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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts
A second goal is to provide a positive inspiration to the nation’s youth to study technical subjects so that they conceive their exciting role in the future and persevere in making their vision a reality.
Another significant goal for the NIAC is a balanced distribution of effort and resources between NASA Enterprises, a record of 5-10% infusion of NIAC-developed advanced concepts into NASA’s long-term plans.
4. DEFINITION OF ADVANCED CONCEPTS
The term “advanced concepts” has many meanings. Establishing the meaning and scope of the kind of “advanced concepts” to be solicited by the NIAC is fundamental in meeting the goals of this SOW. The following are a number of tests that the contractor shall apply to a specific concept to determine if it meets the requirements and intent of this SOW. Generally, the NIAC is seeking advanced concepts that could come into fruition in the 10-40 year timeframe.
The concepts shall be revolutionary rather than evolutionary. Evolutionary means the next progressive step in development and/or a similar type of research to the research currently being conducted. Revolutionary often includes a new paradigm. It entails a leap ahead in technological advances and is generally a totally new way of doing something. The advanced concept may have been explored before, but in order for another exploration of the advanced concept to be revolutionary, it must be a new approach. This difference is illustrated in the following example: An improved rocket that would enhance human’s ability to explore space would be evolutionary. A totally different and new type of transportation into space would be revolutionary and might include a space tether, a space elevator, or a mini magnetospheric plasma propulsion system, three concepts previously studied under past NIAC funded studies.
The concepts shall have a “new” aspect. They shall not repeat or duplicate concepts previously studied or currently being studied by NASA unless they have a new approach as stated in 4.A. above.
The concepts shall involve major systems and architectures and potentially have a major impact on how future Enterprise missions are accomplished. Systems include the physical embodiment of the overall plan to accomplish a goal and/or a suite of equipment, software and operations methods capable of accomplishing an operational objective. Architectures include an overall plan to accomplish a goal and/or a suite of physical embodiments of the overall plan and their operational methods of meeting an overall mission or program objective.
The concepts shall not solely be a specific advanced technology or new design approach such as a new solar cell or a new spectrometer. The concepts must be put into a mission application context.
The concepts shall expand the number of approaches or choices rather than increase the depth of analysis of known concepts.
An advanced concept shall include both a technical description (the physics, chemistry and technology) as well as the quantification of potential benefits.
5. DESCRIPTION OF THE NIAC
The contractor shall manage the NIAC. The contractor shall be responsible for selecting the appropriate staff and the operation of the NIAC. The contractor shall establish the NIAC in a manner precluding any perceived or actual conflicts of interest pertaining to future business