NASA is funding 18 new studies to determine the feasibility of early-stage technologies that could go on to be used in space.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program will be conducted in two phases covering a range of innovations. Each of the Phase 1 awards is valued at about $125,000 to help garner the proposed concepts over the next nine months. After these feasibility studies are complete, Phase II awards will be funded.

The 2019 NIAC Phase 1 selections include:

  • State University of New York at Buffalo’s Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration (BREEZE) that combines inflatable structures with bio-inspired kinematics to explore and study the atmosphere of Venus.
  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s plan for a surface mission to Venus using power beaming.
  • Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s SmartSuit, which is an intelligent spacesuit design using soft robotics, self-healing skin and data collection for extravehicular activity in extreme environments.
  • Ancramdale’s Dual Use Explanet Telescope (DUET) — a new telescope design to find and characterize planetary systems outside the solar system.
  • West Virginia University’s Micro-probes Propelled and Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity (MP4AE), which involves floating microprobes that use electrostatic life to study planetary atmospheres.
  • Howe Industries’ Swam-Probe Enabled ATEG Reactor (SPEAR), an ultra-lightweight nuclear electric propulsion probe for deep space exploration for commercial spacecraft launches.
  • Johns Hopkins University’s Ripcord Innovative Power Systems (RIPS), which is investigating drag using a ripcord unspooling power system for descent probes into planets with atmospheres similar to Saturn.
  • NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s power for interstellar system involving fly-by for power harvesting from ultra-miniature probes.
  • TransAstra Corp.’s Lunar-polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO) for lunar pole ice mining production.
  • MSNW’s Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON) for clearing small space debris.
  • Colorado School of Mines’ thermal mining of ice on cold solar system bodies.
  • NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL’s) low-cost, small satellite heliophysics mission to the outer solar system.

The awards for NIAC Phase II can be worth as much as $500,000 for two-year studies into future space technologies.

The 2019 Phase II selections include:

  • NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s solar surfing to determine the best protective materials for heliophysics missions closer to the Sun.
  • 3DeWitt’s opical telescope that can be deployed in a cylindrical roll and installed upon delivery on a 3D-printed structure.
  • Leidos’ Rotary-Motion-Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS) a geostationary synthetic apecture imaging radiometer with a rotating tethered antenna.
  • Texas A&M’s self guided beamed propulsion technology for interstellar missions.
  • Wichita State University’s small-scale neutrino detector for future probe missions.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology’s LightSails technology for missions in low-Earth orbit and to distant stars.
To contact the author of this article, email pbrown@globalspec.com