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Mountain View, CA, United States

Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.28K | Year: 2009

We propose to develop a compact and lightweight X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) / X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) instrument for analysis of mineralogical composition of regolith, rock samples and dust, in lunar surface exploration. The instrument inherits from the general concept of CheMin, the XRD/XRF instrument of MSL, but is entirely redesigned to provide a more compact and lightweight unit, and reduced costs. Many implementation details of the proposed instrument will inherit from the design of a small portable XRD/XRF instruments developed and marketed by inXitu, Inc. and a robotic instrument derived from this design. The objective of this proposal is to bring this development to a high TRL of 6 to 7, to enable fast and cost effective development of subsequent flight systems. A high TRL target is possible within the scope of an SBIR Phase I + II because several key technological developments required for this objective have been –or are being- addressed by the company through separate sources of funding. Furthermore, the proposed work leverages the extensive experience of the PI and the company with this type of instrumentation, in both terrestrial and planetary applications.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.96K | Year: 2008

We propose to develop a planetary exploration XRD/XRF instrument based on a hybrid diffraction approach that complements powder XRD analysis, similar to that of the CheMin instrument of MSL, with single crystal diffraction analysis. Powder XRD will be used when fine grained samples are available, either as received or prepared by a sample grinding facility onboard the lander. Single crystal XRD using polychromatic radiation (Laue diffraction) will be applied when samples are too coarse to use pXRD. Laue analysis will allow identification of minerals in unprepared samples and enable ab-initio determination of crystalline phases unknown to current crystallographic databases. The concept can be applied as a contact instrument fitted to the robotic arm, or to an onboard instrument. Both transmission and reflection geometries are possible. We will develop the system for Venus surface deployment. We will emphasize the diffractometer development on high throughput and power efficiency without compromising resolution. The need for high throughput is motivated by the limited life span of a Venus lander. The Phase 1 research will focus on demonstrating the use of Laue diffraction for mineral identification and investigating the technical options for X-ray source, X-ray optics and detectors.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.92K | Year: 2008

We propose to develop a miniature system for acquisition and delivery of solid samples to landed planetary instruments. This system would entrain powder produced by drilling in atmospheric gas. The powder / gas mixture would be transported to a sample chamber, where the powder would sedimented out. The key innovations of this system are: - The sample collector doubles as a sample holder for delivery to on-board instrumentation. This reduces the risk of cross-contamination. - The small size and power requirements of the complete system would make powdered sample collection available to smaller planetary missions.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 598.68K | Year: 2008

The objective of the proposed work is to develop a rugged, low power, passively cooled X-Ray source that is compatible with miniaturized XRD systems. The XRD instruments would be used for in situ measurements on planetary surfaces. This X-ray source will integrate an X-ray emitting vacuum tube and both low and high-voltage power supplies into a compact and lightweight unit. This X-ray source will enable further miniaturized X-ray instruments to be deployed for surface and subsurface exploration of the solar system. The objectives will be achieved with an X-ray source that combines the advantage of easy thermal management and simple control electronics. The concept relies on the use of state-of-the-art ceramic materials that combines very good electrical insulation properties with good thermal conductivity. This source will allow using the grounded-cathode geometry for simple and compact electronics, and rely on the heat-sinking properties of the electrical insulator for heat dissipation to ground. The most promising material for this application is Aluminum Nitride (AlN). Objective specifications for the source to be developed are as follows: Accelerating Voltage (25 kV), Electron Beam Current (200 uAmps), X-ray Spot Size (50 microns), X-ray Tube Dimensions (65 mm x 25 mm,lxd)


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 599.98K | Year: 2010

We propose to develop LUNA, a compact and lightweight X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) / X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) instrument for mineralogical analysis of regolith, rock samples and dust, in lunar surface exploration. LUNA is based from the concept of CheMin, the XRD/XRF instrument of MSL, but is redesigned to provide a more compact unit at much reduced costs. Many details of LUNA derive from the designs of a small portable XRD/XRF instruments developed and marketed by inXitu. Bringing LUNA to TRL 6-7 is possible within the scope of this Phase II because key components have been or are being developed. Phase 2 addresses the missing critical subsystems: a low-cost flight-qualifiable X-ray CCD, and flight-qualifiable electronics to drive the detector and control the instrument. LUNA is not frozen in a particular geometry or mechanical implementation, it is meant to be flexible to answer the specific needs of any lunar mission. Transmission or reflection geometries are possible as demonstrated by inXitu's commercial instruments. Phase 2 will demonstrate a reflection version of LUNA operating under vacuum. This work leverages on the extensive experience of the PI and the company with XRD-XRF instrumentation in terrestrial and planetary applications.

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