner with Marshall to test a compact hydrogen generator for inflating heat shields, which could help deliver larger payloads to Mars.

* Bally Ribbon Mills of Bally, Pennsylvania, will perform thermal testing in the Arc Jet Complex at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The facility will be used to test a new seamless weave for a mechanically deployable carbon fabric heat shield.

* Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, will collaborate with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and Goddard to mature a navigation and guidance system for safe and precise landing at a range of locations on the Moon.

* Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada, will work with NASA on two entry, decent and landing projects. The company will partner with Langley to capture infrared images of their Dream Chaser spacecraft as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere traveling faster than the speed of sound.

For the second collaboration, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Langley will mature a method to recover the upper stage of a rocket using a deployable decelerator.

In-Space Manufacturing and Assembly

* Maxar Technologies of Palo Alto, California, will work with Langley to build a breadboard – a base for prototyping electronics – for a deployable, semi-rigid radio antenna. In-orbit assembly of large structures like antennae will enhance the performance of assets in space. Such capabilities could enable entirely new exploration missions that are currently size-constrained and reduce launch costs due to improved packaging.


* Blue Origin will partner with Glenn and Johnson to mature a fuel cell power system for the company’s Blue Moon lander. The system could provide uninterrupted power during the lunar night, which lasts for about two weeks in most locations.

* Maxar will test lightweight solar cells for flexible solar panels using facilities at Glenn and Marshall that mimic the environment of space. The technology could be used by future spacecraft to provide more power with a lower mass system.


* SpaceX will work with Glenn and Marshall to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit, an important step in the development of the company’s Starship space vehicle.

* Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, California, and Marshall will design and manufacture a lightweight rocket engine combustion chamber using innovative processes and materials.

The goal of the project is to reduce manufacturing costs and make the chamber scalable for different missions.

* Blue Origin, Marshall and Langley will evaluate and mature high-temperature materials for liquid rocket engine nozzles that could be used on lunar landers.

* Colorado Power Electronics Inc. of Fort Collins, Colorado, will partner with Glenn to mature power processing unit technology that extends the operating range of Hall thrusters, which are primarily used on Earth-orbiting satellites and can also be used for deep space missions. By integrating their technology with NASA and commercial Hall thrusters, the company expects to provide a propulsion system that can significantly increase mission payload or extend mission durations.

Other Exploration Technologies

* Lockheed Martin will partner with Kennedy to test technologies and operations for autonomous in-space plant growth systems. Integrating robotics with plant systems could help NASA harvest plants on future platforms in deep space.

Through ACO, NASA helps reduce the development cost of technologies and accelerate the infusion of emerging commercial capabilities into space missions. As the agency embarks on its next era of exploration, STMD is focused on advancing technologies and testing new capabilities for use at the Moon that also will be critical for crewed missions to Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:

For more information about Space Technology Mission Directorate opportunities, visit:

29 thoughts on “NASA Announces 19 Partnerships For Moon and Mars Enabling Technology”

  1. I really hope the SLS boondoggle collapses, jobs will be lost but much better than wasting billions on a cow that wouldn’t give milk. They should have that monopoly ‘Space Alliance’ between Boeing and Lockheed dissolved so they actually compete with SpaceX and build rockets. The SpaceX Starship lifts more, would be reusable, uses methane which is easier to contain rather than SLS hydrogen. Whoever gets the contracts will go to space, build colonies, bring tens of billions of dollars worth of materials back to Earth. The company, most likely SpaceX, would get a lot of money. To summarize, SLS needs to be scrapped to an incipient trillion dollar industry can blossom. The SLS was just a bad jobs program, an excuse not to have welfare, you might as well have just gave the workers money without working on the SLS because they aren’t doing anything anyway. It is just welfare with a SLS sticker on it!

  2. Real problem is that old colonists transitioned
    from shxtty to shxtty, while Mars colonists will
    transition from heaven (by 15th century standards) to shxtty, unless the plan is to set up a
    penal colony.

  3. I agree that the ships had an unacceptably high failure rate for reaching American shores. Once here, the majority of the coastline south of Delaware is a rather temperate paradise, which was formerly overrun by aquatic wildlife to an extent unimaginable.

    I do believe there is going to be significant failure rate for trips to Mars – after all, rocket science is tough. Ships adrift; out of gas; mummified remains and canned beans in highly elliptical orbits.

    I have heard of Jamestown, those colonists managed to starve on the virgin Chesapeake, which is amazing. It makes sense; only worthless criminals and idiot paupers would make such a trip (nothing to lose). These scoundrels couldn’t feed themselves and wound up murdering the locals that tried to help them (or at least infected them with SPox).

    There is not-so-fossil evidence to suggest the sheer magnitude of sea life available for consumption in the shallows of the Chesapeake would be understated as ‘bountiful’ by modern standards. Jamestown and Roanoke are the specific examples that I had in mind when I made the first comment. Chesapeake has since been back-filled by tobacco farm topsoil that washed down the James (and other) river(s). There is quite literally, no topsoil, in Lynchburg VA, which is up in the mountains +/-200 miles west.

  4. When the first colonists got to America, they could have simply put up a tent on a beach and lived off oysters, crabs and fish. Landing south of Virginia, such living would have been practical in loin cloths. The choice of comparison – Americas vs. Mars – is not really defensible.

    Always amazing to think about how poorly the first colonies did… They wanted to put up fences instead of going native.

  5. I wonder what happens to partnerships made obsolete by Starship available for hire to the moon before any other launcher is in testing?
    Fairing? We don’t need no estinking fairing!

  6. The bets are open on the length of Super Heavy booster. I think it will be a lot longer
    than expected. My bet is 75 m. Wins who gets nearest.

  7. It seems that most of these projects are advancing key capabilities and are helping private industry to be more involved in the process, which I think is the right direction.
    That being said, I believe SpaceX also uses spin-welding on their Falcon 9. So this seems to be rather well developed tech, but who knows where improvements are needed and what specific innovations are being developed.

  8. The nature of R&D is some things don’t work out, and other times you learn something unexpected and new, besides what you thought you were working on. I’m in favor of NASA doing more R&D. It has been sadly underfunded for decades.

  9. First the iiPhone clones the iPhone, now the ispace clones spacex’s by launching a car into space. Copy cat syndrome…

  10. So, either there IS a solid business plan- ie an actual financial reason to go and build a self-sustainable colony, or it’s not happening anytime soon.
    Because at the end of the day, intent to do science doesn’t keep people in absolutely terrifying living conditions long-term. Not by the thousands or millions that we need.

  11. Magical thinking must be so grand.
    No one is going anywhere without a paying customer. Space, a place where you either have a solid business plan or NASA is paying all mover costs. Business will not be making your Star Trek or Expanse dreams come true.

  12. Yep

    There’s one part of me that wants to believe these are useful projects. There’s another part of me that thinks the most of them are a waste of money.

    The one having to do a spin melt welding seems to be kind of an obvious man things and spend out what it is when you just now for what 25 years 30 years something like that with especially with the noble metals and them the Avenatti I’m niobium alloys I don’t know it sounds like spend money before wisely framed need

    I guess to sum up it feels like there’s no big plan involved. It just doesn’t seem to be a grand plan for how these things are going to go together into making for a broader set of interplanetary missions.

  13. yeah…know what you mean….the only one that sounds like its directly related to the moon is spacex and blue origin…

  14. at least not for this.
    I find it odd that the fuel transfer research was cancelled because it threatened SLS.
    What a load of s***


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