Business research

NASA supports small business research to fuel future exploration

NASA has selected hundreds of small companies and dozens of research institutes to develop technology that will contribute to the future of space exploration, ranging from new sensors and electronics to new types of software and materials. peak. The projects recently awarded as part of the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program also include a high-power electric rocket and coating to make solar panels more efficient that could be used both in space and here on Earth.

Prizes total nearly $50 million, with investments spread across 39 states and Washington. As part of the selection, 333 proposals from 257 small businesses and 41 research institutes – including 10 minority-serving institutions – will receive first-round funding for technology development. Consult the complete lists of SBIR winners and STTR winners on line.

“NASA works on ambitious, game-changing missions that require innovative solutions from a variety of sources — especially our small businesses,” said Pam Melroy, NASA Deputy Administrator. “Small businesses have the creative edge and expertise needed to help our agency solve our common problems and complex challenges, and they are crucial to maintaining NASA’s leadership in space. The SBIR program is the one of the primary means by which we achieve this, while creating jobs in a growing and sustainable space economy.

NASA’s investments in America’s small businesses and research institutions help provide the innovations needed for the exciting and ambitious missions on the agency’s horizon and foster strong business and technology sectors.

Each proposal team will receive $150,000 – a 20% increase over previous years’ funding – to establish the merit and feasibility of their innovations. SBIR Phase I contracts are awarded to small companies and last for six months, while STTR Phase I contracts are awarded to small companies in partnership with a research institute and last for 13 months.

“The selections cover a wide range of areas to strengthen the agency’s work in human exploration, space technology, science and aeronautics,” said Jenn Gustetic, director of innovation and partnerships at a early stage for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “We are excited about the uses of these technologies for Artemis and other missions, as well as their potential use in the commercial space industry and people’s daily lives.”

Approximately 30% of the prizes will go to NASA’s first-time SBIR/STTR recipients. This includes Ad Astra Rocket Company based in Webster, Texas. With its Phase I award, the company will develop a new way to manufacture part of its Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket Motor, or VASIMR, a high-power electric rocket motor the company has been working on with NASA for 25 years. . In the engine, powerful radio frequency waves are launched by special antennas, called couplers. The waves ionize the gas into plasma, which is then accelerated to provide rocket thrust. Phase I funding will be used to manufacture couplers to increase the engine power limit. This innovation will help bring the entire engine closer to commercialization, where it could be used for high-maneuverability satellites, lunar colony cargo delivery, and more.

Nearly 25% of the companies selected are owned by women, veterans, disadvantaged and/or HUBzone small enterprises. For instance, D2K Technologies, a small, women-owned and minority-owned company based in Oceanside, California, will create a monitoring and advisory system for the health management of solenoid valves (SOV) used in industrial applications with its Phase I award. This technology could be used in many NASA research centers, test centers and launch sites, as SOVs are basic components of most fluid systems. And, with the widespread use of SOVs in industrial applications, the system could be useful to oil and gas, nuclear, manufacturing, power generation, chemical, food and pharmaceutical companies. This company is also a NASA SBIR award winner for the first time.

“Finding and building a diverse community of entrepreneurs is central to our program’s reach, and efforts to reach them can begin even before Phase I,” said Gynelle Steele, deputy director of the SBIR/STTR program at the NASA at NASA Headquarters in Washington. . “For example, working in partnership with NASA Minority University Research and Education Projectwe began offering M-STTR Planning Grants last year, which encouraged partnerships between MSIs and small businesses and prepared them to submit an STTR Phase I proposal in 2022.”

M-STTR winner Oakwood University, a historically black university based in Huntsville, Alabama, will continue to work alongside SSS Optical Technologies, a small company also based in Huntsville, using their Phase I award to develop a new type of coating for photovoltaic (PV) cells embedded in solar sails. The coating could generate additional electricity and improve overall PV conversion efficiency, which could advance solar navigation and other power and energy conversion needs for space exploration. This technology could improve the efficiency of commercial solar panels.

NASA selected Phase I proposals to receive funding based on their technical merit and commercial potential. Based on their progress during Phase I, companies can submit proposals for $850,000 in Phase II funding to develop a prototype, as well as post SBIR/STTR post Phase II opportunities. The NASA SBIR/STTR program is part of the Space Technology Missions Directorate and is operated by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California.