New Millennium Program

Program Overview

Overview | Innovative Technologies  | NMP MissionsTechnology Infusion

The New Millennium Program (NMP) taps into the current technology "pipeline" by engaging teams of engineers and scientists from industry, academia, NASA, and other governmental agencies that are developing promising technologies for more capable spacecraft and science instruments. During the NMP technology selection process, these teams are guided by the roadmaps of NASA's three mission areas: Sun-Earth System, Solar System, and Universe. These roadmaps are also used to conceive and design the Program's space-flight validation missions.

Example of technologies selected for improved-capability spacecraft are:

  • ion propulsion
  • autonomous navigation
  • more efficient power production and use
  • faster, more efficient communications

Example of technologies selected for improved-capability science instruments are:

  • an advanced imaging camera that makes extremely fine wavelength discriminations
  • an advanced imaging spectrometer for atmospheric measurements

Other promising technologies include:

  • solar sails
  • commercial off-the-shelf products for space application
  • precision formation flying capability
  • large telescopes
  • lower cost avionics
  • on-board decision making
  • higher date rate communications
  • lighter spacecraft that require smaller, less expensive launch vehicles
  • improved thermal management in small spacecraft
  • aerocapture system technology

The launch vehicle is a significant portion of any mission's budget. The larger a spacecraft, the larger and more costly a launch vehicle is required to boost it into space. Another significant portion is allocated to the operations team throughout the mission. Smaller spacecraft and fewer (or no) operations team members translates into smaller budgets——without compromising the science payback.

While NMP's primary focus is to test advanced instruments, spacecraft systems and subsystems, and concepts in flight, scientific data may, in addition, be returned as a "byproduct." The capabilities now being developed and tested will one day enable NASA's solar system exploratory spacecraft and Earth satellites to answer even more challenging scientific questions.

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