NIAC2 Gets Underway at NASA, Two Other Technology Solicitations Announced
NASA's acronym NIAC used to mean the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. Established in 1998 to provide an independent source of advanced aeronautical and space concepts for the agency, it was terminated for budgetary reasons in 2007. At congressional direction, the National Research Council (NRC) did a study of what had been accomplished by NIAC and whether it should be resurrected. The study, co-chaired by Robert (Bobby) Braun of Georgia Tech and Dianne Wiley of Boeing, recommended that a NIAC-like entity -- "NIAC2" -- be reestablished. That process has begun.
In 2009, Bobby Braun became NASA's Chief Technologist. NIAC originally was under the purview of the NASA Chief Technologist to ensure that its advanced concepts were broadly applicable to agency needs, but was later transferred to a single mission directorate -- the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate -- where it "lost its alignment with sponsor objectives and priorities" according to the NRC report. Thus, the NRC recommended that NIAC2 report to the Office of the Administrator and not a specific mission directorate. NIAC grants also were available only to external researchers. The NRC recommended that NIAC2 be open to internal NASA participants as well.
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