The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) has been a significant funder of pie in the sky research for a long time now. From extrasolar object interceptors to beaming power into a lunar crater, we love reporting about NIAC funded concepts here at UT. Now, a new crop of Phase I and a smaller but more focused crop of Phase II fellows are funded to push the boundaries of space exploration forward.
We’ve reported on some of the Phase I concepts that received $175,000 to work on refining their concept for the next nine months, including the Venus Atmosphere and Cloud Particle Sample Return for Astrobiology, submitted by Sara Seager of MIT. Other exciting concepts receiving first-round funding are a solid-state, electric vertical take-off and landing system, and a gigantic starshade that would allow Earth-based telescopes to search for signs of life in alien atmospheres.
Phase II concepts, which have already completed a Phase I project, receive a total of $600,000 for two years of study. Only five were selected this year, ranging from a deployable 1km long artificial gravity structure to 3D printed swarm-bots. If nothing else, NIAC can always claim to be supporting incredible, cutting-edge technology. Maybe sometime, some of it will even become a reality.
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A complete list of the Phase I awardees includes:
- Darmindra Arumugam, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California: Cryospheric Rydberg Radar
- Steven Barrett, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge: Silent, Solid-State Propulsion for Advanced Air Mobility Vehicles
- Jason Benkoski, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore: Combined Heat Shield and Solar Thermal Propulsion System for an Oberth Maneuver
- Elena D’Onghia, University of Wisconsin–Madison: CREW HaT: Cosmic Radiation Extended Warding using the Halbach Torus
- Bonnie Dunbar, Texas A&M University in College Station: The Spacesuit Digital Thread: 4.0 Manufacture of Custom High Performance Spacesuits for the Exploration of Mars
- Ivan Ermanoski, Arizona State University in Tempe: Breathing Mars Air: Stationary and Portable O2 Generation
- Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara: Pi – Terminal Defense for Humanity
- John Mather, NASA Goddard: Hybrid Observatory for Earth-like Exoplanets (HOEE)
- Marcin Pilinski, University of Colorado, Boulder: In-situ Neutral-Optics Velocity Analyzer for Thermospheric Exploration (INOVATE)
- Jonathan Sauder, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California: Starburst: A Revolutionary Under-Constrained Adaptable Deployable Structure Architecture
- Sara Seager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge: Venus Atmosphere and Cloud Particle Sample Return for Astrobiology
- Mahmooda Sultana, NASA Goddard: SCOPE: ScienceCraft for Outer Planet Exploration
A complete list of the Phase II awardees includes:f
- Javid Bayandor, State University of New York at Buffalo: BREEZE: Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration
- Zac Manchester, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Kilometer-Scale Space Structures from a Single Launch
- E. Joseph Nemanick, The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California: Atomic Planar Power for Lightweight Exploration (APPLE)
- Marco Pavone, Stanford University in California: ReachBot: Small Robot for Large Mobile Manipulation Tasks in Martian Cave Environments
- Ethan Schaler, NASA JPL: SWIM: Sensing with Independent Micro-swimmers
NASA – NASA Selects Futuristic Space Technology Concepts for Early Study
Tech Times – NASA To Fund Futuristic Space Technologies! Concepts Receiving NIAC’s Phase I, Phase II Grants
TweakTown – NASA just awarded funding to a heap of insane futuristic technologies
Collage of concept images from the various NIAC funded projects.
Credit – NASA