• social media
    • facebook
    • twitter
    • youtube
    • flickr
    • instagram
    • googleplus

Physics of the Cosmos Technology

PATR 2016 Cover

The 2016 PCOS Program Annual Technology Report (PATR) describes the Program's technology development process, status and efforts over the past year.

Future Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) strategic missions require continuous development and improvement of technologies beyond our current state of the art. NASA's Astrophysics Division funds the development of technology at all levels of maturity. The Astrophysics Research and Analysis (APRA) program solicits basic research proposals for investigations relevant to NASA's programs in astronomy and astrophysics. These include research over the entire range of the electromagnetic spectrum, gravitational waves, and particle astrophysics, from basic principles observed and reported through actual systems flight proven through successful mission operations. APRA typically funds development at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 1–3, but in some cases the TRL can be higher. APRA funds science and technology investigations that can be carried out with instruments flown on suborbital sounding rockets, stratospheric balloons, or other platforms.

The Strategic Astrophysics Technology (SAT) program, described in the recent Perez et al. paper, "Technology maturation process: The NASA strategic astrophysics technology (SAT) program," matures key technologies that address the needs of specific strategic missions, taking them from proof of concept through component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environment (TRL 3–5). The final maturation stages (TRL 6–9) focus on proving flight-worthiness for mission-specific applications, and are thus addressed by specific flight projects. The SAT program is the main technology development vehicle managed by the Program Office, and is the main focus of this page.

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate funds a wide range of technology development, from TRL 1 through 9, including significant support for astrophysics.

SAT Technology Development Process (see PATR Section 2)

Technology Development Process

The PCOS Program Office technology development process, shown in the flow chart above, is guided by the priorities set forth in several documents:

Strategic Technology Capability Gaps (see PATR Section 3)

We solicit community input on gaps between the current state of the art and technology needed for the strategic missions of the coming decades. These are collected through the PCOS Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG) or directly using our downloadable technology gap submission form.

The most recent technology gaps received from the community cover technologies needed for a range of missions (underlined gaps were recommended as highest priority for the next SAT solicitation; see PATR Section 4):

  • Gravitational Waves – Gravitational-Wave Surveyor (GWS)
  • X Rays – Athena/X-Ray Surveyor (XRS)
  • Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) – Inflation Probe (IP)
  • Technologies for missions not currently identified as program strategic priorities

See below the deadlines for the current SAT call, which specified the most recent topics solicited. We expect that in the coming years, the SAT program will give priority to technologies that enable or enhance one or more of four mission concepts being studied by NASA in preparation for the 2020 Decadal Survey.

PCOS Technology Prioritization (see PATR Section 4)

Each year, the PCOS Program reviews and prioritizes the list of current technology gaps received from the community. While we welcome gap submissions anytime, only those we receive by June 1 are evaluated and prioritized by our Technology Management Board (TMB) in July. Later submissions are evaluated in the following year. (+/- More…)

PCOS Technology Development Portfolio (see PATR Appendix B)

The PCOS strategic technology development projects span three main topics (click a topic to see our current SAT projects within that arena, as well as information on historical projects).

Here is a complete historical listing of PCOS SAT projects to date, and a compilation of the current PCOS SAT Quad Charts.

Next SAT Solicitation

The first five rounds of PCOS SAT solicitations (2010–2014) resulted in 71 proposals, with 22 selected for funding, an overall success ratio of 31%. Notices of intent to submit for the next round are due January 22, 2016, with proposals due March 18, 2016.

Benefits Enabled by the SAT Program (see PATR Section 5)

The SAT program matures technologies across the mid-TRL gap, so they can be infused into strategic PCOS missions and/or enable international collaboration on projects relevant to Program goals. These technologies are also available for infusion into Explorers, suborbital missions, and ground-based experiments. (+/- More…)

Your inputs and suggestions are important to us!

Whether you develop cutting-edge technology or use that technology to expand our understanding of the universe, we encourage you to read the PATR and tell us what you think. This is your opportunity to take an active role in shaping the future of PCOS science. Please feel free to comment on the technology gaps prioritization process itself as well.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact thai.pham@nasa.gov.

NASA logo
  • NASA Official: Phil Newman
  • Web Curator: Pat Tyler
Goddard Space Flight Center