Technology Highlights 2019

Earth
Apr 6, 2021
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.
Universe
Mar 23, 2021
A NASA-sponsored team at the MIT Space Nanotechnology Lab is developing high-performance space instrumentation for more powerful future X-ray telescopes that will study the dynamics of the high-energy universe.
Photo of mirror and hardware
Space Experiments, Space Biology, Physical Sciences
Mar 9, 2021
NASA seeks to understand the impact of the spaceflight environment on organisms in preparation for long-duration missions. Spectrum was developed to undertake these types of studies using model organisms on ISS.
Series of 3 photos (left to right) a man next to the spectrum box, middle - a male astronaut inserting a specimen plate into the spectrum box, right - a female astronaut holding the speciman plate
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.
Artist concept of Mars Rover landing the on Mars surface
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
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