NASA selects new research institutes to develop smart habitats for space exploration

The goal of the new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) is to develop automated technologies critical to a sustainable human presence on the Moon and eventually Mars. 


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NASA (Washington, D.C., U.S.) has announced that it has selected two new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) to advance space habitat designs using resilient and autonomous systems. The goal of the research institutes is to develop automated technologies critical to a sustainable human presence on the Moon and eventually Mars. 

“Partnering with universities lets us tap into new expertise, foster innovative ideas, as well as expand the research and development talent base for both aerospace and broader applications,” says Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

The selected proposals create two multi-disciplinary, university-led research institutes – Habitats Optimized for Missions of Exploration (HOME) and Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats institute (RETHi).

Habitats Optimized for Missions of Exploration (HOME)

The HOME institute seeks to enable resilient, autonomous and self-maintained habitats for human explorers through the advancement of early-stage technologies related to autonomous systems, human and automation teaming, data science, machine learning, robotic maintenance and onboard manufacturing.

The team is led by Stephen Robinson, principal investigator at the University of California, Davis, in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder, Carnegie Mellon University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Howard University, Texas A&M University and the University of Southern California. Industry collaborators include Sierra Nevada Corporation (Sparks, Nev., U.S.), Blue Origin (Kent, Wash., U.S.) and United Technology Aerospace Systems (West Palm Beach, Fla., U.S.).

Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats institute (RETHi)

RETHi seeks to design and operate resilient deep space habitats that can operate in both crewed and uncrewed configurations. The institute plans to leverage expertise in civil infrastructure with advanced technology fields such as modular and autonomous robotics and hybrid simulation. The institute plans to create a cyber-physical prototype testbed of physical and virtual models to develop, deploy and validate different capabilities.

The multidisciplinary team is led by Purdue University principal investigator Shirley Dyke, in partnership with University of Connecticut, Harvard University and the University of Texas at San Antonio

The two new STRIs are funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD); each will receive as much as $15 million over a five-year period. The new selections will join two institutes founded by NASA in 2017 also aimed at developing self-sustaining exploration mission capabilities.