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Benefits Enabled by the Program

Technology Benefits: Program Benefits Overview / Maturations


Technology Investment to Date - High Level Overview

The Big Picture

Above : Geographic distribution of benefits from the astrophysics technology development.

  • 142 technology projects awarded to date to 28 PI institutions (59 projects currently active, including 32 SATs).
  • 100 SAT projects competitively awarded from 2009 program inception to date, with a 29% proposal win rate.
  • Work spread across 28 states and territories.
  • 37 technologies advanced their TRL at least one level to date.
  • 84 technologies were infused a total of 174 times into missions or projects (40 technologies 90 times into space missions, 27 technologies 44 times into suborbital missions, and 15 technologies 40 times into ground observatories).
  • Over 100 students and postdocs participated in Astrophysics technology projects. Many were then accepted into graduate programs, graduated with a PhD, and/or obtained full-time research positions. One started a nanofabrication business. Many post-docs proceeded to positions at other institutions or high-tech companies. All these contributed to our technology and academic workforce for decades to come, in astrophysics and beyond.

Signal types addressed include electromagnetic waves across the spectrum from X rays to sub-mm, as well as gravitational waves (GWs). Since future exoplanet observatories will observe across the UVOIR spectrum, coronagraph and starshade projects are deemed here to address that broad band. Several projects target more than one signal type and were thus double- or triple-counted here.

Projects by Signal Type

Technology areas funded by NASA include detectors, optics, coronagraphs, electronics, telescopes, starshades, optical coatings, and five others. Detectors, optics, and coronagraphs account for 66% of these projects.

Projects by Technology Area

Each of the 142 projects supports at least one strategic mission or concept*, and many support more than one. Thus, the number of technology applications is 165 (SOFIA, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy; LISA, Laser Interferometer Space Antenna; ATHENA, Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics).”

Projects by Missions Supported

* Strategic astrophysics missions are usually large, multi-purpose observatories that NASA Astrophysics is developing, participating in, or interested in, to respond to high-priority science questions or mandates. These missions are generally assigned to a NASA center to implement, with science instruments and platform components selected through open competition.




Technology Maturation and Infusion

The SAT program matures technologies across the mid-TRL gap, so they can be infused into strategic missions and/or enable international collaboration on projects relevant to Program goals. These technologies are also available for infusion into Explorers, suborbital missions, and ground-based experiments.

2021 PCOS/COR TRL Advances (PI-Asserted Unless Marked as Vetted by Program Office)


  • “Photon counting NIR LmAPD Arrays for Ultra-low Background Space Observations,” PI: Michael Bottom (UH), TRL 3 to 4 (2021)
  • “A Single Photon Sensing and Photon Number Resolving Detector for NASA Missions,” PI: Donald Figer (RIT), TRL 3 to 4 (2021)
  • “Electron Beam Lithography Ruled Gratings for Future Ultraviolet/Optical Missions: High-Efficiency and Low-Scatter in the Vacuum Ultraviolet,” PI: Brian Fleming (CU Boulder), TRL 3 to 4 (2021)
  • “Advanced X-ray Microcalorimeters ISFM Sub-package #1:TES Microcalorimeters,” PI: Caroline Kilbourne (GSFC), TRL 3 to 4 (2021)
  • “Development of RFSoC-Based Readout Electronics,” PI: Philip Mauskopf (ASU), TRL 4 to 5 (2021)
  • “Antenna-Coupled Superconducting Detectors for Cosmic Microwave Background Polarimetry,” PI: Roger O’Brient (JPL), TRL 3 to 4 (2021)
  • “Electron-beam Generated Plasma to Enhance Performance of Protected Aluminum Mirrors for Large Space Telescopes,” PI: Manuel Quijada (GSFC), TRL 3 to 4 (2021)
  • “High Performance Sealed Tube Cross Strip Photon Counting Sensors for UV-Vis Astrophysics Instruments,” PI: Oswald Siegmund (UCB), TRL 4 to 5 (2021)
  • “Readying X-ray Gratings and Optics for Space Applications: Manufacturability & Alignment,” PI: Randall Smith (SAO), MRL 4 to 6 (2021)
  • “Development of a Robust, Efficient Process to Produce Scalable, Superconducting kilopixel Far-IR Detector Arrays,” PI: Johannes Staguhn (JHU), TRL 3 to 4 (2021)
  • “Space-based Gravitational Wave Laser Technology Development Project for the LISA Mission,” PDL: Anthony Yu (GSFC), PI: Jordan Camp (GSFC), TRL 4 to 5 (2021)
  • “Next Generation X-ray Optics,” PI: William Zhang (GSFC), TRL 4 to 5 (2021)

View All Technology Maturation
Technology Infusion Timeline

Above : Technology Infusions – Past and Future


Collateral Benefits

Most PIs leverage SAT funding to generate matching internal R&D funding; fellowships; contributed labor, parts, and/or infrastructure funding; industry contracts; Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants; and/or funded parallel efforts on related projects.

Involving Students and Postdocs in SAT Projects

Most of our technology development PIs hire students and postdocs, on average three or four per project, totaling over 100 to date. This helps train the future astrophysics workforce. As can be seen in the quotes, the Program is making a deep impact on these future technologists, and through them promotes astrophysics missions over many decades to come.


student collage

Above : Students and post-doctoral fellows involved in SAT projects, in their own words.




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