Technology Highlights 2019

A dark background with a blurry blue dot on the left and a blurry light red dot on the right
Universe, Exoplanets, Stars
Jan 24, 2023
Multi-star wavefront control technology enables imaging planets in systems with multiple suns (such as Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to us) and searching them for signs of life.
Space Experiments
Jan 11, 2023
Two species of quantum gases have been created to coexist and interact for the first time in space. Accessing resonant interactions among these gases will allow scientists to explore few-body physics, quantum chemistry, and fundamental physics in novel energy regimes—without the perturbing force of... Read More
Photo of two scientists wearing full lab gear (hats, face masks, gloves and bodysuits) working on a white metal module with several cables and cords connected to it.
Earth
Dec 20, 2022
A team of NASA personnel and contractors has prototyped a new set of algorithms that will enable instruments in space to process data more efficiently. Using these algorithms, space-based remote sensors will be able to provide the most important data to scientists on the ground more quickly and may... Read More
Photo of the International Space Station in orbit with the Earth in the background
Universe
Dec 6, 2022
“Are we alone in the universe?” may be one of the most compelling questions of our generation. Direct imaging of planetary systems around other stars to detect and characterize Earth-like planets that could potentially sustain life requires telescopes that are large and extremely stable.
Photo of a lab desk with a hardware set up; a monitor is on above a box with dozen of colored connected cables and a green light emts from a metal box on a nearby desk
Solar System
Nov 22, 2022
Detection of extraterrestrial life would be an incredible discovery, revolutionizing humanity’s perception of life and providing us insight into how life begins and persists in various environments.
Artist concept illustrates a cross-sectional view of a potential ocean world with a surface layer of ice above a thicker layer of ocean water above a thinner layer of ocean floor. 3 thumbnail photos below that illustrate hydrothermal vents, ice fractures and ice blocks.
Earth
Nov 1, 2022
Excess nutrients and pollutants washed off land by rainstorms can degrade water quality and harm marine life and humans. Identifying these problems before they can affect us is a constant challenge for water resource managers.
Satellite image of the Maryland coastline illustrating the wash off of nutrients and pollutants at the coastline with light blue.
Universe
Oct 18, 2022
An SMD-sponsored team has taken major steps towards providing the new detector arrays needed for future far-infrared space missions.
Photo of a woman in protective lab clothing sitting at a computer in a cleanroom with 9 green squares on the screen
Space Experiments
Oct 4, 2022
An advanced temperature control technique developed for future NASA missions can also make charging electric vehicles easier and faster—potentially paving the way for increased adoption of electric cars.
Photo on left is a woman plugging in a red electric vehicle; photo on right is a group of people working with equipment in a lab
Earth
Sep 20, 2022
NASA’s HARP instrument was the first hyper-angular polarimeter to fly in space and pioneered new technologies for observing cloud and aerosol properties—all on a tiny CubeSat!
Photo of three men with smiles on their faces standing in a lab at a table with a full size model of HARP, a black rectangular boxy object on a pedestal
Solar System
Aug 30, 2022
NASA has developed technologies to enable an autonomous lunar surface station that will revolutionize data gathering on the Moon in the same way that scattered ocean buoys revolutionized collection of meteorological data on Earth.
Artist rendering of a monitoring station  on the moon surface with Earth in the background
Universe
Aug 16, 2022
New imaging technology will help enable future large X-ray telescopes to trace the origin and growth of black holes and the ways they’ve shaped the cosmos.
Close up photo of a green and gold image sensor with numbers and text on it.
Space Experiments, Space Biology
Aug 2, 2022
Determining how blood-flow patterns near valves in the veins affect the movement of red blood cells may identify ways to prevent blood clots in astronauts.
Photo of a man and woman in lab coats working at a computer and microscope
Sun
Jul 19, 2022
Endurance carried a new type of space plasma analyzer with extremely fine energy resolution to make the first measurements of Earth’s electrical potential. This technology could also enable new tools to measure plasmas in the laboratory and in industrial applications.
Photo of a rocket just seconds after take off with snow covered hills in the background
Earth
Jun 28, 2022
A new radar receiver will greatly enhance scientists’ ability to study storms, observe polar ice, predict floods, and measure sea surface height.
Satellite image of a hurricane passing over the Pacific Ocean.
Solar System
Jun 14, 2022
An SMD-sponsored team at Honeybee Robotics is developing a Pneumatic Sampler (P-SMP) to capture material on the surface of Mars’s moon, Phobos, for sample return to Earth. Successful infusion of this capability into JAXA’s MMX mission signifies the success of long-term SMD technology development... Read More
Dec 23, 2019
Space-based methods to measure soil moisture on Earth typically entail either sensing the extremely weak emission of microwaves from water in the soil using an instrument call a radiometer or using a radar, which transmits a signal toward Earth, and then receives the signal after it reflects from... Read More
Illustration of satellite orbiting earth
Universe
Dec 9, 2019
This blog post originated in the 2018 Science Mission Directorate Science and Technology Report. PROJECT Laser Transmitter for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Mission
Photo of Final product of the Phase 1 master oscillator package
Sun, Earth’s Space Environment
Dec 2, 2019
This blog post originated in the 2018 Science Mission Directorate Science and Technology Report. PROJECT The Microwave Electrojet Magnetogram (MEM) KEY POINTS The low SWaP MEM sensor enables cost-effective implementation of future high-impact ionospheric current investigations on resource-... Read More
Artist depiction of 3 small satellites orbiting Earth
Solar System
Nov 12, 2019
Hyperdust’s unique ion optics design combines the ability to provide high-performance composition measurements with the aperture that is needed to detect a statistically significant number of particles in space over a standard mission duration of a few years.
Photo of hyperdust prototype
Earth
Oct 31, 2019
RainCube successfully demonstrated Ka-band precipitation radar technology on a low-cost, quick-turnaround platform. This new technology will enable constellations of small spacecraft that can track storms and provide data about how the storms evolve in short time scales—capabilities that are needed... Read More
Color chart of precipitation profile of a Typhoon
Universe, Exoplanets
Oct 7, 2019
Earth-like planets orbiting other stars can be 10 billion times dimmer than their host star. To detect these planets and to search for spectroscopic signatures of life in their atmospheres, a space telescope must be used, and the light from the host star must be blocked so the planet comes into... Read More
Photo of scientist looking into vacuum chamber
Earth
Sep 23, 2019
The Super Cloud Library—a big data analysis and visualization tool for Earth science applications—has been infused into the Data Analytics and Storage System (DASS) at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation and is producing results over twenty times faster than previously deployed manual processes.
Photo of a deep convection cloud
Sun
Sep 9, 2019
This blog post originated in the 2018 Science Mission Directorate Science and Technology Report.
Artist rendition of a sounding rocket in space
Universe, Exoplanets
Aug 27, 2019
Future-generation large space telescopes under study at NASA will require very large, high-resolution, high-sensitivity, low-noise sensors capable of measuring ultraviolet through visible wavelengths.
Scientists in lab inspecting a sensor plate
Solar System
Aug 13, 2019
Understanding potential failure modes can lead to improved designs that will enable Dynamic RPS to provide highly reliable power to planetary science missions for up to 17 years of operational life.
Photo of Salvatore Oriti and Scott Wilson inspect power converter TDC #13 in NASA GRC’s Stirling Research Laboratory
Earth, Climate Change, Ice
Aug 5, 2019
IceCube—a tiny, bread loaf-sized satellite—has produced the world’s first map of the global distribution of atmospheric ice in the 883-Gigahertz (GHz) band. Information about cloud ice enables researchers to better understand Earth’s weather and changing climate.
Art concept of IceCube satellite in orbit
Universe
Jul 29, 2019
Colloid microthrusters enable two exciting new areas of astronomy and astrophysics research.
Artist concept of LISA Pathfinder spacecraft
Earth
Jul 18, 2019
The RAVAN CubeSat has met its goal of validating two new technologies to measure Earth’s radiation imbalance—the difference between the amount of energy from the Sun that reaches Earth and the amount that is reflected and emitted back into space.
Artist concept of the RAVAN CubeSat
Solar System
Jul 8, 2019
This blog post originated in the 2017 Science Mission Directorate Technology Highlights Report (33 MB PDF).
Artist depiction of Dragonfly mission with two parachute rotorcraft above the surface of the moon Titan