NASA will fund nearly 100 small businesses for space ideas

NASA has selected 107 projects from 95 small businesses to bring their space technology ideas to life.

The space agency said it awarded $93.5 million to selected small businesses as part of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The program offers early-stage funding and support for small businesses to advance space research.

At 80%, the majority of businesses awarded the funds – up to $850,000 each – have less than 50 employees, according to NASA. This is the second phase of funding under the program, and one-fifth of the awardees have advanced to this stage for the first time.

The selected businesses are expected to build on their success from the program’s first phase to bring their technologies closer to real-world use. They will have 24 months to execute their plans and must focus on the commercialization path of their innovations.

“Our program works directly with small businesses to forge innovative concepts and technologies that drive impact for NASA projects as well as a myriad of commercial endeavors,” said Jason L. Kessler, program executive for NASA’s SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program at NASA Headquarters.

“This collaboration results in realized opportunities not only for NASA but all of humanity,” Kessler said.

The selected projects include a genetic testing instrument developed by the women-owned and first-time Phase II awardee nou Systems, Inc. from Huntsville, Alabama. Its work is aimed at automating the genetic sequencing process.

This would allow DNA analysis anywhere on Earth or off the planet, which is now unfeasible because the process requires a trained wet lab technician and several pieces of laboratory equipment.

“We are thrilled to support this diverse set of companies as they work diligently to bring their technologies to market,” said Jenn Gustetic, director of Early Stage Innovation and Partnerships with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

“Inclusive innovation is integral to mission success at NASA, and we’re excited to see that 29% of the awardees are from underrepresented groups, including 11% women-owned businesses,” Gustetic said.

Other projects include technologies aimed at reducing astronaut workload and improving robotic scientific endeavors on the Moon and Mars.

For example, one of the awardees, Boulder, Colorado-based PickNick Inc., will use its Phase II funds to continue developing a hardware-agnostic platform for supervised autonomy that would allow humans to command a remote robot to complete complex tasks with minimal input, which could support the Artemis program.

Outside of NASA, the company’s software may be of interest to commercial space customers working on low Earth orbit destinations, in-space servicing, and other uses, the space agency said. On Earth, it could be used in areas like warehouse management, oil rig maintenance, and deep-sea exploration.

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