Press Release

NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots, Other Visionary Technology

By SpaceRef Editor
March 30, 2018
Filed under ,

is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact
detection, space telescope swarms and small orbital debris mapping
technologies that may one day be
used for future space exploration missions. Five of the concepts are
from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The agency is investing in
25 early-stage technology proposals
that have the potential to transform future human and robotic
exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and
significantly improve current approaches to building and operating
aerospace systems.

2018 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I concepts cover a
wide range of innovations selected for their potential to revolutionize
future space exploration. Phase
I awards are valued at approximately $125,000, over nine months, to
support initial definition and analysis of their concepts. If these
basic feasibility studies are successful, awardees can apply for Phase
II awards.

NIAC program gives NASA the opportunity to explore visionary ideas that
could transform future NASA missions by creating radically better or
entirely new concepts while
engaging America’s innovators and entrepreneurs as partners in the
journey,” said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s
Space Technology Mission Directorate. “The concepts can then be
evaluated for potential inclusion into our early stage technology

The selected 2018 Phase I proposals are:


Shapeshifters from Science Fiction to Science
Fact: Globetrotting from Titan’s Rugged Cliffs to its Deep Seafloors

Aliakbar Aghamohammadi, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California


Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More
Effective Exploration

David Akin,
University of Maryland, College Park


Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors

Jeffrey Balcerski,
Ohio Aerospace Institute, Cleveland


Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration
of Asteroids (MIDEA)

Sigrid Close,
Stanford University, California


On-Orbit, Collision-Free Mapping of Small Orbital Debris

Christine Hartzell,
University of Maryland, College Park

Marsbee – Swarm of Flapping
Wing Flyers for Enhanced Mars Exploration

Chang-kwon Kang,
University of Alabama, Huntsville


Rotary Motion Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS)

John Kendra,
Leidos, Inc., Reston, Virginia

PROCSIMA: Diffractionless Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions

Chris Limbach, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, College Station

SPARROW: Steam Propelled Autonomous
Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds

Gareth Meirion-Griffith, JPL


BALLET: Balloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain

Hari Nayar, JPL

Myco-Architecture off Planet: Growing Surface Structures at Destination

Lynn Rothscild, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope

Dmitry Savransky, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York


Astrophysics and Technical Study
of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft

Nickolas Solomey, Wichita State University, Kansas

Advanced Diffractive MetaFilm Sailcraft

Grover Swartzlander, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York


Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer

Jordan Wachs, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colorado

Radioisotope Positron Propulsion

Ryan Weed, Positron Dynamics, Livermore, California

2018 Phase I competition was especially fierce, with over 230 proposals
and only 25 winners,” said Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive. “I
can’t wait to see what the
new NIAC Fellows can do for NASA!”

II studies allow awardees time to refine their designs and explore
aspects of implementing the new technology. This year’s Phase II
portfolio addresses a range of leading-edge
concepts, including a breakthrough propulsion architecture for
interstellar precursor missions, a large scale space telescope, novel
exploration tools for Triton, and
Mach effect gravity assist drive propulsion.

under Phase II of the NIAC program can be worth as much as $500,000 for
two-year studies, and allow proposers to further develop Phase I
concepts that successfully
demonstrated initial feasibility and benefit.

The selected 2018 Phase II proposals are:


Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion Concept

Robert Adams, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama

A Breakthrough Propulsion
Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions

John Brophy, JPL

Kilometer Space Telescope (KST)

Devon Crowe, Raytheon, El Segundo, California


Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect

Jay McMahon, University of Colorado, Boulder


Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object

Steven Oleson, NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Cleveland


Spacecraft Scale Magnetospheric
Protection from Galactic Cosmic Radiation

John Slough, MSNW, LLC, Redmond, Washington


Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet
with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission

Slava Turyshev, JPL

NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester

Michael VanWoerkom, ExoTerra Resource, Littleton, Colorado


Mach Effect for in space propulsion: Interstellar

James Woodward, Space Studies Institute, Inc., Mojave, California


II studies are given to the most successful Phase I fellows, whose
ideas have the best possibility of changing the possible,” said Derleth.
“Their two-year timeframe
and larger budget allow them to really get going on the business of
creating the future.”

selected these projects through a peer-review process that evaluated
innovativeness and technical viability. All projects are still in the
early stages of development,
most requiring 10 or more years of concept maturation and technology
development before use on a NASA mission.

partners with forward-thinking scientists, engineers and citizen
inventors from across the nation to help maintain America’s leadership
in air and space. NIAC is funded
by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which
is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering new
technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its
current and future missions.

For more information about NIAC, and a complete list of the selected proposals, visit:


For more information about NASA’s investments in space technology, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.