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NASA Institute Selects Pioneering Exploration Proposals
The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) announces the selection of sixteen proposals that could radically advance space exploration.

NIAC selected eleven proposals for Phase 1 awards, six-month investigations beginning in September, and five proposals for Phase 2 awards, more detailed studies 18 to 24 months in duration, also beginning in September. If these proposals become reality, the future of space exploration could include engines "turbocharged" by particle accelerators; a space-borne solar shield four times the area of Texas to stop global warming; biological batteries in the form of "power skins" that reap electricity from Martian winds or fuel cells that produce electricity and food while treating waste; and a space radiation shield made from electrically-charged gas and magnetic fields.

"NIAC's focus on visionary advanced concepts raises possibilities of performance enhancements for currently planned missions and may enable future missions that are currently viewed as nearly impossible," said NIAC Director Robert Cassanova of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Columbia, Md. "These recently selected proposals will explore the limits of our understanding of scientific principles and enabling technology." The USRA runs NIAC for NASA.

NIAC was created in 1998 to solicit revolutionary concepts from people and organizations outside the agency that could advance NASA's missions. The proposals push the limits of known science and technology, and positive results are not expected for at least a decade or more.

Proposals selected for Phase 1 awards typically receive up to $75,000 for a six-month study that validates the viability of the concept and identifies challenges that must be overcome to make the proposal a reality. The results of the Phase 1 studies are evaluated, and the most promising are selected for further research into the major feasibility issues associated with cost, performance, development time, and technology through a Phase 2 award. Phase 2 studies can be up to two years long and receive as much as $400,000.

Proposals selected for the 2006 Phase 1 awards:
  • Development of a Single-Fluid Consumable Infrastructure for Life Support, Power, Propulsion, and Thermal Control (Principal Investigator (PI): David Akin, University of Maryland, College Park)
  • Practicality of a Solar Shield in Space to Counter Global Warming (PI: Roger Angel, University of Arizona, Tucson)
  • Self-Deployed Space or Planetary Habitats and Extremely Large Structures (PI: Devon Crowe, Physical Sciences, Inc., Andover, Mass.)
  • Primary Objective Grating Astronomical Telescope (PI: Tom Ditto, DeWitt Brothers Tool Company, New York)
  • Reduction of Trapped Energetic Particle Fluxes in Earth and Jovian Radiation Belts (PI: Robert Hoyt, Tethers Unlimited, Inc., Bothell, Wash.)
  • In-Orbit Assembly of Modular Space Systems with Non-Contacting, Flux-Pinned Interfaces (PI: Mason Peck, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.)
  • Large, Ultra-Lightweight Photonic Muscle Telescope (PI: Joseph Ritter, University of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy, Manoa, Hawaii)
  • Bio-Electric Space Exploration (PI: Matthew Silver, Calder-Jones Partners, Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Plasma Magnetic Shield for Crew Protection (PI: John Slough, MSNW Inc., Bellevue, Wash.)
  • Extreme eXPeditionary Architecture (EXP-Arch): Mobile, Adaptable Systems for Space and Earth Exploration (PI: Guillermo Trotti, Trotti & Associates, Inc., Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Spacecraft Propulsion Utilizing Ponderomotive Forces (PI: George Williams, Ohio Aerospace Institute, Cleveland)
Proposals selected for the 2006 Phase 2 awards:
  • Lorentz-Actuated Orbits: Electrodynamic Propulsion without a Tether (PI: Mason Peck, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.)
  • Scalable Flat-Panel Nano-Particle MEMS/NEMS Propulsion Technology for Space Exploration in the 21st Century (PI: Brian Gilchrist, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • An Architecture of Modular Spacecraft with Integrated Structural Electrodynamic Propulsion (ISEP) (PI: Nestor Voronka, Tethers Unlimited, Bothell, Wash.)
  • A Contamination-Free Ultrahigh Precision Formation Flight Method Based on Intracavity Photon Thrusters and Tethers: Photon Tether Formation Flight (PI: Young Bae, BAE Institute, Tustin, Calif.)
  • Extraction of Antiparticles Concentrated in Planetary Magnetic Fields (PI: Jim Bickford, Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Mass.)
For more information about NIAC and these proposals on the Internet, visit:
Bill Steigerwald / Nancy Neal-Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center