NASA eyes small spacecraft systems; says it will establish virtual institute

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NASA intends to promote development of small spacecraft systems and with those intentions the space agency has revealed that it will be establishing a virtual institute at its Ames Research Center early in 2017.

The institute has been named the Small Spacecraft Systems Virtual Institute (S3VI) and will leverage the growing small spacecraft community, promote innovation, identify emerging technology opportunities, and provide an efficient channel for communication about small spacecraft systems with industry, academia, and other government agencies, NASA said in a statement.

“The S3VI will provide the first one-stop shop for technical knowledge in the rapidly burgeoning small spacecraft technology fields,” said Jay Bookbinder, Director of Programmes and Projects at Ames.

Depending on the mission objective, a small spacecraft can range in size from a postage-stamp (under an ounce) up to the size of a refrigerator.

“NASA sees enormous benefits from investing in research and technology development in small spacecraft systems, such as propulsion, that will be essential in advancing the commercial space sector,” said Steve Jurczyk, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

“Over the past several years, NASA has increased the generation of new, innovative applications of small spacecraft, with several mission directorates using small spacecraft to meet their goals,” Jurczyk said.

Small spacecraft are being used for a range of activities such as for earth and space science measurements to help understand our environment and investigations of microgravity effects on organisms to enable the safe exploration of space.

“This (the institute) will result in more efficient development efforts, and enable smaller vendors to compete more effectively in this market,” Bookbinder added.

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