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Space Technology 6: Testing Tomorrow's Technology Today!
Overview About ST6 Technology Benefits Education Quick Facts Partners



The New Millennium Program's Space Technology 6 (ST6) project includes two innovative, experimental technologies to be validated in a space-borne laboratory——to reduce risk and cost to first-time users on an actual space exploration mission. Once these new technologies are successfully validated, they may offer significant science applications on future NASA space science missions.

The Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (Sciencecraft) technology will equip radically different future missions with significant onboard decision-making. Such capability will allow these missions to take advantage of novel science opportunities. For example, Sciencecraft may be used to capture science phenomena as they occur on Jupiter's moons, by tracking Europa's surface ice or monitoring Io's volcanoes. Sciencecraft could capture the flexing and cracking of Europa's ice crust or data on Io's volcanic eruptions or the formation of jets on comets.

This technology's science algorithms could be used to identify regions where change——new flooding, ice melt, or lava flows——have occurred. The algorithms determine where the science instrument should be aimed on the next orbit in order to identify and capture the full extent of a change. They also analyze planetary images to extract static (unchanging) features and detect changes in previous observations.

In addition to space applications, Sciencecraft's planning software would be useful in large factories or companies as a tool to better plan manufacturing activities. It also can be used for many everyday life products. One such commercial use is the investigation of patterns of credit card spending. This would enable quick discovery of fraudulent use.

The Inertial Stellar Compass (Compass) provides the capability of low-power, low-mass, and high-precision attitude determination for long duration space science missions. This includes the ability to recover spacecraft control (tumbling) or attitude after power loss. The ultra-low power and low mass of Compass are particularly beneficial for future nano-satellite missions, where low power and mass are critical to successful operations. When equipped with Compass technology, a small satellite will be able to carry an attitude determination system with high accuracy. The additional mass and power can then be used for scientific payloads (instruments). There are also many future uses for micro-gyroscopes in planetary surface rovers and terrestrial vehicles.

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Additionally, these technologies may contribute to the development of commercial products. Since NASA was formed in 1958 the commercially significant technologies developed in the course of mission research have been shared with industry to solve engineering and manufacturing problems.



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