NASA Announces Grant Winners Under NIAC Program

NASA has announced 13 winning ideas in Phase 1 of its NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program funds early-stage studies to encourage pioneering space technology ideas that could transform future NASA missions.

Program Objective

As per NASA, the NIAC “fosters pioneering concepts by supporting concept studies for future consideration and potential commercialization.” NIAC concepts, once proven, have the potential to become breakthrough innovations advancing NASA’s space exploration capabilities over next 20-30 years.

Past NIAC-funded Ideas Realised

The Mars helicopter Ingenuity and deep space MarCO cubesats traced back to early NIAC research grants, proving route from sketches to successful missions.

Details of Current NIAC Phase

In latest Phase 1 selection, NASA is funding 13 futuristic concepts from research teams across America, granting each idea $175,000 for initial prototyping.

Some Transformative Concepts Picked

  • Concept for intelligent drone called MAGGIE for aerial-ground Mars exploration
  • Studying animal hibernation to induce torpor in astronauts during lengthy space travel
  • Using Mars water mining data to also search for signatures of alien life
  • Swarms of tiny spacecraft pushed by lasers for interstellar travel
  • Innovative approach to return samples from extreme environments of Venus
  • Nuclear rocket engine films
  • Autonomous sensors powered by tritium
  • Lunar telescopes for stellar observations
  • Improving cosmic distance measurements
  • Propellant depots to enable crewed Mars missions
  • Magnetohydrodynamic drive for Mars ISRU of hydrogen and oxygen
  • Detoxifying omnipresent Mars perchlorates
  • Lightweight antennas compatible with small satellites

Evaluation Criteria

Proposed concepts are assessed based on criteria like transformative potential, technical credibility and creative origination.



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