The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future aeronautics and space missions with the creation of breakthroughs — radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts — while engaging America’s innovators and entrepreneurs as partners in the journey. NIAC funds early studies and prototypes of concepts that could revolutionize the future of any aspect of aerospace. The concepts don’t necessarily have to originate from a space science or aerospace background – concepts in biology, nanotechnology, neuroscience, particle physics, and more, when applied towards future space missions, aeronautics operations or science capabilities, are equally game-changing.
Each year, depending on the availability of funding from Congress, approximately 12 awards are given to new applications (called “Phase I” awards) in the amount of $125,000 each. The $125,000 is intended to be used over a duration of nine months of research and/or prototyping. After receiving a Phase I award, the awardees, also known as NIAC Fellows, can apply for a Phase II award of $500,000 over two years.
Concepts submitted for NIAC funding consideration should have the potential to enable entirely new missions or great leaps in capabilities for space exploration or aeronautics. It’s important to note that the concept itself doesn’t have to perform space science – but it needs to be applicable to enabling space exploration and/or aeronautics related activities.