For The New Century
NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C. 1998
NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS · 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. · Washington, D.C. 20418
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract No. NASW-4938 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project.
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Copyright © 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Cover Illustration: Artist's conception of a robotic probe ascending from Mars using propellant manufactured from the Martian atmosphere. Source: NASA.
Printed in the United States of America.
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COMMITTEE ON ADVANCED SPACE TECHNOLOGY
DANIEL HASTINGS (chair), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge*
BERNARD BUDIANSKY, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
RAYMOND COLLADAY, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colorado (committee chair until March 1997)
ROBERT COOPER, Atlantic Aerospace Electronics Corporation, Greenbelt, Maryland
ROBERT FISCHELL, MedInTec, Inc., Dayton, Maryland
EMANUEL FTHENAKIS, Fairchild Industries (retired), Potomac, Maryland
JEROLD GILMORE, System Engineering Solutions, Inc., Wellesley, Massachusetts
CLARK HAWK, University of Alabama, Huntsville
SYLVESTER HILL, Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Washington
DAVID LANDGREBE, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
CLAIRE LEON, Hughes Space and Communications, Los Angeles, California
FRANKLIN D. MARTIN, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, Sunnyvale, California
ROBERT SACKHEIM, TRW, Redondo Beach, California
WILLIAM WHITTAKER, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board Staff
PAUL SHAWCROSS, Study Director
GEORGE M. LEVIN, Director (from July 14, 1997)
JOANN C. CLAYTON-TOWNSEND, Director (until July 11, 1997)
MARY MESZAROS, Senior Project Assistant
AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ENGINEERING BOARD
JOHN D. WARNER (chair), The Boeing Company, Seattle, Washington
A. DWIGHT ABBOTT, Aerospace Corporation, Los Angeles, California
STEVEN AFTERGOOD, Federation of American Scientists, Washington, D.C.
GEORGE A. BEKEY, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
GUION S. BLUFORD, JR., NYMA, Inc., Brook Park, Ohio
RAYMOND S. COLLADAY, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colorado
BARBARA C. CORN, BC Consulting, Inc., Searcy, Arizona
STEVEN D. DORFMAN, Hughes Telecommunications and Space Company, Los Angeles, California
DONALD C. FRASER, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMES M. GUYETTE, Rolls-Royce North American, Reston, Virginia
FREDERICK HAUCK, AXA Space, Bethesda, Maryland
WILLIAM H. HEISER, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
WILLIAM HOOVER, U.S. Air Force (retired), Williamsburg, Virginia
BENJAMIN HUBERMAN, Huberman Consulting Group, Washington, D.C.
JAMES G. O'CONNOR, Pratt & Whitney (retired), Coventry, Connecticut
GRACE M. ROBERTSON, The Boeing Company, Long Beach, California
GEORGE SPRINGER, Stanford University, Stanford, California
GEORGE M. LEVIN, Director
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In the early twenty-first century, the U.S. government and commercial space industry plan to launch a wide variety of spacecraft for astronomy, remote sensing, communications, crewed and robotic exploration, and other activities. Advanced space technologies will be required for spacecraft to be less expensive and more capable than current ones. Some of the technologies will be developed by the U.S. Department of Defense or by commercial industry, but othersparticularly those required for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) unique science and exploration missionswill not be developed by any other agency or company and will have to be developed by NASA.
In the spring of 1996, NASA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to examine the nation's civil space technology needs for the post-2000 time frame and identify the technologies that NASA should develop to meet those needs. The NRC was asked to gather information about future technology requirements, consider innovative technologies that may enable new capabilities, determine which technologies would benefit from long lead-time research and technology development (R&T), and suggest ways for NASA to work more effectively with industry, universities, and other government agencies to conduct this R&T. (The complete charge to the committee is reprinted in Appendix A.) The committee was not asked to consider technologies for human support in space because those were the focus of another NRC report, Advanced Technology for Human Support in Space (1997).
The NRC asked its Committee on Advanced Space Technology to conduct this study. The committee did not work alone, however, and would like to thank the many organizations (listed in Appendix B) that provided us with white papers or met with us to discuss future space activities and technologies. We would also
like to thank Carl Allen, Roger Angel, Gary Bennett, Vincent Chan, Ben Clark, Mike Duke, Eliezer Gai, Henry Helvajian, Deborah Jackson, Stephen Lukachko, Ernest Robinson, Joe Sovie, K.R. Sridhar, Jim Trainor, Michael Wehner, and the staff of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for their help.
This report has been reviewed for the NRC by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank Aaron Cohen, Texas A&M University; France Cordova, University of California, Santa Barbara; Harold Forsen, National Academy of Engineering; Robert Frosch, Harvard University; Jack Kerrebrock, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Henry Pugh, The Boeing Company; James Wertz, Microcosm, Inc.; and Peter Wilhelm, Naval Research Laboratory, for their participation in the review of this report. All of these individuals provided many constructive comments and suggestions, but the responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the NRC.
Unlike other reports in the past decade that have looked at NASA's technology development program, this report is based on the assumption that NASA budgets will continue to be constrained and that limited funding will be available for technology development. Although research into advanced technology inherently carries a significant risk of failure, the research areas proposed in this report have a high potential to yield significant results with relatively small amounts of funding.
It is important to note that the technologies discussed in this report are not the only technologies NASA should develop. Some technologies that are not highlighted in this report may turn out to be even more critical for future space activities. The committee believes that the best approach for NASA is to invest in a portfolio of technologies that will be valuable in a wide range of future scenarios. By highlighting these technologies and suggesting ways NASA can best develop them, we hope we have performed a useful service for NASA and the nation.
DANIEL HASTINGS, chair
2 STUDY APPROACH
Identifying Key Technologies
Improving NASA's Technology Development Processes
3 KEY TECHNOLOGIES
Wideband, High Data-Rate Communications over Planetary Distances
Precisely Controlled Space Structures
Microelectromechanical Systems for Space
Space Nuclear Power Systems
Low-Cost, Radiation-Resistant Memories and Electronics
Extraction and Utilization of Extraterrestrial Resources
4 COOPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT OF SPACE TECHNOLOGIES
NASA's Current Approach