17th April 2019
NASA reveals future technology concepts
The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is a program for the research and development of long term, revolutionary space technologies that are "radically better or entirely new". The program was originally set up in 1998 and operated until its cancellation in 2007, but was re-established in 2011.
New project selections are made each year. The latest of these have just been announced, with funding for 18 studies to determine the feasibility of early-stage technologies that could one day change what is possible in space.
"Our NIAC program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions by investing in revolutionary technologies," said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. "We look to America's innovators to help us push the boundaries of space exploration with new technology."
The latest NIAC selections include Phase I and Phase II awards. The selected Phase I studies cover a wide range of innovations. Each Phase I award is valued at approximately $125,000, helping researchers define and analyse their proposed concepts over nine months. If the initial feasibility studies are successful, awardees can apply for Phase II awards.
The new Phase I selections are:
Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration (BREEZE):
Power Beaming for Long Life Venus Surface Missions:
Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (DUET):
Micro-Probes Propelled and Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity (MP4AE):
Swarm-Probe Enabled ATEG Reactor (SPEAR) Probe:
Ripcord Innovative Power System (RIPS):
Power for Interstellar Fly-by:
Lunar-polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO):
Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON):
Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies:
Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System's Boundaries:
Phase II studies allow researchers to further develop concepts, refine designs and start considering how the new technology would be implemented. This year's Phase II selections address a range of cutting-edge concepts, from flexible telescopes to new heat-withstanding materials. Awards under Phase II can be worth as much as $500,000 for two-year studies.
The 2019 Phase II selections are:
The High Étendue Multiple Object Spectrographic Telescope (THE MOST):
Rotary-Motion-Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS):
Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions:
Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector:
Phase I and II proposals go through a peer-review process that evaluates their innovativeness and technical viability. All projects are still in the early stages of development, most requiring a decade or more of concept maturation and technology development.
For the first time this summer, the NIAC program will select one Phase III research study. The award will be up to $2 million for as long as two years. This final phase is designed to strategically transition a NIAC concept with the highest potential impact to NASA, other government agencies or commercial companies.
"NIAC is about going to the edge of science fiction, but not over," said Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive. "We are supporting high impact technology concepts that could change how we explore within the Solar System and beyond."