May 16, 2016 News

NASA Invests in the Future of Technological Development

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program Moves into Phase II


Phase II of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program has started, with awards of up to $500,000 available for a two-year study. Proposers will be able to further develop concepts funded for Phase I studies that have successfully demonstrated initial feasibility and benefit. Eight technology proposals have been selected for investment, with selected projects having the potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

“The NIAC program is one of the ways NASA engages the U.S. scientific and engineering communities, including agency civil servants, by challenging them to come up with some of the most visionary aerospace concepts,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “This year’s Phase II fellows have clearly met this challenge.”

During Phase II, the awardees will be able to refine their designs and explore aspects of implementing the new technology. This year's Phase II portfolio will address a range of leading-edge concepts, including: an interplanetary habitat configured to induce deep sleep for astronauts on long-duration missions; a highly efficient dual aircraft platform that may be able to stay aloft for weeks or even months at a time; and a method to produce “solar white” coatings for scattering sunlight and cooling fuel tanks in space down to 300 °F below zero, with no energy input needed.

Concepts selected for Phase II are:

Advancing Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats for Human Stasis to Mars, John Bradford, Space Works, Inc. in Atlanta
Cryogenic Selective Surfaces, Robert Youngquist, Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Directed Energy Interstellar Study, Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara
Experimental Demonstration and System Analysis for Plasmonic Force Propulsion, Joshua Rovey, University of Missouri in Rolla
Flight Demonstration of Novel Atmospheric Satellite Concept, William Engblom, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida
Further Development of Aperture: A Precise Extremely Large Reflective Telescope Using Re-configurable Elements, Melville Ulmer, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois
Magnetoshell Aerocapture for Manned Missions and Planetary Deep Space Orbiters, David Kirtley, MSNW, LLC in Redmond, Washington
Tensegrity Approaches to In-Space Construction of a 1g Growable Habitat, Robert Skelton, Texas Engineering Experiment Station in La Jolla, California

The projects were selected through a peer-review process that evaluated innovativeness and technical viability.

“Phase II decisions are always challenging, but we were especially challenged this year with so many successful Phase I studies applying to move forward with their cutting-edge technologies,” said Jason Derleth, the NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Whether it's tensegrity habitats in space, new ways to get humans to Mars, delicate photonic propulsion, or any one of the other amazing Phase II studies NIAC is funding, I'm thrilled to welcome these innovations and their innovators back to the program. Hopefully, they will all go on to do what NIAC does best - change the possible.”

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 is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which innovates, develops, tests, and flies hardware for use in NASA’s future missions.

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