NIAC Award: Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries

Small satellites for exploring the Solar System’s boundaries. (Credit: Robert Staehle)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries
Robert Staehle
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Overview: New Horizons, Voyager 1 & 2, and Pioneer 10 & 11 are the only spacecraft to venture beyond Saturn’s orbit. Each weighed >250 kg (some >>250 kg), cost >FY19$300 M, and required operations teams with 10s of people. All required radioisotope power to operate at Jupiter and beyond. We propose a completely different approach for focused heliospheric science investigations to 125 AU, and potentially farther beyond the heliopause, without need for radioisotopes and their long, expensive launch approval process.

(more…)

NIAC Phase II Award: Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector

Solar neutrino spacecraft detector (Credit: Nickolas Solomey)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

A small scaled-down neutrino detector prototype is proposed to be built and tested in the lab that provides the means to mature the measurement technique and detector technology for an eventual spaceflight probe mission for detecting neutrinos in close orbit of the Sun. The detector will be based upon design studies from the NIAC Phase-I work.

With the intensity of solar neutrinos substantially greater in a close solar orbit than on the Earth only a small 250 kg detector with proper shielding and surrounding veto array is needed to perform equal to a 3,000 ton detector on Earth. In addition, solar neutrino detector will be able to do unique science not obtainable by an Earth based experiment.

(more…)

NIAC Phase II Award: Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions

Self-guided beamed propulsion (Credit: Chris Limbach)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions
Chris Limbach
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

New and revolutionary propulsion systems are needed to undertake challenging long-distance missions, such as to the Kuiper belt, Oort cloud and nearby stellar systems. We propose an innovative beamed propulsion architecture that would enable interstellar missions to Proxima Centauri b at nearly 10% the speed of light.

(more…)

NIAC Phase II Award: Solar Surfing

Solar surfing (Credit: Doug Willard)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Solar Surfing
Doug Willard
NASA Kennedy Space Center

In 2018 the Parker Solar Probe launched, planning to approach the Sun to within 8.5 solar radii of its surface. This is seven times closer than any previous mission, allowing first-time particle, radiation, and magnetic field measurements of the Sun’s corona. The Parker Solar Probe utilizes a solar shield comprising a lightly-coated carbon composite layer on top of four inches of carbon foam. However, the temperature limits of the shield restrict the closest approach distance.

(more…)

NIAC Phase II Award: Diffractive Lightsails

Diffractive lightsails (Credit: Grover Swartzlander)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Diffractive Lightsails
Grover Swartzlander
Rochester Institute of Technology

Solar sails are propelled by the free and abundant momentum afforded by sunlight. Propulsion and navigation are achieved by directing reflected or transmitted light away from the natural direction of sunlight. The magnitude and direction of this radiation pressure force depends on factors such as the light deflection angle, the angle of the sail with respect to the sun, and the distance from the sun. Sail areas spanning hundreds of square meters have been envisioned for nearly 100 years for a wide range of space missions that are not practical for chemical rockets.

(more…)

NIAC Phase II Award: Rotary-Motion-Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS)

Rotary-motion-extended array synthesis (Credit: John Kendra)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Rotary-Motion-Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS)
John Kendra
Leidos, Inc.

R-MXAS is a revolutionary aerospace architecture for realizing a synthetic aperture imaging radiometer (SAIR) with dramatically lower size, weight and power (SWaP) than existing state-of-the-art (SOTA) methods. The space-based component of R-MXAS is a single platform comprising a 1-D sparse/decimated antenna array on a rigid tether (deployed parallel to the horizon) and one or more additional tethered antennas that rotate in a plane orthogonal to the 1-D array.

The processing that correlates the data from these antenna systems and performs image reconstruction has both space-based and ground-based components. The processing exploits the interferometric baselines formed between the rotating tethered antenna at radius R and each of the antennas of the 1-D array on the rigid tether.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

NIAC Phase II Award: High Étendue Multiple Object Spectrographic Telescope

High Étendue Multiple Object Spectrographic Telescope (Credit: Tom Ditto)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

The High Étendue Multiple Object Spectrographic Telescope (THE MOST)
Tom Ditto
3DeWitt LLC

The largest animal ever to exist, the blue whale, has its enormous size because it floats in water. In outer space at zero-G there should be relaxed restrictions on the aperture and collection area of telescopes. Unfortunately, NASA has struggled for decades to launch a space telescope that enjoys even a fraction of the size of large ground telescopes.

(more…)

NASA Invests in 18 Potentially Revolutionary Space Tech Concepts

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Smart spacesuits and solar surfing may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but they are just two of the technology concepts NASA has selected for further research as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The program will fund 18 studies to determine the feasibility of early-stage technologies that could go on to change what’s possible in space.

The funded technologies have the potential to transform human and robotic exploration of other worlds, including the Moon and Mars. One researcher, for example, will study an affordable way to mine the ample ice at the Moon’s polar regions. NASA aims to send astronauts to land on the Moon’s South Pole in five years.

(more…)

NASA Looks to the Future, Seeks Next Level Visionary Aerospace Concepts

NASA is looking for trailblazing ideas that could one day change what’s possible in space. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is seeking Phase II proposals for the continuation of Phase I research studies.

NIAC helps NASA look to the future by funding far reaching, early stage space technology concepts with the potential of transforming exploration and science missions. This research may one day enable new capabilities or significantly alter approaches for operating, building and landing structures in space.

“NIAC studies are exciting, and in the initial phase we see a lot of brand-new ideas,” said NIAC Program Executive Jason Derleth. “Phase II is where our fellows can dig into the engineering details of their creative ideas, utilizing more time and resources. We can’t wait to see how the next round of selected proposals progress.”

NIAC Phase II awards can be up to $500,000 for two years, allowing researchers to further develop Phase I concepts. NASA will accept NIAC Phase II proposals of no more than 15 pages in length through Feb. 14, 2019 (a notice of interest is due by Dec. 17, 2018). The solicitation is only open to current or previously awarded NIAC Phase I fellows who have successfully completed a Phase I study but have not yet been awarded a Phase II study. NIAC Phase I final reports must be received before submitting to Phase II.

For the full solicitation and guidelines for proposal submission, visit the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) website:

https://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/summary!init.do?solId={DB5722D5-CB87-C65D-E726-25141D34A27A}&path=open

NIAC partners with forward-thinking scientists, engineers and citizen inventors from across the nation to help maintain America’s leadership in air and space. NIAC is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the new cross-cutting technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

For more information about the NIAC program, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/niac

Aerospace, JPL Develop Concept to View Distant Planets

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Nov. 19, 2018 – In a new development in the search for potentially habitable planets far beyond our solar system, JPL and Aerospace are conducting a study to further develop an innovative deep-space concept that relies on a solar gravity lens (SGL) to enable enhanced viewing of exoplanets.

The SGL would provide 100-billion optical magnification, allowing it to show details as small as 10 kilometers across – similar to being able to spot something the size of New York City on an exoplanet.

(more…)

NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Advanced Remote Sensing & Orbital Debris


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at two Phase I awards focused on advanced remote sensing and orbital debris.

Rotary Motion Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS)
John Kendra
Leidos, Inc.

On-Orbit, Collision-Free Mapping of Small Orbital Debris
Christine Hartzell
University of Maryland, College Park

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.

(more…)

NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Astronomy & Astrophysics


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on astronomy and astrophysics.

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms
Dmitry Savransky
Cornell University

Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer
Jordan Wachs
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
(more…)

NIAC Phase I Awards for Advanced Surface Operations

Graphic depiction of Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration (Credits: D. Akin)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at two Phase I awards focused on surface operations on other worlds.

Myco-architecture off planet: growing surface structures at destination
Lynn Rothschild
NASA Ames Research Center

Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration
David Akin
University of Maryland, College Park

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
(more…)

NIAC Phase I Awards for Advanced Propulsion

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on advanced propulsion.

PROCSIMA: Diffractionless Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions
Chris Limbach
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

Advanced Diffractive MetaFilm Sailcraft
Grover Swartzlander
Rochester Institute of Technology

Radioisotope Positron Propulsion
Ryan Weed
Positron Dynamics

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
(more…)

NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Planetary Exploration

Graphic depiction of BALLET: BALloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain (Credits: Hari Nayar)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on planetary exploration.

Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors (LEAVES)
Jeffrey Balcerski
Ohio Aerospace Institute, Cleveland

Marsbee – Swarm of Flapping Wing Flyers for Enhanced Mars Exploration
Chang-kwon Kang
University of Alabama, Huntsville

BALLET: BALloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain
Hari Nayar
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
(more…)