NASA turns to small businesses for tech innovation

Two small business programs at NASA award $36.8 million for 368 technology projects.

NASA has awarded contracts worth a combined $36.8 million to 276 small businesses to develop technologies for the agency that eventually can become commercially available products, NASA officials said.

The contracts were awarded under NASA's Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

NASA selected 368 projects to be developed under the program. A variety of technologies will be developed under the program, including advanced transmitters for deep space communications, the officials said. 

Chosen from more than 1,600 proposals, the competitively selected awards aim to address agency research and technology needs.

The Small Business Innovation Research program selected 335 proposals and the Small Business Technology Transfer program chose 33 proposals.

Past innovations from the program have benefited a number of NASA efforts, such as air traffic control systems, Earth observing spacecraft, the International Space Station, and spacecraft for exploring the solar system.

Research areas covered among the new group of projects include:

  • Novel computational tools to better design future hypersonic spacecraft.
  • Technologies to monitor crew health and well-being using very small scale testing devices.
  • New instruments for small lunar rovers or landers to enable mineralogical analysis of rock, ice and dust samples.

The Small Business Innovation Research program is a three-phase award system. It provides small businesses the opportunity to propose ideas that meet specific research and development needs of the federal government.

The criteria used to choose the winning proposals included technical merit and feasibility, experience, qualifications and facilities, effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential and feasibility, NASA officials said.

The two programs are part of NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the two small business programs for the Innovative Partnerships Program.