NASA is soliciting proposals for the development of prototypes for deep space habitats that will give astronauts a place to call home during long-duration missions supporting the agency’s Journey to Mars.
The solicitation, Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), is a follow-on to the NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) released in October 2014 and requesting industry proposals for concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of habitation, advanced propulsion and small satellites.
NASA’s Orion crew spacecraft and Space Launch System are the agency’s first major components for establishing a human presence in deep space. With these transportation systems progressing toward their maiden flight in 2018, NASA now is looking toward investments in deep space habitation -- the next major component of human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.
NextSTEP is a public-private partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions in the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cislunar space, and to enable transit to Mars. This partnership model enables NASA to obtain innovative concepts and support private industry commercialization plans for low-Earth orbit.
“NASA is increasingly embracing public-private partnerships to expand capabilities, and opportunities in space,” said Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division, which sponsors NextSTEP. “Our NextSTEP partners commit their own corporate resources toward the development -- making them a true partner in the spaceflight economy.”
Under Appendix A of the NextSTEP-2 Ominbus BAA, the agency is providing the opportunity for additional contractors to join those already under contract through the previous NextSTEP BAA. Proposals will include plans for an evolvable approach to long-duration deep space habitation and the development of full-size, ground prototype habitat units no later than 2018.
Eligible applicants from U.S. companies, universities, and non-profit organizations must submit proposals electronically by 5 p.m. EDT June 15. Notices of intent should be provided by 5 p.m. May 13. Proposers will have a chance to ask questions about this particular solicitation during an industry forum on Monday, April 25. Additional inquiries must be submitted in writing by Monday, May 2 as directed in the solicitation.
NextSTEP is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to stimulate the growth of commercial industry in space while enabling NASA’s human exploration mission.