A company in Pasadena is one of 10 companies selected by NASA recently to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect, process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars.
The company, Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation, will be involved in the third track of the study that will include extensive subsystem development and testing in simulated space environments, a NASA statement last Friday said.
Honeybee Robotics maintains its headquarters in New York, where its facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard offers engineering, product development and testing services. Its Pasadena office, at 398 West Washington Blvd, Suite 200, specializes in geotechnical work for NASA, and for commercial partners in the mining and oil and gas sectors.
When NASA advertised its requirement for the studies in December, through Appendix D of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP), the agency placed a special emphasis on encouraging the responders to find new applications for existing terrestrial capabilities that could result in future space exploration capabilities at lower costs.
NASA’s practice of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) envisions to increase safety and affordability in future human spaceflight missions by limiting the need to launch supplies, such as oxygen and water, from Earth.
The agency was seeking three areas of work focused on producing propellant and other exploration mission consumables using water from extraterrestrial soils and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere.
The first track of the studies, for one year, will identify technology gaps associated with ISRU, and to further define the benefits of including it in space mission architectures.
The second and third tracks will address technology development and demonstration for as long as three and a half years.
“We are continuing to learn about our Moon and the value its resources can provide for human exploration,” Jason Crusan, director of Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA Headquarters, said. “If we can find smart ways to harness its resources now, those capabilities will help shape our long-term exploration goals, including partnership and commercial opportunities with and for U.S. industry. Furthermore, these capabilities will help us prepare for ISRU on Mars and other planetary bodies in deep space.”
The contract amounts are dependent on negotiations with the selectees, but NASA estimates the combined value of all the awards, including contract options for work extending through 2021, will be approximately $10 million.
The NASA press release said the agency plans to have a significant lunar presence in the next decade as part of a new Exploration Campaign in support of Space Policy Directive 1. Missions to the Moon will start with deliveries of small payloads to the surface and deployment of four Moon-orbiting CubeSats on Exploration Mission-1, followed by the assembly of a lunar outpost in space and mid-size lunar lander missions beginning in 2022, the agency said.
For more information about NextSTEP, visit www.nasa.gov/nextstep.
To learn more about Honeybee Robotics, visit www.honeybeerobotics.com.