NASA Awards $106 Million to U.S. Small Businesses for Technology Development

photo from nasa

HANCOCK COUNTY, Ms. – Managing pilotless aircraft and solar panels that could help humans live on the Moon and Mars are among the technologies NASA is looking to develop with small business awards totaling $106 million. In all, NASA has selected 142 proposals from 129 U.S. small businesses from 28 states and the District of Columbia to receive Phase II contracts as part the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

These include three projects tied to Stennis Space Center. 

More information on the proposals and the small business awards were detailed in a press release.

“Small businesses play an important role in our science and exploration endeavors,” said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission directorate. “NASA’s diverse community of partners, including small businesses across the country, helps us achieve our mission and cultivate the U.S. economy. Their innovations will help America land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024, establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface a few years later, and pursue exciting opportunities for going to Mars and beyond.”

NASA selected the proposals based on a range of criteria, including technical merit and feasibility, as well as the organizations’ experience, qualifications, and facilities. Additional criteria included effectiveness of proposed work plans and the commercial potential of the technologies.

The selected proposals will support the development of technologies in the areas of human exploration and operations, space technology, science, and aeronautics. The proposals offer a breadth of applications, including:

•    Solar panels that deploy like venetian blinds. The technology behind these panels can be used as a surface power source for crewed missions on the Moon and Mars. It offers benefits such as efficient power generation, lower procurement costs and reduced mass and stowed volume.
•    Sensor technology for autonomous entry, descent and precision landing on planetary surfaces — a critical advancement for next generation human lunar landers.
•    A type of permanent magnet that creates a bonding force between two halves with no moving parts, enabling in-space assembly of large platforms.
•    A high-resolution X-ray instrument to analyze surface rocks and core samples on planets and asteroids. This technology could advance our understanding of the Moon, Mars and even Earth by providing unique analysis and reconstruction of samples.
•    A suite of technologies for managing autonomous aircraft. The proposed solution aims to have a single dispatcher simultaneously monitor multiple flights, leading the way for future airspace and vehicle concepts.

The three proposals managed by Stennis Space Center are: 

•    “Balanced Floating Piston Valve for Ultra-High, High-Volume Liquid and Gaseous Flow Control,” developed by C-Suite Services, LLC of Metairie, Louisiana. C-Suite licensed the floating piston valve from Stennis. This award enables continued development of a robust, reliable high-pressure valve suitable for use in the Stennis test complex, which directly addresses a critical need.

•    “Additively Manufactured Dynamically Adjustable Venturi,” developed by Parabilis Space Technologies Inc. of San Marcos, California. The award enables verification testing of a prototype venturi, as well as design and manufacture of a full-scale version for use in engine testing. Success of this leading-edge technology would be a substantial advancement that reduces engine test turn-around timelines and costs. 

•    “High Performance Solver for Coupled Cavitation and Fluid-Structure Interaction in Cryogenic Environments,” developed by Streamline Numerics Inc. of Gainesville, Florida. The award enables continued development of state-of-the-art computer modeling/simulation of how cryogenic fluids interact in systems, which can help prevent damage to system components and reduce engine test and launch operations. 

“The SBIR program provides a unique and valuable platform to define our technology needs and to develop and fund commercial and academic relationships that assist us in meeting those needs,” said David Coote, deputy chief engineer in the Stennis Engineering and Test Directorate. “Stennis has derived substantial leading-edge knowledge and test-related technology through the program. We have numerous examples of such technology helping to improve the quality, safety and reliability of test services we provide.” 

Only small businesses awarded a Phase I contract are eligible to submit a proposal for a Phase II funding agreement. Phase II is focused on the development, demonstration, and delivery of the innovations previously selected during Phase I. These projects are chosen as a result of competitive evaluations and based on selection criteria provided in the solicitation. Phase II contracts last for 24 months, with a maximum funding of $750,000.

The SBIR program is a three-phase program. Phase I work and results provide a sound basis for the continued development, demonstration and delivery of the proposed innovation in Phase II and follow-on efforts. Phase III is the commercialization of innovative technologies, products and services resulting from either a Phase I or Phase II contract. 

The SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs encourage small businesses and research institutions to develop innovative ideas that meet the specific research and development needs of the federal government. The programs are intended to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, increase the commercial application of research results, and encourage participation of socially and economically disadvantaged companies and women-owned small businesses. Since the 1970s, small businesses have created approximately 55 percent of all jobs in the United States. 

NASA's Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SBIR and STTR programs for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.  


Categories: Awards/Honors, Today’s Business News