Exploration Systems Project (ESP)
The Exploration Systems Project (ESP) leverages Goddard’s rich history in robotic missions, science and technology development to help NASA explore the Moon and journey beyond. ESP is a small advanced concepts formulation and development team dedicated to supporting future exploration efforts by adapting existing technology. The team contributes to 10 or more projects and advanced concept initiatives at a time. ESP's cross-cutting work ranges from avionics and software to architecture analysis and advanced exploration systems development, including human habitation, miniaturization of science instruments, equipment for astronaut use, leveraging composites for lightweight structures, space communications, and more.
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, including contributing to the development of augmented and virtual reality systems to enhance human exploration planning and operations.
A CubeSat set to launch on the Exploration Mission-1 flight of the Space Launch System, IceCube will search for water, ice and other resources on the lunar surface. ESP is building the infrared spectrometer, and is leading the flight software development, the flight dynamics analysis and the attitude control analysis for the mission.
Core Flight Software
ESP works with Goddard software engineers who implement the center’s core flight software into human exploration systems such as Orion, future habitats such as Gateway, and lunar landers. Goddard’s core flight software provides commonality, modularity and significant costs savings for human space exploration.
Human Exploration Architecture Analysis
The ESP team performs comprehensive analysis on human architecture options, such as habitation modules for cislunar space, the Moon and beyond. The team analyzes integrated mission concepts, functions and operations, involving habitation, tele-operations, avionics, Lunar and Mars site design and science operations. They also led tasks for the Evolvable Mars Campaign, which explored many technologies and concepts for the human exploration of Mars. The team uses a design lab at Goddard to perform important architecture analyses.
More than 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, Lunar Architecture Team, and Human Exploration Architecture Team. In recent years, the team has worked on diverse but high-priority NASA technology projects and studies.