Technology Highlights 2018

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
Nov 26, 2018
A team of scientists and engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center is developing innovative technologies to expand the opportunities for neutron and gamma-ray detection from space on small satellite platforms.
Photo of large-area arrays and carrier board
Nov 13, 2018
Europa is one of 53 confirmed moons orbiting Jupiter. While slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, Europa primarily consists of silicate rock and is intriguing in that its crust consists of frozen water. Future missions under consideration to Europa would be enhanced by the ability to penetrate the... Read More
Conceptual design for ARCHIMEDES on Juptier's moon Europa
Universe
Oct 31, 2018
Relic radiation from the Big Bang—the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)—provides a Rosetta stone for deciphering the content, structure, and evolution of the early universe. Current theoretical understanding suggests that the universe underwent a rapid exponential expansion, called “inflation,” in... Read More
Photo of CLASS telescope
Oct 16, 2018
Chorus waves are a class of frequency-chirping, whistler-mode plasma waves that are routinely observed in Earth’s near-space environment. Chorus waves play a key role in various physical processes including the formation of the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts, the pulsating aurora, and the... Read More
Illustration of Van Allen Radiation Belts surrounding earth
Universe
Sep 18, 2018
NASA is developing a new type of detector that will provide insight into the formation and structure of the universe. Many of the radiative and mechanical interactions that shape the interstellar medium of galaxies and drive galactic evolution (e.g., shock waves from stellar winds and jets,... Read More
The figure above shows: (a) an array of 3rd-order DFB lasers gold wire bonded to an electronic chip, (b) a photo of a fabricated array of DFB triplets, (c) scanning electron microscope image of a DFB device showing three periods, and (d) a schematic of a triplet with the corresponding radiation profile.
Earth
Aug 27, 2018
An SMD-sponsored project successfully designed, fabricated, and tested a new application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) intended to enable high-quality radio occultation (RO) weather observations using signals from the Global Navigation System Satellite (GNSS) constellations. RO measurements... Read More
Photo of large circuit board
Aug 13, 2018
Precise polarization measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation, an ancient glow from the early universe, may help scientists better understand how the universe rapidly expanded in a burst called “inflation” moments after the Big Bang. 
Photo of detector antenna and superconducting arrays
Solar System
Jul 30, 2018
Over the past four years, NASA’s Heatshield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology (HEEET) Project has been maturing a novel, three-dimensional, woven Thermal Protection System (TPS) technology for science missions recommended in the Planetary Science Decadal Survey. These missions—Venus probes... Read More
Photo of HEEET model arojet testing
Universe, Exoplanets
Jul 16, 2018
A team of NASA optics experts has built a picometer spatial metrology system that may enable a major Agency initiative—to locate and image Earth-like planets beyond the solar system and scrutinize their atmospheres for signs of life. Researchers at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), in conjunction... Read More
Artist rendition of an exoplanet
Earth
Jul 2, 2018
In March 2016, NASA announced the selection of two proposals—both direct infusions of Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) projects—under the third solicitation of the Earth Venture Instrument (EVI) program. Managed by the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program, the EVI program targets... Read More
Artists depiction of the constellation of TROPICS CubeSats.
Sun
Jun 18, 2018
A team led by University of Colorado researchers has successfully developed the first science CubeSat mission for NASA’s Heliophysics Division. The Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer-1 (MinXSS-1) is a 3-Unit CubeSat measuring the energy distribution of soft X-rays from the sun.
Photo of CubeSat over Earth's horizon taken from the ISS
Universe
May 14, 2018
In 2016, NASA delivered three types of detectors developed for Ultraviolet (UV), Near UV (NUV), and Near Infrared (NIR) applications to several different projects involving on-sky observations. Development of these charge-coupled devices (CCDs) required several new processes formulated by NASA.... Read More
2-D doped EMCCD sensor
Earth’s Space Environment
Apr 30, 2018
NASA is sponsoring a team developing a new type of payload to collect ionospheric plasma data at multiple points near a suborbital main payload. These low-resource, easily reproducible payloads—called Bobs—were developed for the NASA Isinglass auroral sounding rocket mission (conducted in February... Read More
Illustration of the Bob payload with and without the external housing
Apr 16, 2018
NASA Glenn Research Center has been supporting the development of high-efficiency Stirling power convertors for potential use in Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) for over a decade. Stirling convertors are engines that convert heat into electricity by oscillating a linear alternator.
Illustrated cross-section of technology demonstration convertors