The Exploration Systems Project (ESP) provides a link between Goddard and human space exploration. The project leverages Goddard’s rich history in robotic missions, science and technology development to help human exploration reach further into the universe than ever before. ESP is a small advanced concepts formulation and development team dedicated to supporting those missions and finding ways to improve Goddard projects through advances in human exploration. The team contributes to as many as 10 or more projects and advanced concept initiatives at a time. ESP's cross-cutting work ranges from space communications, core flight software, and avionics to architecture analysis to advanced exploration systems development, human habitation, miniaturization of science instruments and equipment for astronaut use, leveraging composites for lightweight structures, and more.
A decade ago, Goddard created ESP to support the Constellation program, an agency-wide initiative to finish the International Space Station and take humans back to the moon. ESP leveraged Goddard’s unique capabilities, particularly in robotic flight hardware, science instrumentation and space communications, to support lunar lander and Mars studies, lunar surface system communications and navigation, architectures, and operations, as well as science integration. When the Constellation program was cancelled in 2009, ESP continued to leverage Goddard’s expertise with developing and managing spaceflight programs for human exploration missions including the Mars Architecture Team (MAT), Lunar Architecture Team (LAT), and Human Exploration Architecture Team (HAT). In recent years, the team has worked on diverse but high-priority NASA technology projects and studies, such as cryogenic propulsion, radio-isotope power supplies and advanced navigation.
Space exploration systems have been on the cutting edge of technology ever since NASA’s inception in the late 1950s. Together with partners in industry and at NASA centers across the country, ESP is at the forefront of developing cross-cutting advanced concepts together with new technology. It also identifies and leads the adaptation of existing technology to enable NASA’s next human and robotic forays into our solar system.
With the end of the Constellation program, ESP began to work on numerous projects across many areas of human and robotic exploration. The team has contributed to some of NASA’s leading missions that included the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and many more. Learn More