New NASA Advanced Concepts such as Eternal flight, pulsed fission-fusion propulsion

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program has selected twelve new NIAC Phase I awards.

The selected proposals include 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.

Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion

Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System

Leveraging insights gained from the weapons physics program, a Z-Pinch device could be used to ignite a thermonuclear deuterium trigger. The fusion neutrons will induce fission reaction in a surrounding uranium or thorium liner, releasing sufficient energy to further confine and heat the fusion plasma. The combined energy release from fission and fusion would then be directed using a magnetic nozzle to produce useful thrust. This type of concept could provide the efficiency of open cycle fusion propulsion devices with the relative small size and simplicity of fission systems; and would provide a radical improvement in our ability to explore destinations across the solar system and beyond. This proposal is modified version of last year’s proposal – addressing issues raised during that evaluation.

Reducing weight and drag for eternal flight

An investigation into a new mission concept approach to achieve unlimited high altitude long endurance flight to achieve geosynchronous atmospheric satellites for civil missions. The study will compare the new approach to existing approaches, with detailed analysis of the key differences that enable a reduction in structural weight by 50%, while also decreasing the drag by 50% through significantly higher aspect ratio wings, higher wing loading, and lower payload drag.

Growth Adapted Tensegrity Structures – A New Calculus for the Space Economy

A novel approach to create and engineer an economically viable space habitat development technology, for deployment of a lightweight tensegrity habitat structure orbiting at Earth-Moon L2, where onboard robotic assets will use space based materials to provide water for shielding, irrigation and life support, soil for ecosystem development, and to enable structural maintenance and enhancement. The habitat can become a tourist destination, an economic hub, and a multi-purpose research and support facility for lunar surface development and space ecosystem life sciences.

Smart carpets for passive Mars landers

A new landing approach that significantly reduces development time and obviates the most complicated, most expensive and highest-risk phase of any landing mission. The concept is a blanket- or carpet-like two-dimensional (2D) lander with a low mass/drag ratio, which allows the lander to efficiently shed its approach velocity and provide a more robust structure for landing integrity. The flat nature and low mass of these landers allows dozens to be stacked for transport and distributed en masse to the surface. The concept leverages recent developments in microelectronics and MEMS technology, such as the lab-on-a-chip, integrated RF comm, and laser probes. The mass and size of these highly capable technologies also reduce the required stiffness and mass of the structure to the point that compliant, lightweight, robust landers are possible. These landers should be capable of passive landings, avoiding the costly, complex use of rockets, radar and associated structure and control systems.

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