"Nothing tends so much to the advancement of knowledge as the
Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM)
application of a new instrument."
-- Sir Humphry Davy, 19th century English chemist
Bridging the gap. That's the mission of NASA's Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM): to bridge the gap between need and means, between scientific and engineering challenges and the technological innovations needed to overcome them, between laboratory development and demonstration in space.
Charged with proving revolutionary, crosscutting technologies -- ones that could radically advance NASA's mission in space and reap untold benefits for science and industry here on Earth -- the Technology Demonstration Missions program seeks to mature laboratory-proven technologies to flight-ready status.
Once a technology is proven in the laboratory environment, the program becomes its bridge from ground to flight testing. System-level technology solutions are given the opportunity to operate in the actual space environment -- where they gain operational heritage, reduce risks to future missions by eliminating the need to fly unproven hardware and continue NASA's long history as a technological innovator. These cutting-edge technologies will allow future NASA missions to pursue bolder and more sophisticated science, enable safe and rewarding human missions beyond low-Earth orbit and enable entirely new approaches to U.S. space operations.
Currently, the Technology Development Missions Program Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
in Huntsville, Ala., is overseeing nine Technology Demonstration Missions with the potential to transform the way we live and work in space. Click each link to learn more.
- Cryogenic Propellant Storage & Transfer: New advances in storing, transferring and measuring quantities of cryogenic propellants in space for long duration to prevent fuel loss because of "boil off" and to permit new missions beyond low-Earth orbit
- Deep Space Atomic Clock: Flight validation of a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that potentially could reduce mission operations costs, deliver more science data and enable autonomous, deep-space radio navigation
- Green Propellant Infusion Mission: Demonstration of the high-performance, high-efficiency "green" propellant AF-M315E, a revolutionary alternative to the toxic, corrosive propellant hydrazine used to power so many of today's rockets and satellites.
- Human Exploration Telerobotics: Testing of numerous NASA robots to demonstrate how telerobotics -- the remote control of robotic arms, rovers and other devices -- can make astronauts safer and more productive and greatly enhance productivity in space
- Laser Communications Relay Demonstration: A study to revolutionize the means by which we send and receive data, video and other information from space, using lasers to encode and transmit data at rates 10 to 100 times faster than radio -- or at the same data rate as today’s fastest RF radios, but using significantly less mass and power
- Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator: Breakthrough flight technology research that will demonstrate the use of inflated structures at high entry speeds to slow spacecraft decelerating through a planet’s atmosphere -- expanding payload mass, making landings more accurate and increasing the range of safe landing-site altitudes to enhance future science expeditions
- Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent & Landing Instrumentation: Instrumentation to conduct ground-breaking analysis of heatshield performance during the Mars Science Laboratory's atmospheric entry and descent at the red planet in 2012, rewriting thermal protection hardware design for future planetary landers
- Materials International Space Station Experiment-X: Continuing a decade of innovative materials science research on the › International Space Station, this compact facility helps researchers develop critical space materials and devices for space exploration missions
- Solar Sail Demonstration (The Sunjammer Project): An inventive alternative to conventional propellant-based spaceflight, this small-satellite project will deploy and operate a nearly 13,000-square-foot sail propelled by sunlight, offering a variety of propellantless spaceflight solutions
The Technology Demonstration Missions program is sponsored by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist
, and includes projects at NASA field centers and partner facilities around the nation.