NIAC Phase 1 selection

To celebrate its rebirth, NIAC, the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts grant 100k$ to a list of selected projects. The principle of funding very preliminary ideas to assess their potential is very interesting.

I am trying out to get further details on each project to understand what they are all about. But I have already noticed some concepts which are of interest for me:

  • Enabling All-Access Mobility for Planetary Exploration Vehicles via Transformative Reconfiguration
  • The Potential for Ambient Plasma Wave Propulsion: I wonder whether it is something like this concept. Probably with a mix of this concept of helicon wave thruster.
  • Atmospheric Breathing Electric Thruster for Planetary Exploration
  • Entanglement-assisted Communication System for NASA’s Deep-Space Missions: Feasibility Test and Conceptual Design
  • SPS-ALPHA: The First Practical Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array
  • High-temperature superconductors as electromagnetic deployment and support structures in spacecraft
  • Non-Radioisotope Power Systems For Sunless Solar System Exploration Missions
  • Ultra-Light “Photonic Muscle” Space Structures
  • Printable Spacecraft
  • In-Space Propulsion Engine Architecture based on Sublimation of Planetary Resources: from exploration robots to NEO mitigation
  • Metallic Hydrogen: A Game Changing Rocket Propellant
  • Nuclear Propulsion through Direct Conversion of Fusion Energy: the purpose here is to directly use the energy coming from the fusion reaction instead of converting it in electricity. That reduces the number of architectures but this choice is obvious in terms of mass budget.
  • Steering of Solar Sails Using Optical Lift Force
  • Aneutronic Fusion Spacecraft Architecture
  • Radiation Shielding Materials Containing Hydrogen, Boron, and Nitrogen: Systematic Computational and Experimental Study
  • Meeting the Grand Challenge of Protecting Astronaut’s Health: Electrostatic Active Space Radiation Shielding for Deep Space Missions
  • Radiation Protection and Architecture Utilizing High Temperature Superconducting Magnets
I have several comments on this list:
  • try to google these subjects: you will see that most of them are poorly document: it is a sign that they have received untill now little attention and deserve more funding to have a better idea of their potentials.
  • There are a lot of items which are oriented towards propulsion: this is indeed the major problem in advanced space engineering and it is acknowledge here.
  • There are also a good percentage of items dedicated to radiation shielding: NIAC shows clearly here that one main target is manned mission and even manned mission in deep space.
  • Curiously there is nothing on cooling systems: I however think there are a lot of things to do in this area; indeed no power system has a high efficiency; a large part of the power has to be evacuated from the spacecraft and passive thermal systems have a heavy mass cost. What about new solutions?
  • Solar Power Satellites are once again back on track! Without them an advanced program would probably not look like serious. I still wonder why they are listed: I think that there exist enough reports to explain the pros and cons and describe which key technologies are requires to enable their development. No further assessment is needed.
All in all, I am curious to see how this program will be managed and what the outputs will be. I just hope that the reports will not be thrown away once the conference in 2012 is done.

4 Responses to NIAC Phase 1 selection

  1. Joe Ritter says:

    The proposal listed as Ultra-Light “Photonic Muscle” Space Structures is really titled Ultra-Lightweight Photonic Muscle Space Telescope.

  2. destop says:

    Thank you Mr Ritter for this correction. I understand better the point of your proposal which is related to some of your previous works with the NIAC. Good luck for the work and I am looking forward to seeing the results of this study.

  3. re: cooling systems, at least their applications –

    the HTS structures report will hopefully address potential uses of heat pipes like in cooling the cabling below its Tc in a consumable-free manner.

    • destop says:

      This is good to know! It is indeed a challenging problem. I can see that on the superconductors of some tokamaks (like Tore Supra) where the failure of quench protections can lead to catastrophic outcomes. And yet they do not have the problem of mass that you have in space applications.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: