NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts

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The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is a NASA program for development of far reaching, long term advanced concepts by "creating breakthroughs, radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts".[1] The program operated under the name NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts from 1998 until 2007 (managed by the Universities Space Research Association on behalf of NASA), and continued under the name NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts from 2011 to present. The NIAC program funds work on revolutionary aeronautics and space concepts that can dramatically impact how NASA develops and conducts its missions.

NIAC History[edit]

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) was a NASA-funded program that was operated by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) for NASA from 1998 until its closure on 31 August 2007. NIAC was to serve as "an independent open forum, a high-level point of entry to NASA for an external community of innovators, and an external capability for analysis and definition of advanced aeronautics and space concepts to complement the advanced concept activities conducted within NASA."[2] NIAC sought proposals for revolutionary aeronautics and space concepts that could dramatically impact how NASA developed and conducted its missions. It provided a highly visible, recognizable, and high-level entry point for outside thinkers and researchers. NIAC encouraged proposers to think decades into the future in pursuit of concepts that would "leapfrog" the evolution of contemporary aerospace systems. While NIAC sought advanced concept proposals that stretch the imagination, these concepts were expected to be based on sound scientific principles and attainable within a 10 to 40-year time frame. From February 1998 to 2007, NIAC received a total of 1,309 proposals and awarded 126 Phase I grants and 42 Phase II contracts for a total value of $27.3 million.[3]

NASA announced on March 1, 2011 that the NIAC concept would be re-established at NASA with similar goals,[4][5] maintaining the acronym NIAC.

NIAC 1998–2007[edit]

Studies funded by the original NIAC 1998–2007 include

Closing of the Original NIAC[edit]

On July 2, 2007, NIAC announced that "NASA, faced with the constraints of achieving the Vision for Space Exploration, has made the difficult decision to terminate NIAC, which has been funded by NASA since inception. Effective August 31, 2007, the original NIAC organization ceased operations.[6]

Revised NIAC[edit]

Following the termination of the original NIAC program, Congress requested a review of the NIAC program by the United States National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences.[7] The review was done in 2009, and concluded that in order to achieve its mission, NASA needs "a mechanism to investigate visionary, far-reaching advanced concepts," and recommended that NIAC, or a NIAC-like program, should be reestablished.[2] Consistent with this recommendation, it was announced on March 1, 2011 that the NIAC was to be revived with similar goals[4] leading to the establishment in 2011 of a project within the NASA Office of Chief Technologist, the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts,[5] maintaining the acronym NIAC. It is now part of the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)[8]

According to Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program, "Through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, NASA is taking the long-term view of technological investment and the advancement that is essential for accomplishing our missions. We are inventing the ways in which next-generation aircraft and spacecraft will change the world and inspiring Americans to take bold steps."[9]

2011 NIAC Project Selections[edit]

The revived NIAC, with the slightly-changed name "NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts," funded thirty phase-I studies in 2011 to investigate advanced concepts.[10][11]

  • Duda, Kevin: Variable Vector Countermeasure Suit (V2Suit) for Space Habitation and Exploration
  • Ferguson, Scott: Enabling All-Access Mobility for Planetary Exploration Vehicles via Transformative Reconfiguration
  • Gilland, James: The Potential for Ambient Plasma Wave Propulsion
  • Gregory, Daniel: Space Debris Elimination (SpaDE)
  • Hogue, Michael: Regolith Derived Heat Shield for a Planetary Body Entry and Descent System with In-Situ Fabrication
  • Hohman, Kurt: Atmospheric Breathing Electric Thruster for Planetary Exploration
  • Howe, Steven: Economical Radioisotope Power
  • Khoshnevis, Behrokh: Contour Crafting Simulation Plan for Lunar Settlement Infrastructure Build-Up
  • Kwiat, Paul: Entanglement-assisted Communication System for NASA's Deep-Space Missions: Feasibility Test and Conceptual Design
  • Mankins, John: SPS-ALPHA: The First Practical Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array
  • Miller, David: High-temperature Superconductors as Electromagnetic Deployment and Support Structures in Spacecraft
  • Paul, Michael: Non-Radioisotope Power Systems For Sunless Solar System Exploration Missions
  • Pavone, Marco: Spacecraft/Rover Hybrids for the Exploration of Small Solar System Bodies
  • Ritter, Joe: Ultra-Light "Photonic Muscle" Space Structures
  • Scott, Gregory: Low Power Microrobotics Utilizing Biologically Inspired Energy Generation
  • Short, Kendra: Printable Spacecraft
  • Sibille, Laurent: In-Space Propulsion Engine Architecture based on Sublimation of Planetary Resources: from exploration robots to NEO mitigation
  • Silvera, Isaac: Metallic Hydrogen: A Game Changing Rocket Propellant
  • Slough, John: Nuclear Propulsion through Direct Conversion of Fusion Energy
  • Staehle, Robert: Interplanetary CubeSats: Opening the Solar System to a Broad Community at Lower Cost
  • Strekalov, Dmitry: Ghost Imaging of Space Objects
  • Stysley, Paul: Laser-Based Optical Trap for Remote Sampling of Interplanetary and Atmospheric Particulate Matter
  • Swartzlander, Grover: Steering of Solar Sails Using Optical Lift Force
  • Tarditi, Alfonso: Aneutronic Fusion Spacecraft Architecture
  • Thibeault, Sheila: Radiation Shielding Materials Containing Hydrogen, Boron, and Nitrogen: Systematic Computational and Experimental Study
  • Tripathi, Ram: Meeting the Grand Challenge of Protecting Astronaut's Health: Electrostatic Active Space Radiation Shielding for Deep Space Missions
  • Werka, Robert: Proposal for a Concept Assessment of a Fission Fragment Rocket Engine (FFRE) Propelled Spacecraft
  • Westover, Shayne: Radiation Protection and Architecture Utilizing High Temperature Superconducting Magnets
  • Whittaker, William: Technologies Enabling Exploration of Skylights, Lava Tubes and Caves
  • Wie, Bong: Optimal Dispersion of Near-Earth Objects

2012 NIAC Project Selections[edit]

In August 2012, NIAC announced[12] selection of 18 new phase-I proposals, along with Phase-II grants for continuation of 10 projects selected in earlier solicitations.[9] These include many projects ranging from Landsailing rovers on Venus[13] to schemes to explore under the ice of Europa.[14] Phase I projects selected were:[15]

  • Agogino, Adrian: Super Ball Bot - Structures for Planetary Landing and Exploration
  • Arrieta, Juan: The Regolith Biters: A Divide-And-Conquer Architecture for Sample-Return Missions
  • Cohen, Marc: Robotic Asteroid Prospector (RAP) Staged from L-1: Start of the Deep Space Economy
  • Ditto, Thomas: HOMES - Holographic Optical Method for Exoplanet Spectroscopy
  • Flynn, Michael: Water Walls: Highly Reliable and Massively Redundant Life Support Architecture
  • Gellett, Wayne: Solid State Air Purification System
  • Hoyt, Robert: NanoTHOR: Low-Cost Launch of Nanosatellites to Deep Space
  • Hoyt, Robert: SpiderFab: Process for On-Orbit Construction of Kilometer-Scale Apertures
  • Kirtley, David: A Plasma Aerocapture and Entry System for Manned Missions and Planetary Deep Space Orbiters
  • Landis, Geoffrey: Venus Landsailing Rover
  • Lantoine, Gregory: MAGNETOUR: Surfing Planetary Systems on Electromagnetic and Multi-Body Gravity Fields
  • McCue, Leigh: Exploration of Under-Ice Regions with Ocean Profiling Agents (EUROPA)
  • Nosanov, Jeffrey: Solar System Escape Architecture for Revolutionary Science (SSEARS)
  • Predina, Joseph: NIST in Space: Better Remote Sensors for Better Science
  • Quadrelli, Marco: Orbiting Rainbows: Optical Manipulation of Aerosols and the Beginnings of Future Space Construction
  • Saif, Babak: Atom Interferometry for detection of Gravity Waves-a
  • Winglee, Robert: Sample Return Systems for Extreme Environments
  • Zha, GeCheng: Silent and Efficient Supersonic Bi-Directional Flying Wing

2013 NIAC Project Selections[edit]

In 2013 NIAC conducted a third solicitation for proposals, with projects to start in the summer of 2013.[16] NASA selected 12 phase-I projects with a wide range of imaginative concepts, including 3-D printing of biomaterials, such as arrays of cells; using galactic rays to map the insides of asteroids; and an "eternal flight" platform that could hover in Earth's atmosphere, potentially providing better imaging, Wi-Fi, power generation, and other applications.[17] They selected 6 phase II projects, including photonic laser thrusters, extreme sample return, and innovative spherical robots designed for planetary exploration.[18]

Phase I selections were:[19]

  • Adams, Rob: Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System
  • Bradford, John: Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitat For Human Stasis To Mars
  • Hemmati, Hamid: Two-Dimensional Planetary Surface Landers
  • Jerred, Nathan: Dual-mode Propulsion System Enabling CubeSat Exploration of the Solar System
  • Longman, Anthony: Growth Adapted Tensegrity Structures - A New Calculus for the Space Economy
  • Moore, Mark: Eternal Flight as the Solution for 'X'
  • Prettyman, Thomas: Deep Mapping of Small Solar System Bodies with Galactic Cosmic Ray Secondary Particle Showers
  • Rothschild, Lynn: Biomaterials out of thin air: in situ, on-demand printing of advanced biocomposites
  • Rovey, Joshua: Plasmonic Force Propulsion Revolutionizes Nano/PicoSatellite Capability
  • Stoica, Adrian: Transformers For Extreme Environments

2014 NIAC Project Selections[edit]

In 2013, NIAC conducted a fourth solicitation, and selected 12 projects for Phase-1 studies and 5 projects to continue on to phase II projects.[20] Projects selected include a study of hibernation for astronauts[21] and a submarine operating on Saturn's moon Titan[22]

2014 Phase I selections were:[23]

  • Atchison, Justine: Swarm Flyby Gravimetry
  • Boland, Eugene: Mars Ecopoiesis Test Bed
  • Cash, Webster: The Aragoscope: Ultra-High Resolution Optics at Low Cost
  • Chen, Bin: 3D Photocatalytic Air Processor for Dramatic Reduction of Life Support Mass & Complexity
  • Hoyt, Robert: WRANGLER: Capture and De-Spin of Asteroids and Space Debris
  • Matthies, Larry: Titan Aerial Daughtercraft
  • Miller, Timothy: Using the Hottest Particles in the Universe to Probe Icy Solar System Worlds
  • Nosanov, Jeffrey: PERISCOPE: PERIapsis Subsurface Cave OPtical Explorer
  • Oleson, Steven: Titan Submarine: Exploring the Depths of Kraken
  • Ono, Masahiro: Comet Hitchhiker: Harvesting Kinetic Energy from Small Bodies to Enable Fast and Low-Cost Deep Space Exploration
  • Streetman, Brett: Exploration Architecture with Quantum Inertial Gravimetry and In Situ ChipSat Sensors
  • Wiegmann, Bruce: Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS)

2015 NIAC Project Selections[edit]

The 2015 Phase-1 projects included a hopping vehicle to visit Triton[24] and others,[25] and seven phase two projects.[26] Phase I projects selected were:[27]

  • Engblom, William: Virtual Flight Demonstration of Stratospheric Dual-Aircraft Platform
  • Graf, John: Thirsty Walls - A new paradigm for air revitalization in life support
  • Hecht, Michael: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By
  • Lewis, John: In-Space Manufacture of Storable Propellants
  • Lubin, Philip: DEEP IN Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration
  • Oleson, Steven: Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune's Captured Kuiper Belt Object
  • Peck, Mason: Soft-Robotic Rover with Electrodynamic Power Scavenging
  • Plescia, Jeffrey: Seismic Exploration of Small Bodies
  • Paxton, Larry: CRICKET: Cryogenic Reservoir Inventory by Cost-Effective Kinetically Enhanced Technology
  • Sercel, Joel: APIS (Asteroid Provided In-Situ Supplies): 100MT Of Water from a Single Falcon 9
  • Stoica, Adrian WindBots: persistent in-situ science explorers for gas giants
  • Tabirian, Nelson: Thin-Film Broadband Large Area Imaging System
  • Ulmer, Melville: Aperture: A Precise Extremely large Reflective Telescope Using Re-configurable Elements
  • Wang, Joseph: CubeSat with Nanostructured Sensing Instrumentation for Planetary Exploration
  • Youngquist, Robert: Cryogenic Selective Surfaces

In addition, seven projects were selected for continuation into Phase II:

  • Atchison, Justin: Swarm Flyby Gravimetry
  • Chen, Bin: 3D Photocatalytic Air Processor for Dramatic Reduction of Life Support Mass and Complexity
  • Nosanov, Jeffrey: PERISCOPE: PERIapsis Subsurface Cave Optical Explorer
  • Oleson, Steven: Titan Submarine: Exploring the Depths of Kraken Mare
  • Paul, Michael: SCEPS in Space - Non-Radioisotope Power Systems for Sunless Solar System Exploration Missions
  • Stoica, Adrian: Trans-Formers for Lunar Extreme Environments: Ensuring Long-Term Operations in Regions of Darkness and Low Temperatures
  • Wiegmann, Bruce: Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts" (PDF) (AIAA 2013-5376). September 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, National Academies Press, Washington DC (2009); ISBN 0-309-14051-X; ISBN 978-0-309-14051-5 (accessed 6 September 2012)
  3. ^ NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, 9th Annual & Final Report, 2006-2007, Performance Period July 12, 2006 - August 31, 2007 (page 9, Executive Summary, 4th paragraph)
  4. ^ a b Marcia S. Smith, "NIAC2 Gets Underway at NASA, Two Other Technology Solicitations Announced", SpacePolicyOnline, 02-Mar-2011 (accessed 6 Sept. 2012)
  5. ^ a b NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts web page (accessed 1 August 2012)
  6. ^ "The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is Closing", SpaceRef - Space News as it Happens, posted Monday, July 2, 2007 (accessed 5 September 2012)
  7. ^ Marcia S. Smith, "NRC Calls for Reinstatement of NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts", SpacePolicyOnline, 10-Aug-2009 (accessed 6 Sept. 2012)
  8. ^ NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) web page (accessed July 10, 2013.)
  9. ^ a b David Szondy, "NASA announces advanced technology proposals", 'gizmag, August 5, 2012 (accessed 9 August 2012)
  10. ^ Frank Morring, Jr., "NASA Starts Spending On Advanced Technology", Aviation Week, August 15, 2011 (accessed 9 August 2012)
  11. ^ NASA Office of the Chief Technologist, 2011 NIAC Phase I Selections (accessed 1 August 2012)
  12. ^ David E. Steitz, Aug. 1, 2012, NASA RELEASE 12-261, 2012 NASA Advanced Technology Concepts Selected For Study (accessed 10 July 2013)
  13. ^ (accessed 10 July 2013)
  14. ^ Keith Wagstaff, Time Magazine Techland blog, "What’s Next for NASA? 10 Wild Newly Funded Projects" August 14, 2012 (accessed 1 September 2012)
  15. ^ NASA, NASA - NIAC 2012 Phase I & Phase II Awards Announcement, Feb. 11, 2013 (retrieved 28 Oct 2015)
  16. ^ NASA, 2013 NIAC Phase I selections (accessed 5 Nov. 2014)
  17. ^ NASA Press Release 13-222, 2013 NASA Advanced Technology Phase I Concepts Selected For Study, August 29, 2013 (accessed 5 Nov. 2014)
  18. ^ NASA, Press release 13-270, NASA Selects 2013 NASA Innovative Advanced Technology Concepts for Continued Study, August 29, 2013 (accessed 5 Nov. 2014)
  19. ^ NASA, (accessed 5 Nov. 2014)
  20. ^ NASA, NIAC 2014 Phase I Selections, June 5, 2014 (accessed 5 Nov. 2014)
  21. ^ Rhodi Lee, "Stasis or deep sleep may make Mars trip affordable: NASA", Tech Times, October 7, 2014 (accessed 5 Nov. 2014)
  22. ^ Alexis C. Madrigal, "A Submarine to Explore the Ocean on Saturn's Moon, Titan", The Atlantic Jun 6 2014, (accessed 5 Nov. 2014)
  23. ^ NASA, NIAC 2014 Phase I Selections, June 5, 2014 (retrieved 28 Oct 2015).
  24. ^ “Why We Should Use This Jumping Robot to Explore Neptune”, Motherboard (2015)
  25. ^ Mika McKinnon, “15 Projects NASA Wants To Change From Science Fiction To Science Fact” , Io9 (2015)
  26. ^ John Wenz, 6 Wild NASA Proposals to Take Us to the Solar System's Farthest Reaches, July 7, 2015 (retrieved 28 Oct 2015)
  27. ^ NASA, NIAC 2015 Phase I and Phase II Selections May 7, 2015 (retrieved 28 Oct 2015).

External links[edit]