Science-enabling Technology

Achieving the Science Mission Directorate’s groundbreaking science goals often requires significant technological innovation—e.g., new instruments or cutting-edge capabilities. Each SMD science division—Astrophysics, Biological and Physical Sciences, Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science—develops new technologies targeted to enable SMD science. Often, these efforts are accomplished via division-sponsored technology development or mission programs. The directorate also sponsors collaborative workshops where stakeholders examine how innovative technologies can enable Agency missions. In addition, SMD coordinates with other NASA directorates, government agencies, industry, and academia to ensure its research programs and missions have the technology they need to accomplish revolutionary science.

Technology Highlights

The ‘Bird’ with an Eagle Eye…for Infrared

HOT BIRD isn’t hot or a bird. It’s the world-class infrared detector that could revolutionize the way we see our planet from space. A NASA-sponsored team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing highly sensitive infrared (IR) detectors that could operate onboard satellites without the usual ultra-low cooling equipment typically required. These High Operating Temperature (HOT) Barrier Infrared Detectors (BIRDs) are cheaper to manufacture and easier to accommodate onboard satellites than the IR detectors presently used in space.

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