that M&S and ground tests might not convey; (2) lay the groundwork for dialog between technology developers and mission offices to define a rigorous approach to achieving TRL 6; and (3) provide opportunities to train new members of the workforce and give systems engineers and instrument scientists hands-on experience with a new technology across the full span of space mission phases (design, development, fabrication, testing, data analysis, and so on) over relatively short time spans and in risk-tolerant environments.
Flight demonstration would be the final phase of a NASA technology development program. Flight demonstrations should be conducted only if there is sufficient “pull” (and typically cost sharing) from the user. Such co-funding between OCT and the using Mission Directorate in the case of a NASA application is a mechanism for bridging the “valley of death” that often impedes or prevents the transition of advanced technologies from technology development offices and/or organizations to mission development offices and/or organizations.
Various platforms are available to support flight testing and demonstrations, depending on the technology and application in question. Possibilities include high-altitude airborne flights, sub-orbital space flights, and orbital flights on dedicated spacecraft, government or commercial spacecraft (as a secondary payload), and on the ISS.
Recommendation. Flight Demonstrations and Technology Transition. OCT should collaborate with other NASA mission offices and outside partners in defining, advocating, and where necessary co-funding flight demonstrations of technologies. OCT should document this collaborative arrangement using a technology transition plan or similar agreement that specifies success criteria for flight demonstrations as well as budget commitments by all involved parties.
Although facility capability is outside OCT’s direct line of responsibility and is not explicitly addressed in the study’s statement of task, the health and availability of facilities are closely linked to development of advanced technology.
State-of-the-art facilities for aerospace research and development are often large, complex, and expensive. As a result, many aerospace research facilities have historically been built and operated by government laboratories. This tradition was first established in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century (e.g., the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom, which began aeronautics research and testing in 1908). This was followed by the creation of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in the United States in 1915 and the opening of the NACA Langley Memorial Laboratory in 1920. The need for such government-run facilities continues today, as underscored by a number of NRC reports, most recently an assessment of NASA laboratories for basic research (NRC, 2010).
Adequate ground test facilities are required to validate analytical models, to benchmark complex computer simulations such as computational fluid dynamics models, and to examine new designs and concepts. Testing is a critical element in material development, such as new TPS materials. Such testing is normally carried out in arcjet facilities that can produce convective heating rates and accommodate test articles in sizes of interest to simulate entry from LEO, NEO, and Mars missions. Large thermal vacuum chambers are needed to perform thermal response testing at or near vacuum or low pressure. As old facilities become obsolete, some may need to be replaced with modern facilities to support the development of new technology.
The ISS is a unique research and test facility that is critical for the development of space technologies. It provides a platform for testing in microgravity and the harsh environment of space (cosmic rays, solar coronal ejecta, micrometeorites, etc.) for long durations. Low-TRL initiatives will develop many technologies that may or may not survive the space environment, and testing in simulated space environments on the ground may not provide credible results. Thus, testing on the ISS is an important step in moving a technology from TRL 3 to TRL 5 or 6. Testing of materials, components, and/or subsystems is mentioned in all but two of the roadmaps (TA01, Launch Propulsion Systems and TA13, Ground and Launch Systems Processing). Examples of level 3 technologies from the roadmaps that would benefit from the testing on the ISS include 2.4.2 Propellant Storage and Transfer; 3.2.1 Energy Storage: Batteries; 4.6.3 Docking and Capture Mechanisms/Interfaces; 5.5.1 Radio Systems; 10.4.1 Sensors and Actuators; 12.1.1 Lightweight Materials and Structures; and 14.3.1 Ascent/Entry TPS. In addition, there