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NASA awards millions to boost technology innovations created by small businesses



One grant would support the development of a lunar power distribution system. (NASA Illustration)

NASA’s latest round of small-business grants will support aerospace-related technologies ranging from a new kind of spacecraft docking mechanism to a power beaming system suitable for use on the moon.

Those are just two of the projects receiving Phase I grants from the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, also known as SBIR and STTR.

The grants will go to 300 proposals from 249 small businesses and 39 research institutions across the country. Each proposal team will receive $150,000 to establish the merit and feasibility of their innovations, representing a total agency investment of $45 million. SBIR Phase I funding supports projects for six months, while the funding for STTR Phase I projects is meant to cover 13 months of work.

“NASA has a key role to play in growing the aerospace ecosystem in our country,” Jenn Gustetic, director of early stage innovation and partnerships for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said today in a news release. “Through these early-stage small business awards, we are inviting more innovators into this growing arena and helping them mature their technologies for not only NASA’s use, but for commercial impact.”

Gynelle Steele, deputy program executive for NASA’s SBIR/STTR program, said the grants are meant to “nurture pioneering ideas from a diversity of innovators across the country that may not attract the initial private industry funding needed to thrive.”

Six Washington state companies are on the list for SBIR Phase I grants:


Two additional Washington state companies are involved in STTR projects:

  • Alternative Energy Materials, a Pullman-based venture, will work with Washington State University to develop a new kind of electrolyzer for producing hydrogen, methane or oxygen — chemicals that could be used in space for refueling or for life support. The VYZion system could also be used for terrestrial power generation.
  • Nonlinear Materials Corp., based in Seattle, will work with AIM Photonics, a venture formed by the U.S. Air Force and the Research Foundation for the State University, on a project to integrate silicon organic hybrid electro-optical modulators into a silicon photonics platform. The work could lead to compact, low-power optical communication systems for terrestrial and in-space applications.

Companies that make suitable progress in Phase I can submit proposals for $850,000 in Phase II funding to develop prototypes — and then potentially go on to pursue post-Phase II opportunities. NASA’s most recent batch of SBIR Phase II recipients — which included Starfish Space — was announced in April.

Also in April, USNC-Tech won up to $600,000 in space agency funding in the form of a Phase II grant from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, or NIAC.

Source: Geek Wire

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