NIAC Award: Bioinspired Ray for Venus Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration

Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration (Credit: Javid Bayandor)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

BREEZE- Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration
Javid Bayandor
State University of New York

The Bio-inspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration (BREEZE) combines inflatable structures with bio-inspired kinematics to create a highly efficient flier to explore the Venus atmosphere. This flier would take data while below the main cloud layer at approximately 50 km and re-charge using solar panels in the middle atmosphere at approximately 60+ km.

Tensioning cables would control the volume to allow the craft to rise and fall in the atmosphere. The bio-inspired kinematics will maximize flight efficiency while allowing a so-far unattained degree of control for a small inflatable flier in the upper atmosphere of Venus.

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NIAC Award: Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration

SPEAR Probe (Credit: Tory Howe)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

SPEAR Probe – An Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration
Troy Howe
Howe Industries LLC

Nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) systems have the potential to provide a very effective transit mechanism to celestial bodies outside of the realm of solar power, yet the heavy power source and massive radiators required to justify a reactor core often push NEP spacecraft towards very large masses and major missions. If the total mass of an NEP system could be reduced to levels that were able to be launched on smaller vehicles, these devices could deliver scientific payloads to anywhere in the solar system.

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NIAC Award: Ripcord Innovative Power System

Ripcord Innovative Power System (Credit: Noam Izenberg)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

RIPS: Ripcord Innovative Power System
Noam Izenberg
Johns Hopkins University

Descent probe or lander power is a key resource for planetary exploration, and is a particular challenge where solar power is difficult to utilize efficiently and alternative power sources are expensive, risky, or complex. Short duration, battery powered probes have successfully landed and returned data from the surfaces of cloud-shrouded Venus.

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NIAC Award: Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope

Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (Credit; Tom Ditto)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (DUET)
Tom Ditto
3DeWitt LLC

The Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (DUET) advances NASA’s discovery missions to find and characterize exo-planetary systems. The novel telescope design has the ability to detect exoplanets both indirectly (with radial velocity and astrometry techniques) and directly with advanced spectroscopy. DUET has an annulus gossamer membrane holographic primary objective that has four times the collection area and twice the diameter of the largest planned ground telescopes, yet its mass and stowage allow it to be delivered on a single lifter.

Unlike competing exoplanet finders, DUET does not require a coronagraph or star shade. It subtracts the parent star by taking advantage of the differences between the wavelengths of the star and its planets as a function of the distances between them. This is made possible by using a dual dispersion technique first studied by Newton in his famous prism experiment. In this telescope, wavelength is proportional to the distance of an exoplanet from its parent star.

The mission will result in a census of planets on half of all visible stars. In the “neighborhood” of earth, DUET will make spectrographic characterizations. DUET will deliver a positive signal for any water bearing planets using a Rayleigh scattering method in the near UV that in our solar system is unique to earth. Earth may be a “pale blue dot,” but in the near-UV it is luminescent. Such a signal for an exoplanet on an A, F or G class main sequence star would point to Earth 2.0.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

NIAC Award: Power Beaming for Long Life Venus Surface Missions

Power beaming for long life Venus surface missions (Credit: Erik Brandon)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Power Beaming for Long Life Venus Surface Missions
Erik Brandon
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

A new approach to support long duration Venus surface missions will be investigated, which will address the difficult challenge of surface power generation in such an extreme environment. The key mission concept centers on the use of a dual vehicle architecture—one vehicle is a high altitude platform that provides power generation in the more forgiving upper atmosphere of Venus, the other vehicle being a lander that stores and uses the generated power to execute the mission. These two spacecraft (and spacecraft functions) are tied together via an innovative power beaming system.

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NIAC Award: Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies

Thermal mining of ices on cold solar system bodies (Credit: George Sowers)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phae I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies
George Sowers
Colorado School of Mines

Innovation

  • Applying heat directly to frozen volatile bearing materials allows extraction of the volatile without the cost, mass and complexity of excavation.
  • Heat is applied directly to the surface in the form of redirected sunlight or subsurface via conducting rods or heaters emplaced in boreholes.
  • Vapor is captured within a dome-like tent and refrozen in cold traps for processing.

Technical Approach

  • Colorado School of Mines brings its world renowned expertise in terrestrial resource extraction to space.
  • We will explore locations throughout the solar system where Thermal Mining might be applicable.
  • We will develop a detailed mission scenario for the use of Thermal Mining for lunar water extraction.
  • We will test the effectiveness of various Thermal Mining techniques in our cryogenic vacuum chamber.

Potential & Benefits

  • Estimates for extracting water from the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon show Thermal Mining can produce industrial quantities of water (for propellant) for 60% less mass and energy than excavation.
  • Volatiles have many uses for space exploration and space commerce.
  • Propellant from lunar polar ice will lower all transportation costs beyond low Earth orbit by factors from three to seventy.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

NIAC Award: Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator for Active Debris Removal

Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON) for active debris removal. (Credit: John Slough)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON) for Active Debris Removal
John Slough
MSNW LLC

As of January 2018 an estimated 8,100 tons of space debris has accumulated in low Earth orbit consisting of spent rocket bodies, mission-related debris, and collision fragments. The vast majority of these objects are too small to detect with radar systems, but there are over 29,000 known objects larger than 10 cm. Impacts between these objects and operating missions have damaged costly equipment, required expensive collision avoidance maneuvers, and endangered the lives of astronauts on the international space station.

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NIAC Award — Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost

Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (Credit: Joel Sercel)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO): Affordable Exploration and Industrialization
Joel Sercel
TransAstra Corporation

The Lunar Polar Gas-Dynamic Mining Outpost (LGMO) (see quad chart graphic) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon. LGMO is based on two new innovations that together solve the problem of affordable lunar polar ice mining for propellant production.

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NIAC Award — SmartSuit Mobile EVA Spacesuit for Next Generation Exploration Missions

SmartSuit (Credit; Ana Diaz Artiles)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

SmartSuit: A Hybrid, Intelligent, and Highly Mobile EVA Spacesuit for Next Generation Exploration Missions
Ana Diaz Artiles
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

We propose a novel spacesuit intelligent architecture for extravehicular activity (EVA) operations on Mars and other planetary environments that increases human performance by an order of magnitude on several quantifiable fronts for exploration missions. The proposed SmartSuit spacesuit, while gas-pressurized, also incorporates soft-robotics technology that allows astronauts to be highly mobile and better interact with their surroundings.

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NIAC Award: Micro-Probes Propelled & Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity

Creditr: Yu Gu/Kansas National Geographic

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Micro-Probes Propelled and Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity (MP4AE)
Yu Gu
West Virginia University

Inspired by spiders’ ballooning capabilities, the proposed concept envision the deployment of thousands of micro probes to study planetary atmospheres. Each micro probe, with a total mass of about 50 mg, will have a small payload pod hanging under a 200 m long string loop, which provides both atmospheric drag and electrostatic lifts. Two electric booms each about 2.5 m long will sense the Atmospheric Potential Gradient (APG) and harvest a small amount of electricity for powering the probe.

The payload pod will contain energy storage and conversion devices, an actuator for replenishing and regulating the static electric charge on the string loop, and integrated microprocessor, radio, and sensors. The motions of the micro probes will be uncontrolled along the horizontal directions but can be regulated to a limited degree along the vertical direction.

The onboard control system will allow extending the mission time and increasing the probability of keeping the probe in the desired atmospheric layer. If successful, the proposed micro probes can support several future planetary missions by gaining large spatial-scale atmospheric sensing capabilities.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

NIAC Award: Power for Interstellar Fly-by

Power for interstellar fly-bys. (Credit: Geoffrey Landis)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Geoffrey Landis
NASA Glenn Research Center

Launching ultra-miniature probes to fly past an exoplanet a nearby star using a laser-pushed sail is now being seriously discussed as a mission, primarily by the “Breakthrough Starshot” program. An interstellar probe will require power for both observations and communications when it reaches the target exoplanet system… but the proposed mission gives a mass allocation that is milligrams, far less than the mass of any real-world power system. We propose harvesting power from the motion of the spacecraft as it passes through the target system’s ambient environment.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

NIAC Award: Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries

Small satellites for exploring the Solar System’s boundaries. (Credit: Robert Staehle)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries
Robert Staehle
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Overview: New Horizons, Voyager 1 & 2, and Pioneer 10 & 11 are the only spacecraft to venture beyond Saturn’s orbit. Each weighed >250 kg (some >>250 kg), cost >FY19$300 M, and required operations teams with 10s of people. All required radioisotope power to operate at Jupiter and beyond. We propose a completely different approach for focused heliospheric science investigations to 125 AU, and potentially farther beyond the heliopause, without need for radioisotopes and their long, expensive launch approval process.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector

Solar neutrino spacecraft detector (Credit: Nickolas Solomey)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

A small scaled-down neutrino detector prototype is proposed to be built and tested in the lab that provides the means to mature the measurement technique and detector technology for an eventual spaceflight probe mission for detecting neutrinos in close orbit of the Sun. The detector will be based upon design studies from the NIAC Phase-I work.

With the intensity of solar neutrinos substantially greater in a close solar orbit than on the Earth only a small 250 kg detector with proper shielding and surrounding veto array is needed to perform equal to a 3,000 ton detector on Earth. In addition, solar neutrino detector will be able to do unique science not obtainable by an Earth based experiment.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions

Self-guided beamed propulsion (Credit: Chris Limbach)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions
Chris Limbach
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

New and revolutionary propulsion systems are needed to undertake challenging long-distance missions, such as to the Kuiper belt, Oort cloud and nearby stellar systems. We propose an innovative beamed propulsion architecture that would enable interstellar missions to Proxima Centauri b at nearly 10% the speed of light.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Solar Surfing

Solar surfing (Credit: Doug Willard)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Solar Surfing
Doug Willard
NASA Kennedy Space Center

In 2018 the Parker Solar Probe launched, planning to approach the Sun to within 8.5 solar radii of its surface. This is seven times closer than any previous mission, allowing first-time particle, radiation, and magnetic field measurements of the Sun’s corona. The Parker Solar Probe utilizes a solar shield comprising a lightly-coated carbon composite layer on top of four inches of carbon foam. However, the temperature limits of the shield restrict the closest approach distance.

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