NASA Announces $51 Million in Small Business Investments
Recently, the world watched as the results of a major private-public partnership took to the sky. On May 30th, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carried two NASA astronauts from Cape Canaveral, Florida to the international space station. On the heels of that accomplishment, NASA has revealed the next round of companies developing tomorrow’s big breakthroughs, announcing the latest recipients of their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs
For each project selected, the business will receive up to $125,000 as part of Phase I. Between the two programs, $51 million will be going to 312 small businesses. Interestingly these businesses are based across 44 states as well as the District of Columbia. As the tech that these businesses are developing matures, further investment may be possible, with NASA’s Phase II contracts supporting prototyping.
For more than 100 of the companies chosen, this investment will be the first they’ve received through either the SBIT or STTR programs. Also notable is that NASA reports that 27% of those selected are minority or women-owned businesses. While each selected project will promote human exploration and aeronautics, NASA points out that several of them also have foreseeable applications here at home on Earth.
For example Illinois-based CU Aerospace is developing a compact sterilizer that can not only be used on spacecraft materials but also on personal protective equipment and other medical industry tools — something that’s proving quite critical in today’s world. Meanwhile Aegis Technology in partnership with Cornell University received an STTR award to develop low-cost lithium-ion batteries, which could have numerous applications.
Discussing the programs and the impact of small businesses, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate associate administrator Jim Reuter said, “NASA depends on America’s small businesses for innovative technology development that helps us achieve our wide variety of missions. Whether we’re landing Artemis astronauts on the Moon, sending rovers to Mars, or developing next-generation aircraft our small business partners play an important role.” As for what these investment will mean for recipients, SBIR/STTR executive Jenn Gustetic explained, “A Phase I award is just the first step in helping these small businesses bring their technologies and ideas to market. We know these companies not only need funding, but business guidance and industry expertise to help them develop better products and grow. Our program aims to help each of them in their journeys to commercialization.”
Although those chosen for NASA’s SBIR and STTR awards may not be the “mom and pop” operations that most people think of when they hear the term “small businesses,” these innovate startups are no less relevant. In fact, any of these 300+ companies could well grow to have an impact as large as Space X (if not larger). With that in mind, for more information on the SBIR/STTR program and this round of Phase I recipients, be sure to visit the NASA website.