In previous years, all projects have received start-up funding from NASA’s NIAC Innovative Concepts Program, with up to $600,000 more to be provided to space technology developers over two years in a second round of funding.
Let’s do good things together
One idea is to develop array of low-frequency radio telescopes FarView, built using local regolith on the far side of the Moon – such an arrangement will protect the observatory from atmospheric and radio interference from the Earth. The team claims that their equipment will help to study the mysterious Dark Ages – the period of the development of the universe between the appearance of the cosmic microwave background and the formation of the first stars.
The kilometer telescope is planned to be installed in the crater bowl with a diameter of three to five kilometers. Its creation will be carried out by DuAxel planetary rovers, which will stretch the grid in a crater with a suitable depth-to-diameter ratio and form a parabolic antenna. After that, a sensitive receiver will be suspended above the center of the resulting “lunar dish” of the telescope.
Graphic image of the FarView observatory. Source: Ronald Polidan
Another grantee is Project PI, which seeks to protect the Earth from asteroids and other potential strikes from space. As demonstrated by the DART mission last September, the most effective method of planetary defense is to change the trajectory of such an object by ramming it – instead, the authors of the Planetary Defense idea explore a method of grinding asteroids into small pieces, which will then burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. To do this, it is proposed to use an “array of small hypervelocity kinetic penetrators”
Graphic representation of PI – planetary protection systems. Source: Philip Lubin
While the projects don’t seem very real, they defy conventional wisdom, something that the NIAC mission is focusing on.
“The story of NASA is one of overcoming barriers and transforming technology to support our missions and benefit all of humanity. The concepts selected through the program will help researchers implement new technologies that could revolutionize space exploration and improve everyday life here on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
Here is the full list of ideas and their key researchers that will receive additional funding as part of NIAC 2023:
Commercial audio production
Rydberg Quantum Radar for Surface, Topography and Vegetation (Darmindra Arumugam, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California); Silent Solid State Engine for Improved Airmobile Vehicles (Stephen Barrett, MIT, Cambridge); PI – Planetary Defense (Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara); The Nyx spacecraft, for observing the universe from deep space, with the EmberCore high-power density radioisotope electrical system (Christopher Morrison, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation in Seattle); the FarView Observatory, a vast array of low-frequency radio telescopes built and located on the Moon (Ronald Polidan, Lunar Resources, Houston); “Astropharmacy” is a technology for creating pharmaceuticals with greater endurance in space.
The NIAC (NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts) program was launched in 1998 to stimulate ideas and projects in the fields of astronautics, solar system and deep space exploration, rocket and satellite engineering and aeronautics, which in the future can have a serious impact on the development of the entire aerospace industry and can be introduced within 10-40 years. As part of the first phase of NIAC 2020, the agency selected 16 projects. Only six of them passed to the second stage, and one immediately went to the third final round (the concept telescope “solar gravitational lens” (SGL).