Instrument Incubator Program
Building the Next-Generation of Earth Science Instruments
The Instrument Incubator Program funds novel instruments offering new or improved ways to observe Earth.
The program takes new ideas and helps develop them into validated demonstrations. These new instruments, including lasers, spectrometers and radars, among others, are smaller, more affordable, and seek to include enabling new component technologies and architectures. The instruments incorporate greater onboard intelligence to take advantage of the tremendous strides in algorithm development and processing power. Projects take on greater, more calculated risks than past efforts, offering the potential to advance technology and science.
The program’s eventual goal is to see these new, improved technologies implemented into future Earth observing missions that probe pressing Earth science phenomena, like extreme weather and surface deformation. The instruments are inspired by NASA’s Earth Science Focus Areas, which include:
- Atmospheric composition;
- Weather and atmospheric dynamics;
- Climate variability and change;
- Water and energy cycle;
- Carbon cycle and ecosystems; and
- Earth surface and interior
The projects also address the Designated Observables defined by the National Academies of Science and Engineering’s 2017 – 2027 Decadal Survey. These include:
- Aerosols-Clouds, Convection and Precipitation;
- Mass Change;
- Surface Biology and Geology; and
- Surface Deformation and Change
Instrument Concept and Development
To foster projects at various stages of development, they are divided into two subcategories under the IIP: Instrument Concept Demonstration and Instrument Development and Demonstration.
- Instrument Concept Demonstration: The new Instrument Concept Demonstration selections include innovative ideas on the cusp of development. This thrust nurtures less mature concepts that progress over shorter timeframes and lower costs.
- Instrument Development and Demonstration: The Instrument Development and Demonstration program encompasses projects that are more fully realized and span the entire instrument development process, including design, prototypes, models, laboratory and potential airborne demonstrations.
IIP Project Highlights
Aiming High to Look at Clouds
A new instrument could give researchers unprecedented insights into wispy clouds that float high in the sky. These cirrus clouds play an important role in Earth's climate.
CubeSats Seek Stratospheric Aerosols
Researchers put a radar system on constellation of CubeSats to measure tiny particles in the sky. These particles, called aerosols, can have a big impact on human health and the climate.
New Instrument to Examine Flora from Space
A new instrument combines and miniaturizes two sensors to monitor the health of trees, among other vegetation — information needed by forest and water managers.
The Instrument Incubator Program uses the NASA Research Announcement as its investment vehicle. Links to the full solicitations and awards are listed below.