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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Fostering Visions for the Future A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Committee to Review the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study is based on work supported by Contract NNH05CC16C between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agency that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-14051-5 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-14051-X Cover: Cover design by Tim Warchocki. Clockwise from top left: Artist’s rendering of a BioSuit™ emphasizes how it aids maneuverability, courtesy of Professor Dava Newman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Artist’s concept of a swarm of mass driver deflection spacecraft approaching a target asteroid, courtesy of SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. (SEI), artwork by Nathan Phail-Liff; Artist’s concept of a Directed Aerial Robot Explorer balloon platform on Mars, courtesy of Global Aerospace Corporation (K. Nock), the European Space Agency/Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt e.V./Freie Universität Berlin (G. Neukum), and A. Pankine; Artist’s concept of the New Worlds Observatory starshield, courtesy of NASA and Northrop Grumman Company; Three-dimensional rendering of Earth, courtesy of Martin Kornmesser, Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre. Copies of this report are available free of charge from: Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board National Research Council 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts COMMITTEE TO REVIEW THE NASA INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED CONCEPTS ROBERT D. BRAUN, Georgia Institute of Technology, Co-chair DIANNE S. WILEY, The Boeing Company, Co-chair HENRY W. BRANDHORST, JR., Space Research Institute; Auburn University DAVID C. BYERS, Consultant DAVID CHENETTE, Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center INDERJIT CHOPRA, University of Maryland, College Park FRANK D. DRAKE, Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute OLIVIA A. GRAEVE, Alfred University MARSHALL G. JONES, Laser Processing Laboratory, GE Global Research ROBERT A. MOORE, DST, Inc. E. PHILLIP MUNTZ, University of Southern California LAURENCE R. YOUNG, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Staff JOHN WENDT, Study Director, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Senior Program Assistant, Space Studies Board (through January 2009) ANDREA M. REBHOLZ, Program Associate, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (from February 2009)
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ENGINEERING BOARD RAYMOND S. COLLADAY, Lockheed Martin Astronautics (retired), Chair KYLE T. ALFRIEND, Texas A&M University CHARLES F. BOLDEN, JR., Jack and Panther, LLC1 AMY L. BUHRIG, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group PIERRE CHAO, Center for Strategic and International Studies INDERJIT CHOPRA, University of Maryland, College Park JOHN-PAUL B. CLARKE, Georgia Institute of Technology RAVI B. DEO, Northrop Grumman Corporation (retired) MICA R. ENDSLEY, SA Technologies DAVID GOLDSTON, Harvard University R. JOHN HANSMAN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JOHN B. HAYHURST, Boeing Company (retired) PRESTON HENNE, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation RICHARD KOHRS, Independent Consultant IVETT LEYVA, Air Force Research Laboratory, Edwards Air Force Base ELAINE S. ORAN, Naval Research Laboratory ELI RESHOTKO, Case Western Reserve University EDMOND SOLIDAY, United Airlines (retired) Staff RICHARD E. ROWBERG, Interim Director (from March 2, 2009) MARCIA S. SMITH, Director (through March 1, 2009) 1 Major General Bolden became NASA administrator on July 17, 2009, after writing and review of this report was completed.
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Preface The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) was established in 1998 to provide an independent, open forum for the external analysis and definition of revolutionary space and aeronautics advanced concepts to complement the advanced concepts activities conducted within the NASA enterprises. Funded at approximately $4 million per year, NIAC received a total of $36.2 million in NASA funding during the 9 years of its existence; it was terminated by NASA in 2007. In the report that accompanied the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives,1 the NASA administrator was directed to Enter into an arrangement with the National Research Council [NRC] to evaluate NIAC’s effectiveness in meeting its mission, including a review of the grants made by the Institute, their results, and the likelihood that they will contribute to the Institute’s stated goals; evaluate the method by which grantees are selected and recommend changes, if needed; and make recommendations as to whether the Institute should continue to be funded by the federal government and, if so, what changes, if any, should be made to its mission, goals, operations, or other matters. To carry out the review of NIAC, an ad hoc committee of 12 experts in advanced space and aeronautical concepts was established under the auspices of the NRC’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. The members of the Committee to Review the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts were chosen for their experience with aspects of scientific innovation and creativity, from across a number of institutions and agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA, the SETI Institute, industry, and academia. The committee membership is shown in Appendix B. The committee heard testimony from the NIAC director, NASA leadership involved in the creation and management of NIAC, a cross section of NIAC grantees, and leaders of other advanced technology organizations, including DARPA. A list of presenters is shown in Appendix C. The committee’s first meeting was held in Washington, D.C., on December 8-9, 2008, and was devoted largely to gathering data on the history, organization, and accomplishments of NIAC; discussing the data; and forming subgroups to examine specific issues. The objectives of the committee’s second meeting, held on February 19-20, 2009, at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, California, were to gather additional data from presentations made by former NIAC grantees and by persons from within and outside NASA that were experienced in the infusion of advanced concepts into mission-oriented programs and to formulate the committee’s findings and recommendations. 1 U.S. House of Representatives, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008, H.R. 3093, available at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Acknowledgment of Reviewers This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Wanda Austin, The Aerospace Corporation, Paul Bevilaqua, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., John Howell, University of Texas, Austin, John Reppy, Cornell University (emeritus), George Sutton, SPARTA, Inc., and Gerald Walberg, Walberg Aerospace (retired). Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Martha Haynes, Cornell University. Appointed by the NRC, she was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Contents SUMMARY 1 BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE 7 1 EFFECTIVENESS OF NIAC 11 NIAC’s Approach to Implementation, 11 Innovation and Technical Competence of NIAC-sponsored Studies, 14 NIAC’s Role in Creating Public Visibility, 15 Infusing Advanced Concepts into NASA’s Strategic Vision, Future Mission Plans, and Technology Development Programs, 15 Relevance to the Aerospace Sector at Large, 19 Partnerships and Cost Sharing, 19 2 GRANTEE SELECTION PROCESS 21 Peer Review Process, 21 Diversity of Grantees, 25 3 A SUCCESSOR TO NIAC 29 Should the Federal Government Fund a NIAC-like Entity?, 29 Alternatives to NIAC, 30 Recommended Organization and Implementation for NIAC, 31 Recommended Changes to Improve the Effectiveness of NIAC, 33 4 INFUSION OF ADVANCED CONCEPTS INTO NASA 37 5 CONCLUDING REMARKS 41 Value to NASA and the Nation, 41 APPENDIXES A Statement of Task 45 B Committee Member Biographies 46 C List of Presenters to the Committee 50 D NIAC Statement of Work 51 E List and Statistical Analysis of NIAC Grants 57 F Three NIAC Phase II Projects Infused into NASA’s Long-Term Plans 65 G The DARPA Model for Advanced Concepts Development 72 H Definition of Technology Readiness Levels 76
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Tables, Figures, and Boxes TABLES 1-1 Return on NIAC Investment as Measured by Additional Funding, 17 E-1 Number of Phase I Proposals Submitted to and Evaluated by NIAC, 61 E-2 Number of Phase I Proposals Awarded, 62 E-3 Number of Phase II Proposals Submitted to and Evaluated by NIAC, 63 E-4 Number of Phase II Proposals Awarded, 64 FIGURES 2-1 Selection process from receipt of proposals to notification of winners, 22 2-2 Reviewed submissions and awards over the life of NIAC, 27 4-1 NASA organization, 38 E-1 Percentage of evaluated proposals by submission category for all Phase I solicitations during the life of NIAC, 61 E-2 Percentage of awarded proposals by submission category for all Phase I solicitations during the life of NIAC, 62 E-3 Percentage of evaluated proposals by submission category for all Phase II solicitations during the life of NIAC, 63 E-4 Percentage of awarded proposals by submission category for all Phase II solicitations during the life of NIAC, 64 F-1 Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion concept, 65 F-2 Optical emissions from an injected neutral puff into the plasma, 66 F-3 Density contours showing inflation with the M2P2, 67 F-4 The x-ray interferometry imaging mission concept successfully proposed in 1999 by Webster Cash for a Phase I NIAC study, 69 F-5 The x-ray interferometry approach to imaging the event horizon of a black hole is one of the methods being pursued by NASA for its Black Hole Imager mission, 69 F-6 An artist’s rendering of the New Worlds Observer concept for imaging a distant planetary system, 71 BOXES S-1 Objectives of This Study, 1 1-1 NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Award Criteria, 13 2-1 Reasons for Rejection During Internal Review, 23 2-2 Demographics for NIAC Peer Reviewers in 2003, 25 3-1 Key Features of DARPA, 30
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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Acronyms ASMCS Astrophysics Strategic Missions Concept Studies BHI Black Hole Imager DARPA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ESMD Exploration Systems Mission Directorate ETDP Exploration Technology Development Program GSFC Goddard Space Flight Center IPP Innovative Partnership Program M2P2 Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion MAXIM Micro-Arcsecond X-ray Imaging Mission MSFC Marshall Space Flight Center NIAC NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts NIAC2 a successor entity to NIAC, as referred to in this report NRC National Research Council NSFP NIAC Student Fellows Prize SBIR Small Business Innovation Research SMD Science Missions Directorate STTR Small Business Technology Transfer Research TRL technology readiness level USRA Universities Space Research Association
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