NASA Program Awards 18 Innovation Grants for 2019

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced 18 “potentially revolutionary” technology concepts selected for funding through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. These concepts include a range of technologies that could transform human and robotic exploration outside Earth.

Jim Reuter, Acting Associate Administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, explained in the announcement, “Our NIAC program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions by investing in revolutionary technologies. We look to America’s innovators to help us push the boundaries of space exploration with new technology.”

NIAC awards funding to projects based on their development so far. Phase I awards consist of approximately $125,000 to help researchers define and analyze their proposed concepts over the course of nine months. Phase II awards, worth as much as $500,000 for two years of study, “allow researchers to further develop concepts, refine designs and start considering how the new technology would be implemented.”

Of the 18 concepts selected for further research, 12 received Phase I awards 6 received Phase II awards.

Among the Phase I awardees are a SmartSuit, defined as “an intelligent spacesuit design with soft-robotics, self-healing skin and data collection for extravehicular activity in extreme environments that allows for greater mobility for exploration missions,” and a Lunar-polar Propellant Mining Outpost, which would create “affordable lunar pole ice mining for propellant production.”

Phase II awardees include a project called Solar Surfing, “a materials-science study to determine the best protective materials to enable heliophysics missions closer to the Sun.”

 “NIAC is about going to the edge of science fiction, but not over,” said Jason Derleth, NIAC Program Executive. “We are supporting high impact technology concepts that could change how we explore within the solar system and beyond.”

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