New NASA challenge to fund and test small spacecraft technologies

New NASA challenge to fund and test small spacecraft technologies

Press release from: Armstrong Flight Research Center
Posted: Thursday June 10 2021

NASA invites commercial companies, academia, entrepreneurs and other innovators to participate in a new challenge that will provide funding for payload development and access to suborbital flight tests for innovative space technologies. the NASA TechLeap Award aims to rapidly advance space exploration and Earth observation technologies.

The current phase of the NASA TechLeap award, Stand-alone observation challenge # 1, researches SmallSat observation technologies capable of autonomously detecting, locating, tracking and collecting data on transient events, both on Earth and beyond. These technologies could advance optical communications networks, helping lunar exploration to detect, track and establish line-of-sight communications with any lander, rover or object on the moon.

NASA’s TechLeap Prize fills gaps that are of significant interest to the small spacecraft research community. “Advances in autonomous observation technologies will be essential for many future missions that build on the benefits of small spacecraft,” said Christopher Baker, program director for the Flight Opportunities and Small Spacecraft Technology programs. “Through this competition, we really hope to change the pace of space by using suborbital testing to increase the speed at which we can advance and reduce the risk of technologies to the point where they are mission ready.”

Participants must Register now for the TechLeap Prize by July 28, 2021. Submissions are due August 11, 2021. Up to four winners can receive prizes of up to $ 500,000 each to build their payloads. NASA intends to provide winners who successfully develop their payload with a suborbital flight test on a Flight service provider under contract with NASA.

NASA TechLeap Prize is funded by NASA Flight opportunities program, which enables a wide range of space technologies to reach maturity faster by testing them on suborbital flights. These tests can provide critical data and insight into how a technology should perform in its intended space environment, as well as help reduce risk before much more expensive orbital missions. For this challenge, Flight Opportunities is working closely with NASA Small Spacecraft Technology Program fill gaps that are of great interest to the small spacecraft research community.

For more information on the TechLeap Award, visit:

About the NASA TechLeap Award Trustees

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which is part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at agency headquarters in Washington and managed at NASA headquarters Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., leads the challenge. Flight Opportunities rapidly demonstrates promising technologies for space exploration, discovery and expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight suppliers. The program builds the capabilities necessary for NASA missions and commercial applications while strategically investing in the growth of the US commercial spaceflight industry.

NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program is also part of STMD and is managed at NASA Ames Research Centerin Silicon Valley, California. The program expands the ability to perform unique missions through the rapid development and demonstration of capabilities for small spacecraft applicable to exploration, science and the commercial space sector.

the NASA Tournament Lab, which is part of the Awards, Challenges and Crowdsourcing program within STMD, manages the challenge. The program supports public competitions and crowdsourcing as tools to advance NASA research and development and other mission needs. Taking advantage of its NASA Open Innovation Services 2 vehicle, NASA has entered into a contract with Carrot, who fulfills the role of prize administrator for the competition.

Learn more about opportunities to participate in your space program through NASA Prizes and Challenges:

Megan Person
Head of News
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

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