NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions. Five of the concepts are from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
The agency is investing in 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.
The 2018 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I concepts cover a wide range of innovations selected for their potential to revolutionize future space exploration. Phase I awards are valued at approximately $125,000, over nine months, to support initial definition and analysis of their concepts. If these basic feasibility studies are successful, awardees can apply for Phase II awards.
“The NIAC program gives NASA the opportunity to explore visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions by creating radically better or entirely new concepts while engaging America’s innovators and entrepreneurs as partners in the journey,” said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “The concepts can then be evaluated for potential inclusion into our early stage technology portfolio.”
The selected 2018 Phase I proposals are:
- Shapeshifters from Science Fiction to Science Fact: Globetrotting from Titan’s Rugged Cliffs to its Deep Seafloors — Aliakbar Aghamohammadi, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
- Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration — David Akin, University of Maryland, College Park
- Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors (LEAVES) — Jeffrey Balcerski, Ohio Aerospace Institute, Cleveland
- Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration of Asteroids (MIDEA) — Sigrid Close, Stanford University, California
- On-Orbit, Collision-Free Mapping of Small Orbital Debris — Christine Hartzell, University of Maryland, College Park
- Marsbee – Swarm of Flapping Wing Flyers for Enhanced Mars Exploration — Chang-kwon Kang, University of Alabama, Huntsville
- Rotary Motion Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS) — John Kendra, Leidos, Inc., Reston, Virginia
- PROCSIMA: Diffractionless Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions — Chris Limbach, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, College Station
- SPARROW: Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds — Gareth Meirion-Griffith, JPL
- BALLET: Balloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain — Hari Nayar, JPL
- Myco-Architecture off Planet: Growing Surface Structures at Destination — Lynn Rothscild, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
- Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms — Dmitry Savransky, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
- Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft — Nickolas Solomey, Wichita State University, Kansas
- Advanced Diffractive MetaFilm Sailcraft — Grover Swartzlander, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York
- Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer — Jordan Wachs, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colorado
- Radioisotope Positron Propulsion — Ryan Weed, Positron Dynamics, Livermore, California
“The 2018 Phase I competition was especially fierce, with over 230 proposals and only 25 winners,” said Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive. “I can’t wait to see what the new NIAC Fellows can do for NASA!”
Phase II studies allow awardees time to refine their designs and explore aspects of implementing the new technology. This year’s Phase II portfolio addresses a range of leading-edge concepts, including a breakthrough propulsion architecture for interstellar precursor missions, a large scale space telescope, novel exploration tools for Triton, and Mach effect gravity assist drive propulsion.
Awards under Phase II of the NIAC program can be worth as much as $500,000 for two-year studies, and allow proposers to further develop Phase I concepts that successfully demonstrated initial feasibility and benefit.
The selected 2018 Phase II proposals are:
- Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion Concept — Robert Adams, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama
- A Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions — John Brophy, JPL
- Kilometer Space Telescope (KST) — Devon Crowe, Raytheon, El Segundo, California
- Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect Soft-bots) — Jay McMahon, University of Colorado, Boulder
- Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object — Steven Oleson, NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Cleveland
- Spacecraft Scale Magnetospheric Protection from Galactic Cosmic Radiation — John Slough, MSNW, LLC, Redmond, Washington
- Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission — Slava Turyshev, JPL
- NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester — Michael VanWoerkom, ExoTerra Resource, Littleton, Colorado
- Mach Effect for in space propulsion: Interstellar mission — James Woodward, Space Studies Institute, Inc., Mojave, California
“Phase II studies are given to the most successful Phase I fellows, whose ideas have the best possibility of changing the possible,” said Derleth. “Their two-year timeframe and larger budget allow them to really get going on the business of creating the future.”
NASA selected these projects through a peer-review process that evaluated innovativeness and technical viability. All projects are still in the early stages of development, most requiring 10 or more years of concept maturation and technology development before use on a NASA mission.
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 cross-cutting, pioneering new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.
For more information about NIAC, and a complete list of the selected proposals, visit www.nasa.gov/niac.
For more information about NASA’s investments in space technology, visit www.nasa.gov/spacetech.
Source: Gina Anderson (NASA HQ) and Jane Platt (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)