Aug 12, 2020 | Sources Sought



The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invites potential offerors to submit a response to this RFI to find interested, qualified sources for the design, development, and manufacture of a gaseous helium compressor or pump to safely, reliably, and efficiently transfer the pneumatic gas to pressurant tank levels nearly equivalent to those loaded on the ground.  The environment of the flight unit shall include low earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous orbit (GEO), cis-lunar, and deep space.

One significant gap in the technologies required for the emerging field of in-space spacecraft propellant resupply is the lack of technology to safely, reliably, and efficiently transfer propulsion system pneumatic inert gasses to levels nearly equivalent to those loaded on the ground, specifically helium and nitrogen with possible extensibility to xenon.  Existing technologies such as but not limited to multi-stage compressors for inert and other gasses should be leveraged in this RFI response with the hope of advancing this technology for GHe from a technology readiness level (TRL) ~2 to ~6.  

The vendor is also requested to perform an extensibility evaluation to identify the modifications that would be required for use with the more challenging gas, Xenon.  This study will include the modifications required to the proposed design along with cost and development schedule estimates.

The Government will provide in its planned future Request for Proposal a more detailed performance specification which outlines the prototype unit qualification levels required for any technologies proposed.

The intent of this RFI is to obtain information from industry to assist the NASA principal investigator (located at Kennedy Space Center – KSC) in acquisition development for a multi-program proposed use of this technology.  NASA is soliciting for initial interest from all companies with past experience and qualifications in this type of design, fabrication, and qualification/test service (whether flight or ground related experience).  The design and development of a functional prototype would be required to meet minimum ASME or AIAA S-080 standards for safe ground test use with the following goals:  reasonable mass flow rate range, efficiency nearly equivalent to similar ground units, pressures up to 6,000 psig, total helium mass transfer capability of 10 to 100 kg, and on orbit life of up to 10 years.  Potential follow-on flight articles would be required to be certified to the requirements of AIAA S-080 or a similar aerospace code approved by NASA for pressure components along with design meeting specific space related environments requirements such as thermal, radiation, shock, vibration, EMI/ EMC, vacuum, pressure change on ascent, etc.  A detailed list of requirements/goals will be provided on request to interested U.S. companies that apply.  NASA reserves the right to share all information received in response to this RFI throughout NASA and to use all information submitted in response to this RFI in NASA’s formulation of a solicitation seeking competitive proposals.  However, any submitted competition sensitive data should be clearly marked proprietary and will only be shared with the NASA team members.  Although information contained herein represents current program content and acquisition planning, it is subject to change.  Response to this RFI is requested within the context of the general approach described in the following paragraphs.

Additional Summary of Proposed Component Capabilities

NASA is soliciting for the approximate values/ranges of industry past flight or ground experience/qualification levels for key historical discriminators of the following parameters to leverage evolved development resulting in production time and development cost savings.  Note is should be assumed that the media being transferred across the proposed device is always in the gaseous phase unless the design would simplify by allowing multiple phases.

  1. Fluid interface line inner and outer diameters
  2. Mass flow rate
  3. Device size and mass (including required electronics)
  4. Cycle life
  5. Fundamental frequency (electronics and measurement device)
  6. Isothermal efficiency
  7. Mean time between failures
  8. Required power, current draw, in-rush start up current, and ground resistance
  9. Electrical interface

The vendor shall provide information for the following parameters and discuss how the design performance and efficiency will be impacted by their variations: 

  1. Temperature
  2. Active cooling needs (preferably weight /power minimized)
  3. Pressure
  4. Density
  5. Viscosity
  6. Vibration
    1. Externally induced limitations
    2. Internally created range
  7. Shock
  8. Radiation
  9. Magnetic fields
  10. EMI/EMC

The vendor shall also provide information and/or recommendations related to the following: 

  1. Signal conditioning
  2. Required supporting hardware such as an active cooling system and near leak free, and multi-cycle check valves, etc.
  3. Ability to maintain listed requirements following flow path exposure to vacuum and re-pressurizing
  4. Mechanical mounting interface (vibration isolation requirements, etc.)
  5. Potential outgassing
  6. Required electronics, circuit boards, etc.
  7. Required software

The vendor shall also provide information related to the response (any past qualification or test / analysis levels) of the unit to

  1. Radiation
  2. Vibration (random and sinusoidal)
  3. Quasi-static acceleration
  4. Shock during and prior to use (e.g. during launch while the unit is unpowered)
  5. Thermal vacuum

Note that any items not tested or analyzed should be marked as not tested or analyzed previously to help assist with NASA delta qualification time requirements and cost assessment.

The vendor will submit responses for the listed items for a flight unit(s) exposed to the vacuum of space and a first article ground test unit(s).

Specific Information Solicited for this Request for Information: 

Responders to this RFI are encouraged to comment on any of the preliminary requirements listed and to express their interest in this proposed acquisition by submitting the following information:

  1. Organization name, address, principal activity, business size, and primary point of contact
  2. Rough estimate of cost for each of the following:
    1. Design and development, including consideration for submit of documentation for NASA formal design review/approval of all drawings, analysis, bill of material, qualification, and test plans prior to fabrication start
    2. Two prototype qualifying units (one for vendor testing and one for KSC testing)
    3. Two production units for flight application meeting all flight standards
    4. Please note in rough estimate, if company would be potentially offering up any of its investment capital to new R&T product lines that could have potential future multiple user / program use or would require 100% government funding of development efforts.
  3. Lead times for design and development, prototype/test units, and production/flight units
  4. Description of your company’s experience in developing and producing devices of a similar nature for aerospace systems, similar to the requirements described in this RFI
  5. Documentation demonstrating your company’s core competencies (skills, knowledge, expertise, facilities, production equipment, quality certifications, and documentation systems)
  6. Typical vendor device characteristics from previous flight or ground qualified units of a similar design for all items shown in this RFI or submit outline of plan for delta design/qualification of component, if not previously aerospace flight qualified

Response Instructions

The requested responses are for information and planning purposes only. NASA does not intend to post information or questions received to any website or public access location. NASA does not plan to reply to the individual responses, and respondents will not be notified of the results of the evaluation. Respondents deemed fully qualified will be considered in any resultant solicitation for the requirement. Feedback to this RFI may be utilized in formulating the Government’s acquisition strategy and documents. All responses should be provided electronically in Microsoft Word document format. Font should be Times New Roman, size 12. Responses should not exceed 15 pages and should reference RFI# NNK20ZES001L. Please submit electronic responses no later than 4:00 PM ET, on Thursday, September 10, 2020, to the NASA/KSC Procurement Office, e-mail lynn.e.rafford@nasa.gov@nasa.gov.

This preliminary information is being made available for planning purposes only, subject to FAR Clause 52.215-3, entitled “Solicitation for Information and Planning Purposes”. It does not constitute a Request for Proposal, Invitation for Bid, or Request for Quotation, and it is not to be construed as a commitment by the Government to enter into a contract. Moreover, the Government will not pay for the information submitted in response to this RFI, nor will the Government reimburse an Offeror for costs incurred to prepare responses to this RFI.

No solicitation exists at this time; therefore, do not request a copy of the solicitation. If a solicitation is released later this fiscal year as currently planned, it will be synopsized in the FedBizOpps and on the NASA Acquisition Internet Services (NAIS). It is the potential Offeror’s responsibility to monitor these sites for the release of any solicitation or synopsis.

Please advise if the requirement is considered to be a commercial or commercial-type product. A commercial item is defined in FAR 2.101.

NASA Clause 1852.215-84, Ombudsman, is applicable. The Center Ombudsman for this acquisition can be found at http://prod.nais.nasa.gov/pub/pub_library/Omb.html .

POINT OF CONTACT:  Lynn E. Rafford, Contracting Officer NASA/KSC Procurement Office Phone:  321-867-7364  Email:  lynn.e.rafford@nasa.gov

SECONDARY POINT OF CONTACT:  Brian Nufer, Engineer, Fluid Systems NASA/KSC Phone:  321-861-7311  Email:  brian.nufer@nasa.gov

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