Science & Technology

The role of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is to enable NASA to achieve its science goals in the context of the national science agenda. SMD’s strategic decisions regarding future missions and scientific pursuits are guided by Agency goals, input from the science community, and a commitment to preserve a balanced program across the major science disciplines. Toward this end, each of the four SMD science divisions—Heliophysics, Earth Science, Planetary Science, and Astrophysics — develops fundamental science questions upon which to base future research and mission programs. Often the breakthrough science required to answer these questions requires significant technological innovation— e.g., instruments or platforms with capabilities beyond the current state of the art. SMD’s targeted technology investments fill technology gaps, enabling NASA to build the challenging and complex missions that accomplish groundbreaking science.

Technology Highlights

A Small Satellite With Planetary Ambitions

A NASA-sponsored team at the University of Central Florida has built a small satellite designed to study how tiny particles collide and aggregate in microgravity. The spacecraft, called the CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment, or Q-PACE, has been integrated onto Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne space vehicle, and is scheduled for launch no earlier than December 8, 2020.

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