This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

19 November 2007

ESPA Ring as Foundation for Future Spacecraft Design

I have been recently interested in the use of the ESPA ring for planetary missions (potentially including asteroid missions). The most recent NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants included one to CSA engineering for examination of the ESPA ring for future planetary missions (see below).

NASA 2007 Phase I SBIR: "ESPA for Lunar and Science Missions"

NASA mission planning in the next decade includes small spacecraft and secondary flight opportunities on Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs), specifically Atlas V and Delta IV. NASA's use of EELVs is accelerated because of the impending termination of the Delta II launcher. Nearly all EELVs slated for launch have significant excess payload capacity. The EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) Ring was developed by CSA Engineering under an Air Force SBIR to utilize excess lift capability by providing a secondary mission capability.

ESPA, as built, can provide access to space for NASA lunar and science missions. However, to ensure that diverse NASA mission objectives can be achieved with the best possible mission configurations, structural tailoring of the ESPA will be required. The proposed effort will develop modular features of ESPA that are required for optimal NASA mission configurations targeting, but not necessarily limited to, the following:
(1) Separable ESPA: Separation capability built into the ESPA Ring.
(2) Hierarchical ESPA: Scaling of the ESPA design for larger EELV payloads and for small launch vehicles.
(3) ESPA Mounts: Interior and exterior mounting for spacecraft and auxiliary structures.

Phase 1 will establish feasibility for the modular ESPA designs. Plans will be presented for flight qualification of all designs. Phase 2 will produce flight qualified hardware to at least TRL 6 for a design determined to be the most desirable for near-term NASA implementation.

Link: NASA 2007 Phase I SBIR Announcement for CSA Engineering Inc.

Link: ESPA ring paper - "Designing for ESPA: The Challenges of Designing a Spacecraft for a Launch Accommodation Still in Development"

Link: AeroAstro ESPA-class concepts

Link: ESPA ring brochure from CSA Engineering (PDF)

Link: NASA Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) spacecraft (based upon ESPA ring), part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

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