Future Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) missions, as is the case for all astrophysics missions, will be enabled or greatly enhanced by continuous development and improvement of technologies beyond our current state of the art. NASA's Astrophysics Division funds the development of technology at all levels of maturity. The Astrophysics Research and Analysis (APRA) program funds technology development in the earliest phases, from basic research through the first feasibility demonstrations. This is typically in the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range of 1–3.

The Strategic Astrophysics Technology (SAT) program matures technologies that address the needs of a specific future mission, taking them from proof of concept through validation in relevant environment demonstration (TRL 3–6). For more details on the SAT program, see the recent Perez et al. paper, "Technology maturation process: The NASA strategic astrophysics technology (SAT) program." The final maturation stages (TRL 7–9) focus on proving the technology's flight-worthiness for a mission-specific application. Thus, these stages are addressed by incorporating the technology into a flight project's implementation plan. Flight-testing may be done on a suborbital balloon or sounding rocket flight, funded through the above-mentioned APRA program.

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate funds a wide range of technology development, from basic principles to flight demonstrations, including significant support for astrophysics.

Strategic Technology Capability Gaps

The Astrophysics Division solicits Technology Development for the Physics of the Cosmos Program (TPCOS) under the SAT, seeking to prepare strategic technologies for implementation in space flight missions. Selection of proposals for funding under the SAT/TPCOS portion of the annual ROSES selection is based on (1) overall scientific and technical merit of the proposal, (2) programmatic relevance of the proposed work, and (3) affordability of the proposed work. The ROSES SAT 2013 selection abstracts show the technologies most recently funded.

During FY13, per direction from NASA HQ, the PCOS program office developed two technology roadmaps for future X-ray astronomy and gravitational wave observatories:

  • 2013 X-ray Astronomy Technology Roadmap [PDF]
  • 2013 Gravitational Wave Technology Roadmap [PDF]

PCOS Technology Prioritization

Each year, the PCOS Program reviews and prioritizes gaps between currently available technology and what is needed to achieve our science goals. Our annual prioritization process begins with your important input regarding capabilities you believe are needed to enable or enhance future PCOS missions.

The PCOS Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG) is the main conduit for collecting technology gaps identified by the community. However, we also welcome direct contributions from the community, so please send us your thoughts on what strategic technologies we should develop to enable future PCOS missions using our downloadable technology gap submission form.

We will be working with the PhysPAG to consolidate technology gap submissions we receive by this year's cutoff date into a comprehensive list of unique and compelling entries. While we welcome gap submissions anytime, only those we receive by June 1, 2015 will be evaluated and prioritized by our Technology Management Board (TMB) in July. Later submissions will be evaluated in 2016.

The TMB uses a set of criteria that reflect our goals, as described in our Program Annual Technology Report (PATR), a key product of the Program's technology development process. The results of this year's TMB prioritization will be published in the 2015 PATR, to be released in October. When the Astrophysics Division drafts future calls for technology development, and makes investment decisions, they refer to the priority recommendations listed in the PATR.

The technology gaps evaluated in 2014 are described on pages 17-30 of the 2014 PATR, and rankings are summarized on page 33. The highest-priority technologies this year were:

  • Kilo-pixel X-ray focal plane array with 2 eV energy resolution at 6 keV;
  • Affordable, lightweight, 5 arcsec resolution X-ray optics;
  • High-power, narrow-line-width laser sources;
  • Highly stable, low-stray-light telescope;
  • Phase-measurement subsystem; and
  • Sub-Kelvin cooling systems.

We invite you to read the PATR to learn more about our technology management process and activities, the technology capabilities gaps submitted by the community, the priorities we assigned these for investment consideration during the upcoming year, and the status and plans of our current technology development investments.

PCOS Technology Development Portfolio

Technology proposals currently funded through the SAT/TPCOS are listed in the table below.

PCOS Technology Development Portfolio [PDF]
Funding SolicitationProposal TitlePIInstitutionStart Year & Duration
SAT2010Depositing Blocking Filters for X-ray Detectors [PDF]M. BautzMITFY12, 4 years
SAT2011Demonstrating Enabling Technologies for the High-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer of the Next NASA X-ray Mission [PDF]C. KilbourneGSFCFY13, 3 years
SAT2011Telescope for a Space Gravitational-Wave Mission [PDF]J. LivasGSFCFY13, 3 years
SAT2011Laser Frequency Stabilization (co-funded with STMD) [PDF]J. LipaStanford UFY13, 3 years
SAT2011Colloid Microthruster Propellant Feed System [PDF]J. ZiemerJPLFY13, 2 years
SAT2012Phase Measurement System Development for Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Detectors [PDF]W. KlipsteinJPLFY14, 3 years
SAT2012Demonstration of a TRL 5 Laser System for eLISA [PDF]J. CampGSFCFY14, 2 years
SAT2012Planar Antenna-Coupled Superconducting Detectors for Cosmic Microwave Background Polarimetry [PDF]J. BockCaltech/JPLFY14, 2 years
SAT2013Fast Event Recognition for the ATHENA Wide Field Imager [PDF]D. BurrowsPSUFY15, 2 years
SAT2013Reflection Grating Modules: Alignment and Testing [PDF]R. McEntafferU. of IowaFY15, 2 years
SAT2013Development of 0.5 Arc-second Adjustable Grazing-Incidence X-ray Mirrors for the SMART-X Mission Concept [PDF]P. ReidSAOFY15, 3 years
SAT2013Advanced Packaging for Critical-Angle X-ray Transmission Gratings [PDF]M. SchattenburgMITFY15, 2 years
SAT2013Technology Development for an AC-Multiplexed Calorimeter for ATHENAJ. UllomNISTFY15, 2 years
SAT2013Affordable and Lightweight High-Resolution Astronomical X-Ray Optics [PDF]W. ZhangGSFCFY15, 2 years

Your inputs and suggestions are important to us! Whether you develop cutting-edge technology or use that technology to expand our understanding of the universe, we encourage you to read the PATR and tell us what you think. This is your opportunity to take an active role in shaping the future of PCOS science. Please feel free to comment on the technology gaps prioritization process itself as well.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact

Program News

20 Nov 2015
The next Google Hangout in our Future in Space series is today at 3:00 pm ET »  Details
20 Nov 2015
Application for Athena Working Group membership is now reopened. »  Details
5 Nov 2015
New! PhysPAG Executive Committee Selections November 2015 »  [PDF]
8 Oct 2015
Final PhysPAG Response to Paul Hertz, October 8, 2015 now available »  [PDF]

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