NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Astronomy & Astrophysics


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on astronomy and astrophysics.

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms
Dmitry Savransky
Cornell University

Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer
Jordan Wachs
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — 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.

The agency selected 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.

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NASA Announces Ninth Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 11 small research satellites from seven states and Puerto Rico to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The selections are part of the ninth round of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative. CubeSats are a type of spacecraft called nanosatellites, often measuring about four inches on each side and weighing less than three pounds, with a volume of about one quart. CubeSats are built using these standard dimensions as Units or “U”, and are classified as 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in total size.

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Cube Quest Challenge Team Spotlight: Cislunar Explorers

A rendering of team Cislunar Explorers’ spacecraft. Two of these spacecraft are mated together to form a 6U-sized CubeSat, small enough to fit inside a briefcase. (Credits: Cornell University/Cislunar Explorers Team)

ITHACA, NY (NASA PR) — Tenacity and drive are hallmarks of Cornell University’s Cislunar Explorers Team. But there is another key factor in building and testing their spacecraft: Just add water.

“The core concept behind our work is using water as rocket fuel,” said project manager Kyle Patrick Doyle. “It’s something that we’ve been looking at for a long time, and it’s exciting to have a chance to test our technology in space.”

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Cornell Students Sending Water-Propelled CubeSat to Moon

A rendering of the Cislunar Explorers CubeSat separating after deployment. (Credit: Kyle Doyle)
A rendering of the Cislunar Explorers CubeSat separating after deployment. (Credit: Kyle Doyle)

By Tom Fleischman

A satellite propelled by the Earth’s most abundant natural resource? Yes, it’s true.

Cislunar Explorers, a team of Cornell graduate and undergraduate students guided by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is attempting to boldly go where no CubeSat team has gone before: around the moon.

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