US space agency NASA has announced that it will create a new Space Technology Research Institute (STRI) focused on advancing technology in critical areas for climate research, specifically the development of quantum sensing technology.
NASA also said that another institute would be created focused on engineering, including advanced manufacturing techniques for metal parts.
The STRIs will receive up to US$15m over five years and leverage teams led by US universities to create multidisciplinary research and technology development programs critical to NASA’s future. By bringing together science, engineering and other disciplines from universities, industry and non-profits, the institutes aim to impact future aerospace capabilities through investments in early-stage technology.
Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said, “We’re thrilled to draw on the expertise of these multi-university teams to create technology for some of our most pressing needs. Their work will enable next-generation science for studying our home planet and broaden the use of 3D-printed metal parts for spaceflight with state-of-the-art modeling.”
Quantum Pathways Institute
The University of Texas at Austin will lead the Quantum Pathways Institute, focused on advancing quantum sensing technology for next-generation Earth science applications. Such technology would enable new understanding of the planet and the effects of climate change.
Quantum sensors use quantum physics principles to potentially collect more precise data and enable unprecedented science measurements. These sensors could be particularly useful for satellites in orbit around Earth to collect mass change data – a type of measurement that can tell scientists about how ice, oceans and land water are moving and changing. Though the basic physics and technology for quantum sensors have been proven in concept, work is required to develop quantum sensors at the precisions necessary for next-generation science needs during spaceflight missions.
Dr Srinivas Bettadpur, principal investigator for the institute and professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, said, “Quantum sensing methods have shown a great deal of promise in computing, communications, and now for Earth science remote sensing applications. Our intent is to advance this technology and get it ready for space as soon as we can.”
The institute will work to further advance the physics underlying quantum sensors, design how these sensors could be built for space missions and understand how mission design and systems engineering would need to adapt to accommodate this new technology.
Partners on the institute include University of Colorado Boulder; University of California, Santa Barbara; California Institute of Technology; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.