NIAC Phase I Award: Solar Surfing

Solar Surfing (Credit: Robert Youngquist)

Solar Surfing

Robert Youngquist
NASA Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

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

Description

We propose to develop a novel high temperature coating that will reflect up to 99.9 % of the Sun’s total irradiance, roughly a factor of 80 times better than the current state-of-the-art. This will be accomplished by leveraging off of our low temperature coating, currently being developed under NIAC funding.

We will modify our existing models to determine an optimal high temperature solar reflector, predict its performance, and construct a prototype version of this coating. This prototype will be sent to our partner at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory where it will be tested in an 11 times solar simulator.

The results of this modeling/testing will be used to design a mission to the Sun, where we hope to come to within one solar radius of the Sun’s surface, 8 times closer than the closest distance planned for the upcoming Solar Probe Plus. This project will substantially advance the current capabilities of solar thermal protection systems, not only potentially allowing “Solar Surfing”, but allowing better thermal control of a future mission to Mercury.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

Save

Save

Save

Save

NIAC Phase I Award: Turbolift

Turbolift to assist astronauts on long duration space exploration missions. (Credit: Jason Gruber)

Turbolift

Jason Gruber
Medical Solutions Group
Tampa, Fla.

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

Description

Long duration space exploration missions cause astronauts to experience physiological deconditioning, including bone loss, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular deconditioning, sensorimotor/balance impairment, and vision changes.

For a crewed Mars mission, where microgravity and reduced gravity (e.g. 0.38 G on the Martian surface) exposure may occur for 2+ years, deconditioning impacts the astronauts’ health, well-being, effectiveness, and safety.

Here, we propose a novel linear artificial gravity (AG) technology designed to counteract these deleterious effects on the astronauts. Previous “centrifuge” AG systems have negative impacts due to the constant rotating environment:

1) Coriolis forces, which may be confusing and limit concurrent exercise or lead to injury,

2) vestibular crosscoupling illusions, which are highly provocative and cause motion sickness, and

3) gravity gradients, where the loading varying along the length of the astronauts body. Alternatively, our linear AG technology (termed “Turbolift”) suffers from none of these confounding problems, particularly during the acceleration/deceleration “loading” phases.

Briefly, the conceptual paradigm is as follows: the astronaut is linearly accelerated at 1G for ~1s, then is rotated 180 degrees to prepare for a 1G deceleration for ~1s. This process is repeated to create intermittent AG where the force is always headward similar to standing here on Earth.

The experience is likely to be analogous to bouncing mildly on a trampoline. The intermittent loading is intended to reduce or eliminate the physiological deconditioning in a comprehensive, multi-system manner.

To evaluate the linear AG technology, we aim to perform an engineering design analysis to quantify the required size and mass of the system. We also aim to design a scale model of the system to test its feasibility, such that it can be properly evaluated as countermeasure system to enable long duration crewed exploration missions.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

NIAC Phase I Award: Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of Exoplanets

Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission. (Credit: Slava Turyshev)

Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission

Slava Turyshev
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

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

Description

We propose to study a mission to the deep regions outside the solar system that will exploit the remarkable optical properties of the Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL) focus to effectively build an astronomical telescope capable of direct megapixel high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of a potentially habitable exoplanet. Although theoretically it seems feasible, the engineering aspects of building such an astronomical telescope on the large scales involved were not addressed before; we propose to do that.

Our main question for this study is not “how to get there?” (although it will also be addressed), but rather “what does it take to operate a spacecraft at such enormous distances with the needed precision?”

Specifically, we propose to study I) how a space mission to the focal region of the SGL may be used to obtain high-resolution direct imaging and spectroscopy of an exoplanet by detecting, tracking, and studying the Einstein’s ring around the Sun, and II) how such information could be used to unambiguously detect and study life on another planet.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

NIAC Projects Target Mars, Venus & Pluto

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump mission. (Credit: Benjamin Goldman)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An airship for Mars, two spacecraft capable of exploring the hellish environment of Venus, and a fusion-powered orbiter and lander for Pluto are three of the planetary-related research projects recently funded by theNASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

In all, NIAC funded eight advanced projects focused on Mars, Venus and Pluto in its latest annual funding round. The space agency also funded two proposals aimed at identifying and extracting resources on planets, moons and asteroids.
(more…)

NIAC Phase I Award: Pluto Hop, Skip & Jump

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump mission. (Credit: Benjamin Goldman)

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump

Benjamin Goldman
Global Aerospace Corporation
Irwindale, Calif.

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

Description

Imagine a craft that could enter Pluto’s atmosphere at 14 km/s and deliver a 200 kg lander to the surface using aerodynamic drag and just a few kg of propellant.

Pluto’s surface pressure is just 10 millionths of Earth’s, but its atmosphere is about 7 times higher than Earth’s and its volume is about 350 times the volume of Pluto itself. Over a several hundred kilometer entry distance, this ultra-low ballistic coefficient craft can dissipate over 99.999% of its initial kinetic energy, resulting in a terminal velocity comparable to or less than past planetary landers or rovers.

With this architecture, the total propellant requirement for landing on Pluto is less than 3.5 kg! After making science measurements at its initial landing site, the lander switches to “hopper” mode, taking advantage of the low gravitational acceleration (0.063 gee) and a modest propellant store to literally hop, skip, and jump around the surface, sometimes kilometers at a time, investigating features of interest.

The proposed concept would enable in-situ surface science at Pluto with low overall mass, a reasonable cost, and in a timeframe of about 10-15 years.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

Save

Save

Save

Save

NIAC Phase I Award: Detoxifying & Enriching Martian Soil for Agriculture

Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture (Credit: Adam Arkin)

A Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture

Adam Arkin
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.

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

Description

Although the theoretical case for space biological engineering is convincing, since recent studies on the use of biology in space showed substantial payload minimization over abiotic approaches even before any engineering, the functioning of these biological technologies has yet to be proven in a space-like environment.

(more…)

NIAC Phase I Award: Phobos L1 Tether Experiment

Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment (Credit: Kevin Kempton)

Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment (PHLOTE)

Kevin Kempton
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, Va.

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

Description

A sensor package that “floats” just above the surface of Phobos, suspended by a tether from a small spacecraft operating at the Mars/Phobos Lagrange 1 (L1) Point would offer exciting opportunities for science (SMD), for human exploration (HEOMD) and for advancements in space technology (STMD).

(more…)

NIAC Phase I Award: Direct Dark Energy Probe

Direct probe of dark energy interactions with a solar system laboratory. (Credit: Nan Yu)

A Direct Probe of Dark Energy Interactions with a Solar System Laboratory

Nan Yu
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

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

Description

We propose a mission concept for direct detection of dark energy interactions with normal matter in a Solar System laboratory. Dark energy is the leading proposal to answer the question of the accelerated expansion of the Universe. This interaction must be highly suppressed to be consistent with the gravity measurements and observations we have so far, but can be probed with specifically designed experiments.

By flying unscreened atomic particles through special gravitational field regions in the Solar System and conducting double differential measurements to isolate possible dark energy interaction with the atoms, we will stand a chance to achieve a direction detection of dark energy, akin to direct detection of dark matter and gravitational waves. This could lead to a fundamental shift in our understanding of fundamental physics and our universe, stimulating a wide variety of foundational research in cosmology and particle physics.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

NIAC Phase I Award: Continuous Electrode Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion

Continuous Electrode Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion (Credit: Raymond Sedwick)

Continuous Electrode Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion

Raymond Sedwick
University of Maryland, College Park
College Park, Md.

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

Description

NASA recognizes within its roadmaps (specifically TA 3.1.6) that development of aneutronic fusion (such as p-11B) reactors with direct energy conversion (>80%) would be an enabling technology to achieve low specific mass (kg/kW) through the elimination of shielding and potentially the need for dedicated radiators. In addition, material activation due to neutron capture could be avoided.

(more…)

NIAC Phase II Award: Automaton Rover for Extreme Environment

Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (Credit: Jonathan Sauder)

Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE)

Jonathan Sauder
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

Amount: up to $500,000
Length of Study: 2 years

Description

Extreme environments abound in the solar system and include the radiation around Jupiter, high surface temperatures on Mercury and Venus, and hot, high pressure environments occurring deep beneath any active planet’s surface.

Generally, the most environmentally sensitive components of a rover or spacecraft are the electronics, which will fail in heat, stop operating in extreme cold, or experience upsets when bombarded with radiation.

(more…)

NIAC Phase I Award: Evacuated Airship for Mars Missions

Evacuated Airship for Mars Missions (Credit: John-Paul Clarke)

Evacuated Airship for Mars Missions

John-Paul Clarke
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Ga.

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

Description

We propose to overcome some of the limitations of current technologies for Mars exploration and even extend current operational capabilities by introducing the concept of a vacuum airship. This concept is similar to a standard balloon, whereas a balloon uses helium or hydrogen to displace air and provide lift, a vacuum airship uses a rigid structure to maintain a vacuum to displace air and provide lift.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

NIAC Phase II Award: Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion

Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion (Credit: Ratnakumar Bugga)

Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion (VIP-INSPR)

Ratnakumar Bugga
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

Amount: up to $500,000
Length of Study: 2 years

Description

Venus, despite being our closest neighboring planet, is under-explored due to its hostile environment. The atmosphere is composed primarily of CO2, with a 92 bar pressure and 467°C temperature at the surface. The temperature decreases at higher altitudes, approaching conditions similar to that of Earth’s surface at 65km.

(more…)

NIAC Awards Take Aim at Asteroid Mining, ISRU

Asteroid Itokawa (Credit: JAXA)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded five grants for the development of new technologies for analyzing asteroids, extracting resources from them, and using the materials for new space products.

(more…)

Aerospace Corporation Wins NIAC Award for Debris Removing Brane Craft

Brane Craft Phase II concept (Credit: Siegfried Janson)

El SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) – NASA has awarded Dr. Siegfried Janson of The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace), a leader in space technology and game-changing innovation, with the 2017 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase II grant award, worth approximately $500,000, for further development of his Brane Craft flat spacecraft proposal.

(more…)