Technology Development

NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist’s overarching goal to rebuild an advanced space technology program is laid out in 14 technology roadmaps drafted in 2012. The 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps expands on and updates the original 2012 roadmaps. These roadmaps provide extensive details about anticipated NASA mission capabilities and associated technology development required to meet those needs. These roadmaps establish time sequencing and interdependencies of advanced space technology research and development over the next five to 30 years for the 14 technology areas. The promising new technology candidates that will help NASA achieve its missions are identified in The 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps (2015-2035 timeframe). The roadmaps focus on applied research and development activities for technologies including launch propulsion; in-space propulsion; space power and energy storage; robotics and autonomous systems; communications, navigation and orbital debris tracking and characterization systems; human health, life support and habitation systems; human exploration destination systems; science instruments, observatories and sensor systems; entry, descent and landing systems; nanotechnology; modeling, simulation, information technology and processing; materials, structures, mechanical systems, and manufacturing; ground and launch systems; thermal management systems; and aeronautics. [1]


The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) manages the development and demonstration of new and innovative technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its missions. This is performed via collaborative partnerships employing a merit-based competition model spanning diverse discipline areas and technology readiness levels (TRLs). Activities occur within NASA Centers, academia and industry. While several research and development (R&D) and demonstration programs are outlined below, additional programs can be accessed through STMD’s program page.


The Game Changing Development Program is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The Program advances game-changing technologies that lead to revolutionary capabilities applicable to a wide range of potential missions and is a priority for NASA’s space technology program.  The program focuses efforts in the mid Technology Readiness Level (TRL) range of (3-5/6) generally taking technologies from proof of concept through component or breadboard testing in a relevant environment. [2]


In 2011, NASA Office of the Chief Technologist reestablished the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to fund visionary technologies at TRLs 1-3. NIAC projects are funded to investigate innovative, technically feasible advanced concepts that have the potential to “Change the Possible” in aerospace. NIAC is part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to NIAC, please see the Solicitations for current information on NASA Research Announcements. For descriptions of current NIAC funded projects, please see  Funded Studies. Unaffiliated individuals, or those affiliated with any educational institution, commercial or not-for-profit organization, research laboratory, agency, or NASA Center can submit a proposal. The lead proposer must be a U.S. citizen or working in the U.S. [3]


Please note that the current FY2019 Budget Request for NASA has eliminated funding for the Space Technology Research Grants Program. The information provided offers awareness about the program.

The Space Technology Research Grants Program funds innovative projects with high risk and high payoff. All Space Technology Research Grants Program investments are selected through four competitive solicitations: (i) NASA Space Technology Research Fellowships, (ii) Early Career Faculty, (iii) Early Stage Innovations, and (iv) Space Technology Research Institutes. Solicitations are aligned with the Agency’s 14 Space Technology Roadmaps and the NASA’s  Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan. [4]

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to the Space Technology Research Grants Program, visit the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPPIRES). To submit a research proposal, individuals and the organizations with which they are affiliated must be registered in NSPIRES. Organizations are required to be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM) before they can register in NSPIRES.


The Technology Demonstration Missions Program provides demonstration opportunities to assist in maturing to a TRL level sufficient for infusion into future NASA missions, or to demonstrate a significant new industry capability. This program transitions and matures laboratory-proven technologies (TRL 4 or higher) to flight-ready status (TRL 6-7). Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL) manages NASA’s Technology Demonstration Mission program office. The office oversees the technology demonstration projects that include ground tests and flight tests. [5]

Additional information on technology demonstrations can be found in The Bridge, the quarterly Technology Demonstration Missions Newsletter.

Updated September 2018 by Rachel Werth

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