About TSGC



Executive Summary and Consortium Impact


National Program Emphasis

Program Elements

Statement of Consortium Concurrence


15th Year Report

Program Elements

Research Infrastructure Development Program

TSGC's Research Infrastructure Development program focuses on fostering the development of long-lasting partnerships between academia and industry in research that directly supports NASA's mission.

General Description

In 1998, in response to affiliate input that the Research Infrastructure Development activities were ineffective, representatives from Texas A&M University proposed a new comprehensive research infrastructure development program. After discussion and amendment by interested affiliate representatives, the new program was instituted. All research programs funded since 1998 are part of this program. This program, the Cooperative Space Research Program [SRP] had the objectives of stimulating institutional research that [1] is aligned with NASA long range research goals, [2] fosters partnerships between industry and academic organizations, and [3] encourages collaborative research among TSGC members. TSGC committed 25% of its program funds plus an additional quarter million dollars of reserve funding to operate the SRP for an initial period of five years.

The SRP program guidelines allowed faculty members at any TSGC academic affiliate to propose to TSGC for funding. The guidelines called for a 50%-50% sharing of project costs by TSGC and industry on a space-related project of mutual interest to the proposing faculty member and the industry. It was hoped that the industries involved would be TSGC affiliates, but this was not required. The TSGC portion of the funding was overhead free, and TSGC's contribution occurred early in the project. All programs also strongly encouraged direct faculty involvement with appropriate NASA personnel.

Eight multi-year research efforts were funded under this program at 8 member institutions for a total TSGC funding of over $590,000 with industry and affiliate cash leveraging of over $690,000.

The National and Texas Space Grant Programs have established 10 major research goals.

  1. Fund research opportunities in line with the NASA Strategic Enterprises
  2. Stress programs for faculty who have not yet become established researchers
  3. Coordinate with other NASA programs
  4. Enhance faculty NASA partnerships
  5. Link research infrastructure universities with research intensive universities, industry, and NASA
  6. Encourage collaborative research among member institutions
  7. Encourage academic and industry partnerships
  8. Focus on topical research consortia
  9. Pursue long-range research goals
  10. Maintain a balance of participation across academic member institutions

The following table lists the 8 SRP programs that TSGC conducted during the period of this review. The table provides the following information: the year the project was funded, the project partners [academic, industry, and federal], and the National and Texas goals that the research addresses.

Program/Years Partners Goals
Orbit Uncertainty 1998-00 Texas A&M University, United Space Alliance 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10
Mini Heat Pipes 1998-00 Texas A&M University, Lockheed Martin 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10
LIDAR Errors 2000-01 U of Texas at Austin, Schlumberger Inc. 1, 4, 9, 10
Compact Nitrides 2000-02 University of Houston, Ionwerks, Inc. 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10
Autonomous Robots 2000-02 UT at San Antonio, Techathlon, Inc 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10
Tethered Satellite 2001-pres UT Dallas, TCU, Lamar, Michigan Technic Corp 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 7, 9, 10
Combustion Performance 2002–pres Texas Tech, Los Alamos National Lab 1, 2, 3, 9, 10
Tumbleweed Instrument Carriers 2002-pres Texas Tech, NASA/Langley 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10

In addition to these 8 SRP efforts several of TSGC Higher Education projects also involved NASA related research through capstone design classes and reduced gravity programs. In many cases these efforts were initiated at the direct request of NASA personnel. Such cross-over activities are typical of many TSGC projects. Because such activities involve both higher education and research they are difficult to report without some level of confusion and/or duplication, but in the present report and structure and in CMIS. These higher education research projects contributed an additional $4.1M in research infrastructure development, predominately at academic institutions.

Core Criteria

Interdisciplinary Collaborations
TSGC requires that all funded research programs be interdisciplinary in nature. Each research project is required to secure an industry, non-profit, or federal partner who is willing to contribute considerable funding to the research. For example the Combustion Performance of Energetic Materials in Microgravity research project is a close melding of the following 5 major disciplines: Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Material Science, and Chemistry. Other research projects incorporate non-technical disciplines such as Marketing, Education, Business, and Journalism.

Alignment With NASA Enterprises
All research programs funded by TSGC are directly aligned with NASA's Strategic Enterprises. NASA personnel routinely serve as proposal reviewers, mentors for both students and faculty, and participate in yearly program updates. This alignment with the NASA strategic Enterprises is an integral component of all TSGC activities. Alignment with NASA Enterprises is called for in the TSGC program announcements and is monitored by TSGC staff, through periodic review by NASA personnel, through program review by TSGC Board of Directors, and through review by the affiliate representatives. More information about the alignment of specific projects with NASA Enterprises is provided in the discussions of specific projects.


Flexible Mini Heat Pipe Radiators for an Inflatable Mars Spacecraft [1998-00]
In a partnership between Texas A&M University and Lockheed Martin new flexible materials were researched for use as thermal radiators for the proposed Mars human transit habitat, TransHab. Lockheed Martin provided half of the funding for this research effort. During the research, the potential for use of these materials was increased by incorporation of miniature heat pipes directly into the flexible material to further enhance fin efficiency. Research proved that miniature integral heat pipes could be successfully incorporated into rigid sheet aluminum radiator fins. The end objective of this project was to develop and demonstrate analogous designs for flexible radiator fin materials. The project addressed flexible miniature heat pipe concepts for integration into the fins, the thermal interface between the mini-heat pipes, and the interfacing loop heat pipe or fluid flow tubes. The final product was a highly efficient flexible mini-heat pipe, which can be embedded into a flexible material.

This project clearly focuses on the development of technology that promises to improve spacecraft designs in direct support of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, its Space Science Enterprise, and its Space Flight Enterprise.

Characterizing Orbit Uncertainty Due to Atmospheric Drag Uncertainty [1998-00]
In a partnership between Texas A&M University and United Space Alliance of Houston Texas this program developed and demonstrated mathematical models for representing the orbit uncertainty of the International Space Station. These models enable timely collision-avoidance maneuver decisions to be made based on more accurate information. This research had direct utility by USA in defining the details of ISS re-boost and collision-avoidance maneuvers. Furthermore, the problem addressed is of fundamental significance since space debris is a pervasive problem and collision avoidance is desirable for all spacecraft. This research supports NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, its Space Science Enterprise, and its Space Flight Enterprise.

Investigations in LIDAR Errors Sources for Enhanced Terrain Mapping [2000-01]
In a partnership between The University of Texas at Austin and Schlumberger Inc. of Austin, Texas developed new methodologies for reducing errors in LIDAR based terrain mapping. The study focused on [1] characterizing and reducing the errors introduced into the data by navigation and calibration and on [2] developing new methods for extraction bare earth topography, vegetation, and buildings from the two-return point data. The software developed during the project is now an operational product for the UT Center for Space Research and the Bureau of Economic Geology airborne LIDAR mapping program. The software system was recently used for experiments associated with calibration experiments for the NASA Geoscience Laser Altimeter System [GLAS] which flies on the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite [ICESat]. It also provided the foundation for demonstrating the need for hardware upgrades and for new waveform digitizing technology that was recently funded by the Army Research Office. This project clearly supports NASA's Earth Science Enterprise.

Compact III-V Nitrides-Based Integrated Multifunctional Optoelectronic Sensors for Contaminant Characterization in Enclosed Space Environments [2000-02]
This partnership between the University of Houston and Ionwerks, Inc of Houston, Texas investigated the advanced sensors to detect and characterize contaminants in enclosed space environments. Optical sensors utilizing excitation and simultaneous detection of fluorescence are mature instruments for environmental control, chemical analysis, and biomedical studies. Other optical methods relying on absorptions/reflection are simpler but usually are less sensitive than fluorescence spectroscopy. The research involved the integration of a light source, a sensing media, optical spectral filters, and detectors in a single chip to allow the fabrication of miniature, inexpensive, rugged, low mass, and reliable devices, ideally suited for environmental control in space. This project clearly supports NASA's Space Flight Enterprise.

Microsensor-based Autonomous Robots for MARS Greenhouse Operation [2000-02]
The University of Texas at San Antonio in partnership with Techathlon, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas investigated the application of micromechanical systems technology in autonomous systems for robotic aids to astronauts. Microsensor/Microactuator [M/M] technologies with on-board intelligent control systems have allowed breakthroughs in sensing, task-level control, fault detection, accommodation, diagnosis, and prognosis. The robots on-board intelligent control systems allowed breakthroughs in sensing, task-level control, fault detection, accommodation, diagnosis, and prognosis. The ultimate goal of the research is to pave the way for development of prototypes for robots to perform repetitive, tedious, and/or dangerous tasks at a Mars base. This project clearly supports NASA's Space Flight Enterprise.

Dynamics and Stability of a Tethered Satellite with Similar-Sized End-Masses [2001-pres]
This unique partnership among the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas Christian University, Lamar University, and The Michigan Technic Corporation of Holland, Michigan developed a tether deployer that will be tested in the micro gravity environment of space in a Space Shuttle Getaway Special Canister. It is a prototype of a tethered handling mechanism that will be used to actually deploy a pair of tethered satellites in a subsequent flight. Two prototype tether experiments will be flown, one to demonstrate the deployment of a tether and the other to demonstrate tether rewinding, both operations are required for a tethered satellite flight. In the later flight, two satellites, connected by a tether will be deployed, the tether will extend fully, a translation impulse will be applied to one satellite, and then the tether will partially rewind, producing a spin-up which will result in a sensed acceleration [artificial gravity] on the tethered satellites.

In addition to the TSGC SRP funding, this project recently received additional funding through the Texas Advanced Technology Program. This additional funding has allowed UT Dallas to initiate add-on projects fro the tethered satellites. The first add-on will accommodate 6 to 8 university student experiments from UTD, TCU, and Lamar University as well as several high school groups from the Dallas-Fort Worth and Beaumont areas. This project clearly supports NASA's Space Flight Enterprise.

Combustion Performance of Energetic Materials in Microgravity [2002-pres]
Texas Tech University in partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory investigated the use of nanocomposite energetic materials for propellant applications. The nanocomposites are a mixture of nano-scale fuel and oxidizer particles that when reacted, exhibit high combustion temperatures and high energy densities. These materials can be used in a variety of space applications including as igniters, as propellants for space travel, and for stationary energy generation in reduced gravity environments. Preliminary studies on nanocomposite combustion show that nano-particles produce higher reaction rates and propagation velocities than traditional composites. The objective of this research is to understand the role of nanoparticles in combustion reactions under conditions where gravity-related effects are suppressed. Results from this work have improved understanding of fundamental aspects of combustion processes relevant to space exploration. Because it involves fundamental propulsion and energy generation technologies in space, this research supports NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, its Space Science Enterprise, and its Space Flight Enterprise.

Development of a Tumbleweed Inspired Instrument Carrier for Mars [2002-pres]
This partnership between Texas Tech University and NASA/Langley Research Center of Hampton, Virginia found its origins in work conducted by undergraduate students who were participating in the TSGC Advanced Design Program. A capstone design project at Texas Tech University produced a new sensor for Mars – instruments mounted on artificial tumbleweeds. This academia/ NASA partnership is developing an extremely low mass and low cost, wind driven instrumented artificial tumbleweeds that self-deploy from miniature packages for use in Martian exploration. The idea is to store “tumbleweeds” in nooks and crannies on all future Mars spacecraft, to deploy a large number of “tumbleweeds”, and to collect environmental data as long as they are able to transmit. It is predicted that this system will be several orders of magnitude cheaper than robotics based sensor platforms. This project supports both NASA's Space Flight Enterprise and its Space Science Enterprise.

Impact and Results

The SRP was highly successful in fostering industry sponsored research at TSGC's affiliates and facilitating faculty partnerships with NASA. TSGC's $590K investment over five years was more than doubled by its partners to almost $1.3M of funded research. Each funded program established either new academia and industry relationships or strengthened existing relationships. Several research efforts lead to successful proposals to NASA and the State of Texas for follow on funding.

In summary, each of the SRP research programs provided seed funding to an academic affiliate in direct support of a specific NASA Strategic Enterprise focused research project. Long-term partnerships with industry, federal research labs, and NASA centers were developed as a direct result of TSGC funding. These relationships continue to have significant impact on the Consortium even after the completion of the research. For instance, the funding of programs at UT Dallas and TCU directly lead to the expansion of research labs and the infusion of additional funds through the Sate of Texas Advanced Technology Program.

Three metrics that TSGC used to evaluate the effectiveness of its research efforts are [1] Involvement of NASA personnel in the project, [2] the ability to attract external funding, and [3] the involvement of partners within the Consortium. All of the funded SRP projects have scored well against these metrics.

After a complete evaluation of the program the Research Planning Committee determined that although the program exceeded its stated objectives TSGC should refocus its research efforts in such a manner as to provide benefits to more academic affiliates. The committee has begun the development of a new research program that will be focused on opportunities for not-yet established faculty researchers to build partnerships with NASA programs and personnel. This program will begin in 2003.

Some quotes from researchers participating in TSGC's research program are provided below.

The seed money provided by TSGC was critical in performing initial studies which led to much larger awards from Texas and federal funding agencies.

The most valuable part of participation was the opportunity to conceive, design, develop and implement a solution to a real world problem and experience.

Our partnership with UT-Dallas, which was facilitated by TSGC, has enabled TCU to compete with much larger institutions for funding from State and federal agencies.