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NIAC Phase I Award: Solar Surfing

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 29, 2017
Filed under , ,

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


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