NIAC Funds Advanced Propulsion Projects

Mach Effects for In Space Propulsion: Interstellar Mission. (Credit: Heidi Fearn)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently funded six proposals focused on futuristic propulsion systems for missions to Pluto, Venus and other solar systems.

There were four Phase I proposals that are worth approximately $125,000 apiece over nine months. NIAC also funded two Phase II proposals that are worth $500,000 each for two-year investigations.

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NIAC Phase I Grant: Gradient Field Imploding Liner Fusion Propulsion System

Gradient Field Imploding Liner Fusion Propulsion System. (Credit: Michael LaPointe)

Gradient Field Imploding Liner Fusion Propulsion System

Michael LaPointe
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, Ala.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

An innovative modification to magneto-inertial fusion is proposed in which the pulsed, high current magnetic field coil and stationary central fuel target are replaced with a fast moving fusion fuel target fired axially into a static, high gradient magnetic field. As the target passes through the magnetic field gradient it effectively experiences a rapidly changing axial magnetic field, which induces strong azimuthal currents in the target liner to implode the fuel and reach fusion conditions.Among other advantages, eliminating the need to pulse the magnetic field coil allows the use of energy efficient superconducting coils in a geometry that more naturally lends itself to in-space propulsion.

If successful, the proposed concept will substantially reduce Mars trip times and enable a robust architecture for human solar system exploration.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

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Major Review Completed for New SLS Exploration Upper Stage

Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has successfully completed the exploration upper stage (EUS) preliminary design review for the powerful Space Launch System rocket. The detailed assessment is a big step forward in being ready for more capable human and robotic missions to deep space, including the first crewed flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft in 2021.

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Trump Adds Commercial Space Advocate to NASA Transition Team

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President elect Donald Trump has named commercial space backer Charles Miller to the NASA landing team amid reports that similar minded advocates will be added to transition group.

Miller is president of NexGen Space LLC, a company that advises clients on commercial, civil and national security space.  He previously served as NASA’s senior advisor for commercial space.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump officials are also working on appointing Alan Stern, chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and Alan Lindenmoyer, who formerly managed NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program. Both nominations are in the process of being vetted for conflicts of interest.

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NASA OSIRIS-REx Mission to Search for Rare Asteroids

In February 2017, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will undertake a search for Earth-Trojan asteroids while on its outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu. Earth Trojans are asteroids that share an orbit with Earth while remaining near a stable point 60 degrees in front of or behind the planet. (Credit: University of Arizona/Heather Roper)
In February 2017, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will undertake a search for Earth-Trojan asteroids while on its outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu. Earth Trojans are asteroids that share an orbit with Earth while remaining near a stable point 60 degrees in front of or behind the planet. (Credit: University of Arizona/Heather Roper)
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first mission to return a sample of an asteroid to Earth will be multitasking during its two-year outbound cruise to the asteroid Bennu. On Feb. 9-20, the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security– Regolith Explorer) spacecraft will activate its onboard camera suite and commence a search for elusive “Trojan” asteroids.

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New Research Hardware Delivered to ISS by Cygnus

casis_new_logoWALLOPS ISLAND, VA., October 24, 2016 (CASIS PR) The most recent series of payloads berthed with the International Space Station (ISS)Sunday morning onboard the Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule. Many of the investigations launched from Wallops Island, VA onboard the Antares rocket are sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is tasked by NASA with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Laboratory for the benefit of Earth.

Below provides a summary of the ISS National Laboratory-sponsored payloads delivered today:

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Versatile Chemistry for the Red Planet

Experiment sample trays on MISSE-8 attached to the exterior of the International Space Station in 2013. These trays held the ionic liquid epoxy samples that could help build composite cryogenic tanks for future spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)
Experiment sample trays on MISSE-8 attached to the exterior of the International Space Station in 2013. These trays held the ionic liquid epoxy samples that could help build composite cryogenic tanks for future spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — When you need tools or parts for something you’re working on around the house, you head to the nearest hardware store. Space travelers don’t have that luxury and may have to make their own tools and parts on long duration missions like the journey to Mars. Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are using data from International Space Station experiments to study liquids that may be used to help make valuable tools when exploring deep space.

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NASA to Map Surface of Asteroid

By Sarah Schlieder
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will launch September 2016 and travel to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu to harvest a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The science team will be looking for something special. Ideally, the sample will come from a region in which the building blocks of life may be found.

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Space Station Crew 3-D Prints First Student-Designed Tool in Space

The Mulitpurpose Precision Maintenance Tool, created by University of Alabama in Huntsville student Robert Hillan as part of the Future Engineers Space Tool Challenge, was printed on the International Space Station. It is designed to provide astronauts with a single tool that can help with a variety of tasks, including tightening nuts or bolts of different sizes and stripping wires. (Credit: NASA)
The Mulitpurpose Precision Maintenance Tool, created by University of Alabama in Huntsville student Robert Hillan as part of the Future Engineers Space Tool Challenge, was printed on the International Space Station. It is designed to provide astronauts with a single tool that can help with a variety of tasks, including tightening nuts or bolts of different sizes and stripping wires. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — When NASA fired up the Additive Manufacturing Facility on the International Space Station to begin more testing of the emerging 3-D printing technology in orbit, one college student in particular watched intently.

In autumn of 2014, a high school senior in Enterprise, Alabama, Robert Hillan entered the Future Engineers Space Tool design competition, which challenged students to create a device astronauts could use in space. The catch was that it must upload electronically and print on the new 3-D printer that was going to be installed on the orbiting laboratory.

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NASA Challenge Aims to Grow Human Tissue to Aid in Deep Space Exploration

A stack of active tissue culture flasks in a temperature controlled compartment. (Credit: NASA)
A stack of active tissue culture flasks in a temperature controlled compartment. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA, in partnership with the nonprofit Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance, is seeking ways to advance the field of bioengineering through a new prize competition.

The Vascular Tissue Challenge offers a $500,000 prize to be divided among the first three teams that successfully create thick, metabolically-functional human vascularized organ tissue in a controlled laboratory environment.

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NASA’s Marshall Center Simulates the Solar and Space Environment to Further Exploration

Todd Schneider adjusts the light hitting a sample inside the High Intensity Solar Environment Test system chamber at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Three pressurized xenon arc lamps in polished reflectors, at the right of the chamber behind a smoked gray polycarbonate shield, can beam simulated sunlight through ports in HISET's door. This is the only place on Earth that can, at the same time, subject spacecraft materials or systems to the vacuum, temperatures, solar photons and the electrons and protons of solar winds like they will encounter in space. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)
Todd Schneider adjusts the light hitting a sample inside the High Intensity Solar Environment Test system chamber at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Three pressurized xenon arc lamps in polished reflectors, at the right of the chamber behind a smoked gray polycarbonate shield, can beam simulated sunlight through ports in HISET’s door. This is the only place on Earth that can, at the same time, subject spacecraft materials or systems to the vacuum, temperatures, solar photons and the electrons and protons of solar winds like they will encounter in space. (Credits: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Inside inconspicuous Building 4605 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Todd Schneider is preparing to switch on the sun.

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NASA Looks to Commercialize Solar Sail Technology

A concept image of the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout mission, one of 11 missions that will be secondary payloads to the first test flight of NASA's Space Launch System. (Credit: NASA)
A concept image of the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout mission, one of 11 missions that will be secondary payloads to the first test flight of NASA’s Space Launch System. (Credit: NASA)

NASA CubeSat-Scale Solar Sail for Space Propulsion
Solicitation Number: NNM16042116
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Office: Marshall Space Flight Center
Location: Office of Procurement

Introduction

A cubesat-scale solar sail propulsion system is being developed at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center to provide propulsion for a 6U interplanetary CubeSat to be used for the Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEAS) project. NASA MSFC desires for the solar sail technology and design being developed for the NEAS mission to be commercially available after the completion and delivery of the flight system hardware in 2018. To further that goal, NASA MSFC seeks to provide the solar sail propulsion system design to interested commercial entities. It is anticipated that there may be follow-on missions using the NEA Scout sail system following successful completion of the NEA Scout project.

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Profile of NASA Launch Vehicle Deputy Manager Dayna Ise

Dayna Ise (Credit: NASA)
Dayna Ise (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — American-built rockets will soon once again launch astronauts from American soil, and Dayna Ise, an engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is excited to be part of the program making this possible.

Ise, deputy manager of the Launch Vehicle Office in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said working at the dawn of a new generation of human spaceflight brings intensity in a number of areas.

“Of all the projects I have been part of with NASA in my 15 years, this is easily the work I am most proud of,” said Ise, who started her career working on space shuttle main engines. “I joined the team early on, almost five years ago, and it’s been fun to see it grow. It’s exciting to be part of program that will launch astronauts to the space station from American soil and allow NASA more resources for exploration deeper into our solar system.”

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Profile of NASA Launch Vehicle Chief Engineer Dan Dorney

Dan Dorney (Credit: NASA)
Dan Dorney (Credit: NASA)

By Bill Hubscher,
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA’s Dan Dorney has never been afraid to think big.

As a 7-year-old boy growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1969, Dorney watched the Apollo 11 moon landing from his living room and decided he needed to build his own rocket. He sent a letter to NASA asking how to do that. Much to his parents’ surprise, he got a response – NASA sent him plans to build a simple model rocket. Which he immediately rejected.

“I wanted the real wiring schematics and engine plans,” Dorney says. “I wanted to build my own life-size rocket to go to the moon. I was ready to be an aerospace engineer.”

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NASA Begins Testing of Revolutionary E-Sail Technology

In this concept, long, very thin, bare wires construct the large, circular E-Sail that would electrostatically repel the fast moving solar protons. The momentum exchange produced as the protons are repelled by the positively charged wires would create the spacecraft’s thrust. (Credit: NASA/MSFC)
In this concept, long, very thin, bare wires construct the large, circular E-Sail that would electrostatically repel the fast moving solar protons. The momentum exchange produced as the protons are repelled by the positively charged wires would create the spacecraft’s thrust. (Credit: NASA/MSFC)

HUNSTVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Testing has started at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on a concept for a potentially revolutionary propulsion system that could send spacecraft to the edge of our solar system, the heliopause, faster than ever before.

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