NASA Asks Universities For Early Stage Innovation Tech Proposals

April 02, 2013

David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington


RELEASE: 13-095


WASHINGTON — NASA is seeking innovative, early-stage space technology proposals from accredited U.S. universities that will enable NASA’s future missions and America’s leadership in space.

Proposals are sought for science instruments, cryogenic propellant storage for long-duration space exploration, optical coatings for astrophysical pursuits, oxygen recovery for life support systems, and to improve our understanding of and protection from near-Earth asteroids.

Each of these space technology areas requires dramatic improvements over existing capabilities. New early stage, or low technology readiness-level, technologies could mature into tools that solve the hard challenges facing NASA’s future scientific and human spaceflight missions. Researchers should propose unique, transformational space technologies that address specific topics found in this solicitation.

“Space technology is the underpinning of all of NASA’s future missions,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “NASA’s collaboration with the National Research Council and the agency’s recent Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan have helped us identify areas where new, cross-cutting space technologies are needed to enable our future missions. Now we’re reaching out to American universities to tap into the nation’s best and brightest minds to help solve these tough technology problems.”

This solicitation requests proposals on five topic areas. The first topic area seeks new instrument technologies for the exploration of planetary bodies within our solar system. Innovative technology advances are needed to support the instruments that scientists will need to better understand the history, climates, evidence of past life and future potential habitability of planets and moons within the solar system.

Spaceflight architectures for future human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit will require technologies and capabilities not available today, such as long duration storage of cryogenic propellants in a zero gravity environment. Under a second topic area for this solicitation, NASA is particularly interested in proposals regarding how to mature fundamental experimental and computational solutions to address the challenges of cryogenic storage of liquid hydrogen.

Through a third topic area for this solicitation, NASA is seeking advances in optics technologies to enable the challenging science measurements that may contribute to the understanding of the first moments of the universe, the characterization of galaxy evolution over time and the characterization of newly found exoplanets.

As future exploration missions extend beyond low-Earth orbit, vehicles and extraterrestrial surface habitats housing astronauts will need to be highly reliable and self-sufficient; the opportunity for resupply of consumables diminishes the farther from home you go. The fourth topic area of this solicitation seeks novel technologies that will help close the atmosphere revitalization loop aboard spaceships and surface habitats during long duration space missions. New technologies must have the potential to significantly increase the oxygen recovery rate beyond the current state of the art.

Under a final topic area, NASA is seeking proposals for new technologies to better understand and protect our planet from near-Earth asteroids. Early stage technologies that will help with characterizing, understanding, and planning how to mitigate the threat of near-Earth asteroids are of great interest. These efforts are important for the sustainability and future of our home planet.

NASA expects to make approximately 10 awards this fall, based on the merit of proposals received. Each award will be made for one year with an additional year of research possible. The typical annual award value is expected to be approximately $250,000. Second-year funding will be contingent on the availability of appropriated funds and technical progress. Only accredited U.S. universities may submit proposals to this solicitation. Notices of intent are due by April 29 with proposals due May 21.

To view the Early Stage Innovation NASA Research Announcement and information for submitting proposals, visit:

The solicitation is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. For more information about NASA’s investment in space technology, visit:

Graduating with a degree AND a resume

Boise State Engineering #13 in public undergraduate Engineering programs.

For those of you that don’t know I Graduated w my BS in Material Science & Engineering for +Boise State University in 2009. While there I was afforded with the unique opportunity while there of working on three different research projects. Most Universities with nationally ranked Engineering programs don’t let undergraduates touch research, let alone pay them to do it. The longest of the three projects is in the October issue of The Journal of Solid State Chemistry,
I also had the opportunity to present that same research at PacRim8
This isn’t meant to be a brag post, because honestly while I’m smart, I’m not smarter than thousands of other students graduating every year who didn’t have the opportunity to graduate with a resume in addition to a degree. I graduated with a great education, having passed the FE, with a 5 year degree, a laundry list of scientific equipment acronyms I know how to run (SEM, XRD, TEM, STM, etc.),  and a 5 year technical resume.

If you in the wild time of a life where you are trying to figure out how to go about transitioning through college and into the real world (whether you are still in high school, or already in college) I would give you two conjoined pieces of advice:

1) Look for opportunities! Look for an environment rich in opportunities. One of the greatest advantages to going to a school like MIT isn’t the absolute hell they will put you through to get your degree. It is the status of the degree that says “I’m smart enough to cut it at MIT”, the opportunities that degree will provide; and almost more importantly, the opportunities that will be provided to you WHILE you are there. One reason many people join fraternaties and sororieties is for the network, and opportunities that often come up when connected to those networks, though the greek system is not necessarily the best or only network on campus. Join clubs (or at least show up to the meetings for the free pizza and listen until the talk about doing something you want to be involved in) Engineers w/o Borders is a great one for the future engineers out there. If you have a specific dream or asperation, start chasing it now, don’t wait till later, there will always be a later, and if you make that awesome contact “too early” the worst thing they could say is “call me when…” and then you have a legitimate reason to bug them later on. Even if you think “it would be cool to…” then pursue it. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to google up whoever is successfully doing whatever it is you want to do and reach out to them. (tip: don’t just reach out to top dog, reach out to every person who looks like they have experience in what you want to do, especially if there is some sort of connection, even if that connection is that you both live in the same state or that you both like [insert a movie/book/tv show/artist/whatever here])

2) Take those opportunities! Both of the first two undergraduate research positions I landed was because of one simple fact that I don’t think I’ve told many people. I was possibly the only person to apply, and I followed up. It was really that simple. It helped that I was in a new program (Material Science had just started its undergraduate program a few years earlier), and every professor in the program had multiple research projects going on.  In no way am I saying “give up on your dreams” and take the first thing that comes along. But I am saying DO NOT hold out for something better to come along when you still have no idea what better is. If you have no idea exactly what you want to do, then you would be stupid (don’t worry we are all stupid at times) to turn an opportunity simply because you don’t know if you would like it.


I have brought this up a few times on Social Media over the last few months as I have hit different milestones; acceptance, passing peer-review, preliminary online publishing, etc.

But now the full article, with color figures, is available online.

Transmission electron microscopic study of pyrochlore to defect-fluorite transition in rare-earth pyrohafnates

Fig. 1. Schematic of the partial pyrochlore unit cell showing different cationic and anionic (O) sites.

It’s still free and open as I’m posting this, but I’m not sure it will stay that way forever. Hopefully in the not too distant future I’ll post a slideshare, or a video explanation. I’ll also check with Boise State to see if I’m allowed to publish the poster I presented on this same research at PacRim ’10 Conference.

Research Abstract

I recently submitted my first abstract for a materials Conference.  The first conference to which I have submitted the abstract was PACRIM8, hopefully I will still submit the abstract to ACERS and TMS.  below is the current draft of the abstract.  Research as always is continuing and the project develops as time goes on.  Check back for updates, or ask any questions you may have.

Crystallographic Characterization of Rare-Earth Hafnates

Thomas J. Anderson

Dr. Rick Ubic

The nature and degree of disorder in the Ln2Hf2O7 (Ln = La → Lu) series has never been fully quantified. The purpose of this study is to investigate the structure of such pyrohafnates and specifically to determine the degree of both cation and anion disorder, both of which have implications for ionic conductivity. Towards that end, several lanthanide pyrohafnate compounds, Ln2Hf2O7 (Ln = La, Pr, Nd, Tb, Dy, Yb, and Lu), have been synthesized via a solid-state reaction mechanism. The crystal structures were determined by electron diffraction, and Rietveld structural refinements were conducted using neutron diffraction data collected at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. As expected, low-Z lanthanides result in pyrochloric compounds whereas high-Z lanthanides form fully fluoritic ones. Intermediate lanthanides form partially disordered pyrochlores, and some show anionic disorder unconnected to cation disorder. As expected, the fluorite-equivalent cubic lattice constant was found to decrease as Z increases.