Technology Highlights 2016

Artist concept of Mars Rover landing the on Mars surface
Solar System, Mars, Planets of Our Solar System
Feb 15, 2021
To land accurately and avoid hazardous terrain, NASA has developed an autonomous, vision-based system for landmark recognition, spacecraft position estimation, and spacecraft retargeting, which will be used on Mars 2020 and potentially other future missions.
Universe
Jan 5, 2021
Space telescopes have historically been expensive to plan, build, and launch. Leveraging the development of small spacecraft, CubeSats, enable capable and reliable platforms with well-focused goals, rapid development times, and affordable costs.
Two men and one woman in blue lab jackets work on HaloSat hardware on a table.
Space Experiments
Dec 22, 2020
Interferometry of atomic matter-waves has been demonstrated for the first time in orbit, opening the door for precision quantum sensing for both fundamental and applied physics applications ranging from tests of general relativity to planetary geodesy.
View of the atom interferometry-capable Science Module inside two layers of magnetic shields during the pre-launch build/testing phase at JPL.
Universe
Dec 8, 2020
The far-IR is a powerful but relatively unexplored spectral band that can enable study of the birth and infancy of galaxies. 
Collage of photos of 5 scientists and researchers.
Solar System
Nov 24, 2020
Q-PACE will capture video of thousands of gentle collisions between particles in microgravity to understand the earliest steps in planet formation.
Photo of three scientists (1 female, 2 male) working on Q-PACE electronics at a desk.
Earth
Nov 10, 2020
The miniaturized SAGE IV Pathfinder instrument may one day enable a constellation of small satellites to continue and enhance atmospheric ozone monitoring.
Photo of two men with the SAGE IV instrument hardware on a tripod
Earth
Sep 29, 2020
To help monitor ground deformation from space, NASA developed a new technology equipped with an S-band Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) for a small satellite platform.
Photo of 3 Sisters volcano
Solar System
Sep 1, 2020
When a space vehicle lands on the Moon, it interacts with the lunar surface by kicking up dust, creating heat, and even leaving chemical traces. Scientists need a way to gauge how the materials in the vicinity of lunar landing sites are affected to ensure accurate analysis of any surface samples... Read More
Photo of scientists in lab assembling equipment
Universe
Aug 18, 2020
The ultraviolet spectral range is rich with information about the atmospheres of exosolar planets, star formation, supernovae, the circumgalactic medium, and much more. Two future flagship mission concepts, Habitable Exoplanet characterization (HabEx) and Large Ultraviolet/Optical/Infrared survey... Read More
Photo of a male and female scientist is a lab full of equipment
Earth
Aug 4, 2020
The Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter’s measurements help us better understand how clouds and aerosols impact weather, climate, and air quality.
Satellite image indicating cloud and aerosol coverage in the atmosphere
Solar System
Jul 14, 2020
NASA researchers are exploring a new radar-based method to map water vapor both in Earth’s atmosphere and near the surface of Mars.
Photo of some members of the WASSR team loading science gear onto an aircraft
Universe
Jun 30, 2020
A team at GSFC is investigating techniques for creating highly reflective aluminum mirrors sensitive to the far-ultraviolet in addition to the infrared, optical, and visible wavelengths.
Photo of engineers in GSFC coating lab
Solar System
Jun 9, 2020
Spacecraft frequently employ solar cells and arrays to collect energy from the Sun to power onboard systems. But just like any other spacecraft system, these cells and arrays must be capable of operating in the harsh environments that their host satellite encounters.
Artist concept of spacecraft with mirrors in orbit
Earth
May 26, 2020
A new miniature sensor, in conjunction with robust data processing techniques, is enabling a satellite the size of a backpack is to reveal Earth’s temperature from space.
Photo of CIRiS taking off on a rocket in Cape Canaveral
Universe
May 12, 2020
NASA conducted a detailed study to understand when it is worth assembling telescopes in space rather than folding them into a single rocket and deploying them in space.
Rendition of iSAT telescope concept
Sun
Nov 9, 2016
Technology Development: Remote sensing of magnetic fields requires both precision spectroscopy and precision polarimetry (spectro-polarimetry). NASA led an international team that developed the Chromospheric Lyman-Alpha Spectropolarimeter (CLASP)—the first instrument to achieve the spectro-... Read More
Photo of team standing next to sounding rocket
Universe
Nov 9, 2016
Technology Development: The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is the highest-ranked recommendation for a large space mission in the NRC 2010 decadal survey, New Worlds, New Horizons (NWNH) in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The WFIRST coronagraph instrument (CGI) will be the first high-... Read More
coronagraph imaging
Earth’s Space Environment
Aug 25, 2016
Image of magnetic loops (flux ropes) on the sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
Image of colorful loops shooting out of the sun.
Exoplanets
Aug 25, 2016
Technology Development: Currently, astronomers can investigate Earth-sized exoplanets using only indirect methods such as detecting the changes in starlight as a planet passes in front of its star. The starshade (also known as an external occulter) is a spacecraft that will enable telescopes in... Read More
Illustration of deployed spacecraft and telescope in space
Ice
Aug 24, 2016
Technology Development: The Wideband (8-40 GHz) Instrument for Snow Measurement (WISM) is designed to accurately measure snowpack on the ground from an airborne platform. WISM is comprised of a dual-frequency (X- and Ku-bands) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and a dual-frequency (K- and Ka-bands)... Read More
Photograph of small airplane on tarmac with mountains in the background.