National Academies Press: OpenBook
« Previous: 3 Assessment of Current Progress vis--vis Vision and Voyages and Guidance for the Rest of the Decade
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

4

Planetary Science Technology

The 2011 planetary science decadal survey, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 (NRC, 2011) found that continued success of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) planetary exploration program depends on two major elements: (1) careful selection of flight projects that answer the highest-priority questions in solar system science, and (2) an ongoing, robust, stable technology development program that is aimed at the missions of the future, especially those missions that have great potential for discovery and are not within existing technology capabilities. Early investment in key technologies reduces the cost risk of complex projects, allowing them to be initiated with reduced uncertainty regarding their eventual total costs.

TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENT BUDGET

Decadal Findings: Because the future of planetary science depends on a well-conceived, robust, stable technology investment program, the survey strongly recommended that a substantial program of planetary exploration technology development should be reconstituted and carefully protected against all incursions that would deplete its resources. They recommended that the program should be consistently funded at approximately 6 to 8 percent of the total NASA Planetary Science Division (PSD) budget, should be targeted toward the planetary missions that NASA intends to fly, and should be competed whenever possible.

Assessment: The PSD technology investments have been between 6.9 and 9.9 percent, with an average of slightly under 8 percent for fiscal year (FY) 2011 to FY 2016, and meet the 6 to 8 percent annual investment recommended by the decadal survey. The current budget estimates for the years FY 2018 through FY 2022 are showing technology funding at ~$200 million, which represents about 10 percent of the overall expected annual PSD budget of slightly greater than $1.9 billion.

Finding: The PSD has to date met and is expected to continue to fully meet the decadal survey’s technology investment recommendation.

Finding: The PSD has embraced the decadal survey’s technology recommendations, and they have constructed a rational and comprehensive technology portfolio that can enable new and more challenging planetary science missions in the next decade.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

Recommendation: NASA should continue investment in development of the mission-enabling technologies at the 6 to 8 percent level.

TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM TACTICAL AND STRATEGIC INVESTMENT BALANCE

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages strongly recommended that NASA strive to achieve balance in its technology investment programs by addressing the near-term missions cited specifically in this report, as well as the longer-term missions that will be studied and prioritized in the future. Vision and Voyages also identified the candidate set of “key capabilities” for technology development shown in Table 4.1 and that would provide this balance.

Assessment: The PSD has been very responsive to the recommendations of the survey to improve integration of disparate technology programs, fill gaps in the technology readiness level maturation, fund high-priority technologies needed for future missions, and ensure a reasonable balance across the various technology areas. As part of their efforts, after the decadal survey the PSD initiated a technology road-mapping exercise incorporating inputs from various sources to identify technologies that enable innovative science in more extreme environments on smaller missions on a more frequent cadence. These technology requirements were then integrated into the 2015 NASA Technology Roadmap and the 2017 NASA Technology Investment Plan. Table 4.1 shows the mapping of the current PSD Technology Priorities to the decadal survey recommendations.

In addition to the technologies identified above, the PSD is working closely with the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) to co-fund technologies that enable planetary missions. These include the following:

  • Spacecraft Technology
    • Heat Shield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology (HEEET)
    • Extreme Environment Solar Power
    • Deep Space Engine
    • Bulk Metallic Glass Gears
  • Core Technology
    • High-Performance Spaceflight Computing
    • Entry System Modeling
  • Instruments
    • Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing Instrument II
    • VEMCam

Finding: The NASA technology priorities are responsive to the list established in Vision and Voyages and the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and STMD are working collaboratively to advance these technologies toward meeting mission needs. Such partnerships can benefit SMD.

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT, TRL MATURATION, AND MISSION INSERTION

Decadal Findings: In assessing the state of technology Vision and Voyages found that in the past, NASA planetary exploration technology programs have overemphasized technology readiness levels (TRLs) 1-3 at the expense of the more costly but vital midlevel efforts necessary to bring the technology to flight readiness. As a result the decadal survey recommended that the Planetary Science Division’s technology program should be responsible for continuing the development of the most important technology items through TRL 6.

The decadal survey also emphasized that in the announcements of opportunities (AOs) for Discovery and New Frontiers missions, the PSD should make newly developed technology available for transfer to proposers along with providing cost and risk mitigation support.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

TABLE 4.1 Current NASA Technology Roadmap Priorities Mapped Against Decadal Survey Recommended Needs

Mission Objectives Decadal Survey Recommendations for Key Capability Required NASA Technology Priorities

Inner Planets

Venus climate history

Venus/Mercury interior

Lunar volatile inventory

High-temperature survival Atmospheric mobility

Advanced chemical propulsion

Sample handling

Long-duration high-temperature subsystems

Autonomy and mobility

Cryogenic sampling and instruments

High-temperature compatible Electronics/Power Systems

High-temperature electronic packaging for extreme environments

High-temperature diamond-based electronic sensors and actuators

High-temperature electric motors and position sensors exploration

Power/Propulsion for small spacecraft

Ice sample return

High-performance low-power computing and field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)

System Autonomy (guidance, navigation, and control [GNC], proximity operations, command and data handling [C&DH], sampling operations, FIDH)

Low-temperature compatible electronics, actuators, and mechanisms

Mars

Habitability, geochemistry, and geologic evolution

Ascent propulsion

Autonomy, precision landing

In situ instruments

Planetary protection

Planetary Ascent Vehicle for Sample Return

Autonomous precision landing technology

System Autonomy (GNC, proximity operations, C&DH, sampling operations, FIDH)

Sample acquisition systems (ice penetration melt, drills; plume sampling; sample cache, delivery, and processing)

Subsurface ice (>2 m) acquisition and handling

Motor controller, rover wheels

Landing hazard avoidance systems

Planetary protection techniques/material and component compatibility

Ice sample return

Giant Planets and Their Satellites

Titan chemistry and evolution

Uranus and Neptune/Triton

Atmospheric mobility

Remote sensing instruments

In situ instruments—cryogenic

Aerocapture

Advanced power/propulsion

High-performance telecommunications

Thermal protection/entry

High-performance low-power computing and FPGAs

System autonomy (GNC, proximity operations)

Low-temperature compatible electronics, actuators, and mechanisms

Low-mass low-power instruments for cold high-radiation Ocean Worlds

Advanced solar arrays, Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (MMRTGs), and next-generation electric propulsion

Sample acquisition systems (ice penetration melt, drills; plume sampling; sample delivery and processing)

Next Generation Optical Communications

High-temperature electronic packaging for extreme environments

Heat-shield technology for planetary entry and sample return

Primitive Bodies

Trojan and Kuiper belt object composition

Comet/asteroid origin and evolution

Advanced power/propulsion

Advanced thermal protection

Sampling systems

Verification of samples—ices, organics

Cryogenic sample preservation

Thermal control during entry, descent, and landing

Advanced solar arrays, MMRTGs, and next-generation electric propulsion

HEEET—3D-woven thermal protection system

LWRHUs—Lightweight Radioisotope Heater Units

Sample acquisition systems (ice penetration melt, drills; plume sampling; sample delivery and processing)

Surface Cryogenic Ice sample acquisition and handling

Heat-shield technology for planetary entry and sample return

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

Assessment: NASA has continued to invest in multi-mission technologies and as part of the competed Discovery and New Frontiers AOs released since the decadal survey. NASA has taken steps as part of the 2014 Discovery AO and 2016 New Frontiers AO to both incentivize the use of new technology and to reduce the principal investigator’s (PI’s) programmatic risk for flying new technology by providing technologies. As noted below, to reduce PI mission risk NASA has provided this technology as government furnished equipment (GFE) with technical and monetary incentives, or by transferring NASA technology to a commercial provider who has brought it up to TRL 6 or above. In addition, they have initiated workshops to increase the awareness of the PI teams of the available technology such as that initiated in June 2016 in support of the New Frontiers AO.

The NASA 2014 Discovery AO included the following:

  • Government Furnished Equipment (Technology)
    • Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC): NASA offered a $5 million incentive for use and the fabrication of a copy of the as-demonstrated unit to be funded by the mission, including any modifications needed.
    • HEEET: 3D-woven thermal protection system—NASA to cover up to $10 million of the Heat Shield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology (HEEET) material and the labor costs for the HEEET team to work with the mission.
  • Commercial Partners
    • Advanced Solar Arrays—Available from two vendors, Alliant Techsystems and Deployable Space Systems.
    • Green Propellant—Available from Aerojet-Rocketdyne.

These four items were all made available to SMD missions following significant development efforts and investment by STMD.

The 2016 AO for New Frontiers included the following:

  • Government Furnished Equipment
    • NEXT-C: Commercialized version of the NEXT ion propulsion system—NASA to provide two thrusters and two power processing units.
    • Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC): Next-generation optical communications—NASA to provide the hardware and labor costs for DSOC team’s participation in integration and operations, and a $30 million incentive.
    • Lightweight Radioisotope Heater Unit (LWRHU)—NASA to provide up to 30 units.

These three items were all made available to SMD missions following significant development efforts and investment by NASA’s STMD and the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD). Partnering in this manner has benefited SMD.

Finding: NASA has implemented cost-effective ways to bring new technology up to TRL 6 and above, including taking proactive steps to educate PI teams on the available technology and providing incentives in the announcement of opportunity for the incorporation of the technology in their proposed missions.

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT PROGRESS ASSESSMENT

To cost-effectively meet the breadth of environmental and mission enabling systems challenges, the decadal survey committee emphasized the need for continued investment in advancing multi-mission core technologies that address the following needs:

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
  • Reduced mass and power requirements for spacecraft and their subsystems;
  • Improved communications capabilities yielding higher data rates;
  • Increased spacecraft autonomy;
  • More efficient power and propulsion for all phases of the missions;
  • More robust spacecraft for survival in extreme environments;
  • New and improved sensors, instruments, and sampling and sample preservation systems; and
  • Mission and trajectory design and optimization.

This committee focused on the subset of these core technologies that are mission enablers with long lead development challenges. The development status of these technologies is discussed in the following sections.

Radioisotope Power

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages expressed a significant concern for the very limited availability of plutonium-238 (Pu-238) for planetary exploration. As a result Vision and Voyages had recommended that Advanced Sterling Radioisotope Generators (ASRGs) be the highest priority advanced power system technology investment. Due to the NASA termination of their support of the ASRG, and increased confidence in the availability of Pu-238, this did not happen and NASA has chosen Multi-Mission Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) as a higher priority technology investment and also to invest in longer term developments of advanced energy conversion techniques.

Assessment: The PSD has made dramatic progress in reestablishing a viable production source for Pu-238. NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) have established a long-term relationship where NASA will fund the establishment and maintenance of a constant production line for Pu-238. This arrangement will reduce mission risk by maintaining a qualified work force and making targeted equipment investments across the production chain. By FY 2019, production rate will begin at 400 g/year. By FY 2021, additional production redundancy will be added, and by 2025 DOE will be able to produce 1.5 kg/year. with a surge capability to 2.5 kg/year. (See Figure 4.1.)

Clads are the basic building blocks of MMRTGs. Approximately the size and shape of a marshmallow, they contain the plutonium fuel that provides heat that is converted to electricity. Each MMRTG requires 32 clads, each containing 151 mg of Pu-238 (plutonium dioxide). The currently forecasted clad availability and capability to assemble MMRTGs along with NASA’s expected mission needs are shown in Figure 4.2.

In March 2018, based on this renewed confidence in the availability of Pu-238 and MMRTG development maturity and community pressure, NASA announced it would allow MMRTGs for missions proposed in response to the 2019 Discovery AO.

Finding: The currently forecast Pu-238 and clad production rates are expected to fully meet with margins the NASA currently envisioned mission needs for MMRTGs over the next 10 to 15 years.

Recommendation: NASA should continue to work closely with the Department of Energy to ensure that the schedules for Pu-238 and clad production and the development of the Multi-Mission Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generators are maintained. It is also important that NASA continue the longer-term developments of advanced energy conversion techniques.

Electric Propulsion and Advanced Solar Arrays

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages emphasized the importance of NASA continuing to invest in capability-driven technology such as electric propulsion to increase propulsion systems efficiency especially for outer planet and primitive body missions. Vision and Voyages also recommended that NASA consider making equivalent systems investments in the advanced Ultraflex solar array technology that will provide higher power at greater efficiency.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Image
FIGURE 4.1 Pellet of Pu-238 for Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator use. SOURCE: The Planetary Society, “Plutonium-238 Fuel Pellet,” http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/space-images/spacecraft/plutonium-238-fuel-pellet.html; courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Assessment: SMD is working with the Glenn Research Center to develop the next-generation Xenon thruster and the necessary power processing units. This activity, the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster-Commercial (NEXT-C) Gridded Ion Thruster System, is intended to take this hardware from a TRL 5/6 to a TRL 8, where it is ready for use in future planetary missions as well as commercial spacecraft. (See Figure 4.3.)

The STMD is also working with Glenn Research Center to develop critical technologies to extend the length and capabilities of new science and exploration missions using solar electric propulsion (SEP). STMD is funding the development of 12.5 kW Hall Effect thrusters and 20 kW-class flexible blanket solar arrays.

Finding: NASA has fully embraced the Vision and Voyages recommendations concerning electric propulsion and advanced solar arrays, and is making significant technology development progress in both.

Aerocapture

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages recommended that NASA consider making equivalent systems investments in aerocapture to enable efficient orbit insertion around bodies with atmospheres.

Assessment: NASA continues to recognize the potential of aerocapture to reduce propellant mass/volume needs, transit time, and launch costs, as noted in the 2016 report The Assessment of Aerocapture and Applications to Future Missions (NASA, 2016). NASA has continued work in aerocapture technologies, including a concept study

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

with Georgia Tech on the feasibility of SmallSat flight demonstrations, but it is not currently a major technology investment within NASA’s portfolio.

Finding: NASA is investing in the underlying technologies for aerocapture, including a potential flight demonstration. Aerocapture system-level design and development, however, is destination-specific, and when there is a specific mission requirement, the investment will need to be increased.

Communications and Data Bandwidth

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages recommended that NASA invest in increasing communications, optical communications, and data link bandwidth, which would be of major benefit for planetary exploration.

Assessment: SMD is working several different avenues for increasing communications and data bandwidth. The recently selected Discovery mission, Psyche, will fly a deep space optical communication system developed by STMD that was offered as a government-furnished system with no technology-risk penalty. This system is intended to provide order-of-magnitude higher data rates with the same mass and power as state-of-the-art telecommunication systems and no additional demand on a spacecraft.

In addition STMD is currently planning technology demonstrations that will pave the way for use of this technology in future deep space missions. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) sponsored by NASA’s STMD and HEOMD is the next technology demonstration. It follows the Lunar Laser Communications

Image
FIGURE 4.2 Expected Pu-238 availability versus NASA’s expected mission needs. NOTE: GPHS = General Purpose Heat Source. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Image
FIGURE 4.3 NEXT-C ion thruster during test. SOURCE: NASA Glenn Research Center, “NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project Has Developed a 7-kilowatt Ion Thruster for Deep Space Missions,” https://www1.grc.nasa.gov/facilities/epl.

Demonstration, a very successful pathfinder mission that flew aboard the Lunar Atmosphere Dust and Environment Explorer (LADEE) in 2013. Launch of LCRD is currently planned for 2018. To enable future missions to fully utilize the promise of increased data rate, a comprehensive ground support system will be required.

Finding: NASA has fully embraced the Vision and Voyages recommendation and is making meaningful investment in advanced communications technology development and flight demonstration.

Science Instruments and Detectors

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages recommended that a broad-based, sustained program of science instrument technology development be undertaken, and that this development include new instrument concepts as well as improvements in existing instruments. This instrument technology program should include the funding of development through TRL 6 for those instruments with the highest potential for making new discoveries.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

Assessment: SMD has formed two programs to help advance the state of the art in science instrumentation: Planetary Instrument Concepts for the Advancement of Solar System Observations (PICASSO) for concepts from TRL 1-3, and Maturation of Instruments for Solar System Exploration (MatISSE) for instruments at TRL 4-6.

PICASSO currently has 54 funded activities under way that cover a wide variety of instruments, detectors, and targets. Eighteen of these 54 are directly relevant to life detection, and the portfolio includes atmospheres, chromatography, dust, gamma ray/neutron, gravity, heat flow, magnetometers, plasma, raman, sampling, seismometers, THz spectrometers, and ultraviolet (UV)-visible imagers. These cover the range of TRLs from TRL 2 to TRL 5. Twenty-seven of the 54 funded tasks are directly relevant to small spacecraft less than 3U, 10 kg, and 10 W. The portfolio covers many of the same areas as for the life detection activities.

MatISSE has 21 funded activities that cover spectrometers (imaging, raman, mass, gamma ray), deep core drill technology, subsurface microwave/optical/electromagnetic sensor suite, fluorescence imager, genome sensor for landers; spectrometers (microwave, sub-millimeter, visible, UV), imagers (sub-millimeter, UV), subsurface radar, organics analyzer, and atmospheric lidar; and comet penetrator/sample extractor, cosmic dust analyzer, and vector magnetometer for flyby/rendezvous.

Although between the MatISSE and PICASSO there are 75 funded technology developments under way, the history of proposals for these programs indicates that less than 15 percent were able to be funded.

  • MatISSE, 2012: 17 percent
  • PICASSO, 2013: 11 percent
  • MatISSE, 2014: 11 percent
  • PICASSO, 2014: 13 percent
  • PICASSO, 2015: 11 percent
  • MatISSE, 2016: 13 percent
  • PICASSO, 2016: 14 percent

Finding: NASA created the PICASSO and MatISSE programs to provide sustained, broad-based science instrument development through TRL 6, as recommended by Vision and Voyages. The high number of proposals submitted to these programs, relative to the funding available, shows a strong community demand for these programs.

Extreme Environments

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages recommended that, as part of a balanced portfolio, a significant percentage of the PSD’s technology funding be set aside for expanding the environmental adaptability of existing engineering and science instrument capabilities.

Assessment: SMD has funded two specific programs targeted at technologies for extreme environments: Concepts for Ocean Worlds Life Detection Technology (COLDTech), for Europa, Titan, Enceladus, Callisto, Ganymede, and Ceres; and Hot Operating Temperature Technology (HOTTech), for Venus, Mercury, and gas giant interiors.

The COLDTech portfolio is a spacecraft-based instruments and technology program for surface and subsurface exploration of ocean worlds with emphasis on the detection of evidence of life, sample acquisition, delivery and analysis systems, and technologies required to access oceans. The HOTTech portfolio primarily encompasses electrical and electronic systems for the robotic exploration of high-temperature environments (≥500°C). There are 21 awards totaling $27 million of investment in the COLDTech portfolio and 8 awards totaling $4.5 million of investment the HOTTech portfolio over 3 years. The specific technologies funded in each portfolio are shown in Table 4.2.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

TABLE 4.2 NASA Planetary Science Division Extreme Environment Technology Investment Portfolio

COLDTech (Concepts for Ocean Worlds Life Detection Technology) In Situ Exploration
and
Core Technologies

Autonomous precision landing technology

Sample acquisition systems (ice penetration melt, drills; plume sampling; sample delivery and processing)

Motor controller, rover wheels

Nuclear magnetic resonance detection of extant life

Instruments
and
Sensors

Seismometers and sounders

Imagers (luminescence, visible)

Microfluidic wet chemistry laboratory

Supercritical CO2 extraction and chiral supercritical fluid chromatography

Nano-motion sensor

Nanopore sequencing

Molecular sensor

HOTTech (Hot Operating Temperature Technology) Electronics

High-temperature electronic packaging for extreme environments

Nano-triode vacuum devices for high-temperature environments

High-temperature oscillators and clocks for wireless communications

Sensors, Actuators,
and
Motors

SiC electronics and sensors for high-temperature environments

High-temperature diamond-based electronic sensors and actuators

High-temperature electric motors and position sensors for Venus exploration

Power Generation

Lithium-combustion-based power generation in high-temperature environments

Low-intensity high-temperature solar cells for extreme environments

Finding: NASA is making a focused investment in the COLDTech and HOTTech programs to address the spacecraft bus, instrument, and in situ systems survival and operations in extreme environment as recommended by Vision and Voyages.

Technology for Large Strategic (Flagship) Missions in the Next Decade

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages recognized that NASA’s comprehensive and costly large strategic (flagship) missions are strategic in nature and have historically been assigned to NASA centers rather than competed. The survey pointed out that large strategic missions, as with Discovery and New Frontier Missions, can benefit from, and in fact are enabled by, strategic technology investments such as those shown in Table 4.3. (Note that this list is not all-inclusive.)

Assessment: MAX-C was deemed too expensive, and the Vision and Voyages committee recommended that the mission be descoped to a cost of no more than $2.5 billion. The Mars 2020 mission was redesigned with the Vision and Voyages science objectives in mind while staying within the proposed funding limitations. In order to meet this cost target, this mission was designed to use as much heritage hardware from the Mars Science Laboratory as possible to reduce the cost. However, the sample acquisition, processing, and encapsulating system is still the most demanding technological development. Fortunately, Mars 2020 has successfully completed all the technology demonstrations, and the mission is now in integration and testing. In addition, the mission has developed an approach to planetary protection and contamination control that will ensure that the samples that may eventually be returned are uncontaminated. Last, the Mars 2020 mission is also developing additional technologies that will enable future missions. The landing system is including Terrain Relative Navigation that will allow the rover to be diverted to a safer spot if the terrain exceeds the rover’s landing parameters. This technology has also passed its technology demonstration and is being integrated into the mission.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

Jupiter Europa Orbiter

Like MAX-C, the Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO) mission was deemed too expensive by the decadal survey, and the mission was redesigned to achieve as much of the JEO science as possible by developing a Jupiter orbiter with over 40 flybys of Europa. This new mission, named Europa Clipper, is currently in the middle of its preliminary design reviews (PDRs), with the overall mission PDR scheduled for fall 2018. Since Europa Clipper is a flyby mission as opposed to an orbiter, it will receive significantly less radiation than the JEO mission would have received. As a result, the project has not had to push technology beyond the current state of the art and is using radiation vaults to protect most susceptible components.

Uranus Orbiter and Probe and Enceladus Orbiter

These missions both require nuclear power because of their tremendous distances from the Sun. As noted above, the ASRG development has been terminated by DOE, and only some residual technology development on the Sterling converter technologies remains. NASA has now focused its nuclear power technology development on an enhanced MMRTG, and is proceeding with a technology decision planned in 2019. The remaining technologies required by these missions have been prioritized by NASA as part of its technology development process. The only required technology not included in this list is aerocapture, which could be enhancing for an ice giants mission. (See Figure 4.4.)

Venus Climate Mission

The decadal survey indicated that extensive technology was not required for the Venus Climate Mission. However, the mission functionality may benefit from technology developments achieved via HOTTech and potentially other technology efforts. (See Figure 4.5.)

TABLE 4.3 Technology Investments for Large Strategic (Flagship) Missions

Large Strategic Mission Recommended Technology Development
Mars Astrobiology Explorer-Cacher (Mars Sample Return)

Sample acquisition, processing, and encapsulation

Mars ascent

End-to-end sample containment

Planetary protection for restricted sample return

Precision landing

Autonomous rendezvous and guidance for return orbiter

Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO)

Spacecraft and instrument technology for high-radiation environment

Planetary protection

Uranus Orbiter and Probe

Long-lived (>15 year), flight-qualified ASRGs

Lightweight materials for structure and subsystems

Thermal protection systems for probes

Inexpensive solar-electric propulsion

Aerocapture

Enceladus Orbiter

Long-lived (>15 year), flight-qualified ASRGs

Planetary protection

Venus Climate Mission

Packaging of spacecraft, mini-probe, and dropsondes

Entry flight system

SOURCE: National Research Council, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Image
FIGURE 4.4 (a) Uranus orbiter and (b) atmospheric probe as proposed in Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022. SOURCE: NRC (2011).

Small Satellite Technology

Decadal Findings: At the time of the decadal survey the scientific mission capabilities of MicroSats and CubeSats sensors for space science were in the relatively early phase of development and were not addressed in Vision and Voyages. Subsequent to the Vision and Voyages report, the National Academies convened the Committee on Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats that released the report Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box (NASEM, 2016).

Assessment: Since Vision and Voyages was written, significant progress has been made in the capabilities of MicroSats and CubeSats along with sensor capabilities. MicroSats are typically in the 100 kg range, and CubeSats are composed of one or more 10 cm <1.33 kg cubes. Achieving Science with CubeSats recognized the potential value

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Image
FIGURE 4.5 Testing of a balloon concept for the Venus Climate Mission. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-CalTech.
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×

of CubeSats to space and Earth science observational and exploration programs. In particular, for planetary science the report concluded that “in situ investigation of the physical and chemical properties of planetary surfaces and atmospheres” could be accomplished by deployable (daughter-ship) CubeSats and could expand the scope of the motherships with complementary science or site explorations.

The MARCO CubeSats were recently launched to Mars on the InSight mission. They will return data from InSight during its entry into the atmosphere before they fly past Mars.

Space Launch System and Commercial Launch Vehicles

Decadal Findings: Vision and Voyages pointed out that the costs of launch services pose a challenge to NASA’s program of planetary exploration. Launch costs have risen in recent years for a variety of reasons, and launch costs today tend to be a larger fraction of total mission costs than they were in the past. These increases pose a threat to formulating an effective, balanced planetary exploration program.

Assessment: The NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) provides for commercial launch vehicle services in support of all NASA missions. The commercial launch vehicle industry is in great transition, as some launch vehicles from the LSP family are being retired, and new and in many cases less costly launch vehicles are becoming available (e.g., the Falcon Heavy from SpaceX, which is not yet approved by the NASA Launch Services Program). The LSP has existing contracts in place, with launch options at multiple pricing to provide both the launch vehicles and supporting services required to meet current and expected launch needs. As new vehicles become available and qualified, the LSP develops opportunities to add them to NASA launch vehicle services options.

In addition to the commercial launch vehicles, NASA’s new Space Launch System is under development and could be an attractive option for some applications, as it has the capability to reduce interplanetary cruise time for science missions to the outer planets by 3 to 5 years, and potentially increase payload size.

CONCLUSION

Since the publication of the planetary science decadal survey, NASA has made impressive progress at meeting its technology development goals. In the past, technology development has often been sacrificed to meet the demands of programs in development. By partnering with STMD and HEOMD, the PSD’s ability to achieve the funding goals of the decadal survey despite substantial cuts to its budget is commendable.

REFERENCES

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 2016. The Assessment of Aerocapture and Applications to Future Missions. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. February 13. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/286/the-assessment-of-aerocapture-and-applications-to-future-missions.

NASEM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine). 2016. Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

NRC (National Research Council). 2011. Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022. The National Academies Press. Washington, DC.

Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 81
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 82
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 83
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 84
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 85
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 86
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 87
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 88
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 89
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 90
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 91
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 92
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 93
Suggested Citation:"4 Planetary Science Technology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25186.
×
Page 94
Next: 5 Mars Exploration Architecture »
Visions into Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022: A Midterm Review Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $75.00 Buy Ebook | $59.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

In spring 2011 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine produced a report outlining the next decade in planetary sciences. That report, titled Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, and popularly referred to as the “decadal survey,” has provided high-level prioritization and guidance for NASA’s Planetary Science Division. Other considerations, such as budget realities, congressional language in authorization and appropriations bills, administration requirements, and cross-division and cross-directorate requirements (notably in retiring risk or providing needed information for the human program) are also necessary inputs to how NASA develops its planetary science program.

In 2016 NASA asked the National Academies to undertake a study assessing NASA’s progress at meeting the objectives of the decadal survey. After the study was underway, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 which called for NASA to engage the National Academies in a review of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. NASA and the Academies agreed to incorporate that review into the midterm study. That study has produced this report, which serves as a midterm assessment and provides guidance on achieving the goals in the remaining years covered by the decadal survey as well as preparing for the next decadal survey, currently scheduled to begin in 2020.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!