Thursday, November 23, 2017

NASA is Looking for In-Situ Resource Utilization Proposals from US and non-US Institutions

          By Chuck Black

It's worth noting that not all Canadian companies who work with NASA need to work through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Nor are they required to focus only on the Deep Space Gateway, a crew-tended cislunar space station concept proposed for possible partnership between NASA, Roscosmos and other current International Space Station (ISS) partners as a follow-on project after the expected decommissioning of the ISS in the 2020's.

As outlined in a November 16th, 2017 NASA synopsis/pre-solicitation notice describing the pending release of appendix D of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), NASA is also seeking proposals from both "US and non-US institutions" for the design, fabrication, and testing of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) components and subsystem technology.

Translated into English, it means that NASA is looking for space miners. According to the notice:
NASA will be seeking proposals for research contracts in areas for design, fabrication, and testing of critical components and subsystems for acquisition and processing of extraterrestrial resources into water, oxygen, and fuel, using technologies and processes that leverage and support space or terrestrial commercial activities. 
While mission timeframes for ISRU technology are all in the 2020's and later, development of these technologies needs to begin well before the listed time horizon. 
The requested research ranges from trade studies, to component development, to component and subsystem development. 
NASA anticipates there could be multiple fixed price contracts awarded in the requested areas, depending on the scope of requirements met and resources available for the effort in NASA's portfolio. 
The duration of contracts will vary depending upon the complexity of the studies or development effort. NASA anticipates phased approaches that may extend up to 5 years. NASA intends to require minimum cost sharing thresholds and/or matching for the proposed efforts, which may include prior industry investment. 
NASA anticipates that the ISRU technology broad agency announcement (BAA) solicitation will be issued on or about Dec 1st, 2017 and expects to hold a "virtual industry forum" on December 11th, 2017. Details on the forum will be posted to the NextSTEP website over the next week.

As outlined on the NASA NextSTEP program website, NextSTEP is "a public-private partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions in the proving ground around and beyond cislunar space—the space near Earth that extends just beyond the moon."

NASA issued the original NextSTEP broad agency announcement (BAA) to US industry in late 2014, and the second in April 2016. The second NextSTEP BAA is an omnibus announcement with appendices that will solicit proposals in specific research areas, including habitat systems (appendix A), in-space manufacturing (appendix B) multi-material fabrication laboratory power and propulsion element studies (appendix C) and ISRU technologies (appendix D).

The NASA NextSTEP program is open to all categories of US and non-US institutions, including NASA Centers and other Federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) government agencies, companies, universities and nonprofit organizations. Eligibility for participation is tailored for each research area.

Additional background about NASA’s ISRU activities is expected to be available over the next week at and anyone looking for more information should contact Mr. Nantel Suzuki, the ISRU program executive at the NASA human exploration and operations mission directorate (HEOMD) advanced exploration systems at
    Chuck Black.

    Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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