NASA Awards to US Universities Bolster New Technology Research

A new round of Early Stage Innovation awards will support U.S. universities in developing technology for future space exploration, including technology that could be used for nuclear propulsion.

NASA Awards to US Universities Bolster New Technology Research

Credits: NASA

A new round of awards to researchers at U.S. universities will support technology development for the future of space exploration. The selected projects will advance technologies in areas including nuclear propulsion, space communications, atmospheric entry, advanced materials, and high-temperature radiators.

Each project will be awarded up to $650,000 in grants from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program over up to three years to develop the early-stage technologies towards future use.

The 10 projects were selected under NASA’s Early Stage Innovation 2022 solicitation, spanning five topic areas.

Development of Fusion Plasma Direct Energy Conversion Processes for Thrust and Electric Power Production

  • Kunning Xu
    University of Alabama, Huntsville
    This project will study a power-generating magnetic nozzle that could be used for pulsed fusion propulsion, a type of nuclear propulsion that could enable fast transit to destinations including Mars and the outer solar system.
  • Raymond Sedwick
    University of Maryland, College Park
    Sedwick will develop technologies supporting centrifugally confined plasmas, a method that could be used to create smaller, lighter nuclear fusion power systems.

Development of Deterministic High Bandwidth Onboard Wireless Networks

  • Ryan Adams
    University of North Dakota in Grand Forks
    This project will build tools to manage data and traffic for space-based wireless communications systems, expanding their capability for real-time and safety-critical applications.

Improved Methods for Characterization of Blunt-Body Dynamic Stability

  • Omar Sen
    Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
    Sen will develop computer models using machine learning to study the dynamics of blunt bodies – such as spacecraft – entering a planet’s atmosphere.
  • Dimitri Mavris
    Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta
    This research will use recent progress in machine learning and reduced order modeling methods to create more accurate simulations of blunt body atmospheric entry.

Advancing Manufacturing Approaches for Scalable Functionally Graded Materials for Space Applications

  • Wei Xiong
    University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania
    Xiong will develop an alloy that could be used to join the layers of 3D-printed rocket engine combustion chambers, reducing cracks.
  • Kevin Hemker
    Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland
    This project will study additive manufacturing techniques to improve the quality of rocket components 3D-printed from copper and nickel alloys.
  • Jerard Gordon
    University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
    This research will use computer models to study a proposed material for additive manufacturing that could be used for spaceflight propulsion systems.

Development of Materials and Manufacturing Processes for High-Temperature Radiators

  • Ying Sun
    University of Cincinnati in Ohio
    Sun will develop and demonstrate a high-temperature, lightweight spacecraft radiator 3D-printed from titanium.
  • Sadaf Sobhani
    Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
    This project will develop an additively manufactured ceramic cooling system for spacecraft that can tolerate high temperatures and resist corrosion.

Read more about all 10 projects.

The Space Technology Research Grants program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which supports and develops transformative space technologies to enable future missions. As NASA embarks on its next era of exploration with the Artemis program, STMD is helping advance technologies, developing new systems, and testing capabilities at the Moon that will be critical for crewed missions to Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program, visit:

Last Updated: Dec 1, 2022

Editor: Loura Hall

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