High performance materials and structures needed for safe and affordable next-generation exploration systems could support an array of terrestrial applications and benefit the aerospace manufacturing sector.

NASA to establish new Space Technology Research Institutes

NASA has selected proposals for the creation of two multi-disciplinary, university-led research institutes that will focus on the development of technologies critical to extending human presence deeper into our solar system.

The new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) created under these proposals will bring together researchers from various disciplines and organizations to collaborate on the advancement of technologies in bio-manufacturing and space infrastructure, with the goal of creating and maximizing Earth-independent, self-sustaining exploration mission capabilities.

The Institute for Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP), aims to develop and deploy a carbon nanotube-based, ultra-high strength, lightweight aerospace structural material within five years. Success will mean a critical change to the design paradigm for space structures.

Affordable deep space exploration will require transformative materials for the manufacturing of next-generation transit vehicles, habitats, power systems, and exploration systems. These building materials need to be lighter and stronger than those currently used in even the most advanced systems. Results of this research will have broad societal impacts, as well. Rapid development and deployment of the advanced materials created by the institute could support an array of Earthly applications and benefit the U.S. manufacturing sector.

The second institute, the Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (CUBES) will advance research into an integrated, multi-function, multi-organism bio-manufacturing system to produce fuel, materials, pharmaceuticals and food in deep space, rather than relying on the current practice of resupply missions from Earth. While the research goals of the CUBES institute are to benefit deep-space planetary exploration, these goals will also lend themselves to practical Earth-based applications.

“NASA is establishing STRIs to research and exploit cutting-edge advances in technology with the potential for revolutionary impact on future aerospace capabilities," said Steve Jurczyk, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. "These university-led, multi-disciplinary research programs promote the synthesis of science, engineering, and other disciplines to achieve specific research objectives with credible expected outcomes within five years. At the same time, these institutes will expand the U.S. talent base in areas of research and development with broader applications beyond aerospace."

Both of the STRIs will receive up to $15 million over the five-year period of performance from NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

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