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NASA Provides Seed Funding For Four Science Projects

NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program Seed Fund involves 38 partnerships in 30 states.
By K.C. Jones
InformationWeek
November 5, 2007

NASA will lead four projects to advance key technologies through joint-development programs.

NASA on Friday announced the new projects, to help meet critical needs. Teams from Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., will lead the efforts, which are part of NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program Seed Fund. The fund is used for overcoming technology barriers with joint-development programs and cost sharing.

"The NASA Innovative Partnerships Program is providing opportunities for Ames to partner with small companies, universities, and large companies to develop exciting technologies that can both produce and enhance science results from future missions," Ryszard Pisarski, deputy chief of the Technology Partnerships Office at NASA Ames, said in a prepared statement.

The first project, Advanced Thermal Protection Systems for Hypersonic Flight in Air and Planetary Atmospheres, aims to improve thermal protection systems for human and robotic exploration of the solar system. Touchstone Research Laboratory and Fiber Materials will partner with Ames.

Another, which will demonstrate precise wavefront control for space optics with a MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) deformable mirror, could develop improved optical surfaces for space telescopes. Partners in that project include: Subaru Telescope, Lockheed Martin, Advanced Technology Center, Boston Micromachines, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The third effort, called ICE-AX (ISRU Characterization Experiment -- Astrobiology Explorer), aims to develop an integrated payload, including a drill and scientific instruments for a Mars lander, with help from Boeing; Alliance Spacesystems; Cooper Consulting; the University of California, Berkeley, department of physics; the University of Kentucky Research Foundation in Lexington; and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Finally, another project, with Northrop Grumman Space Technology and Utah State University Research Foundation, involves development of hyperspectral sensor technology for cost-effective, remote sensing on small-satellite missions.

NASA said the four Seed Fund projects account for some of its 38 partnerships in 30 states. Partners include nine universities, 23 small to medium-sized businesses, 17 large corporations, and participation by all 10 NASA field centers. NASA's Innovative Partnership Program will contribute $9 million from its Technology Transfer Partnerships budget. Another $13 million is being provided by NASA sources in programs, projects, or field centers. NASA partners will provide $12 million for a total combined financial commitment of $34 million.