An orbital sunrise is pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles southwest of Mexico.
In addition to funding emerging technologies that have potential to support its missions, NASA also invests in commercially viable ideas that could bolster the aerospace market and encourage U.S. economic growth. New awards will support 12 small businesses in developing early-stage, high-risk technology concepts that could be commercialized in areas like climate resilience, low-cost solar cells, and active debris remediation.
In 2022, the NASA Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program piloted this new opportunity for U.S. small businesses to receive funding for technology concepts with strong commercial relevance, called SBIR Ignite. The 2022 round of awards will distribute nearly $2 million among 12 selected companies. For nine of these companies, this is their first time working with the NASA SBIR program.
“One of the reasons we launched the pilot SBIR Ignite program was to appeal to companies that had goals separate from those of our main opportunities, those whose end customers may not be only NASA but are still creating technology that NASA cares about,” said Jason L. Kessler, program executive for the NASA SBIR/STTR program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It’s excellent that many of the selected companies can begin their work with the NASA SBIR/STTR program through this opportunity.”
In Phase I of the Ignite program, the companies will develop a proof of concept for their technology and have the chance to propose for an SBIR Ignite Phase II award, which has a potential value of $850,000 per award. The awarded technologies support NASA interests in the areas of climate, hybrid-electric aircraft, in-space recycling, low-Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization, active debris remediation, and solar power. Like the main NASA SBIR/STTR program, SBIR Ignite targets the agency’s goals in aeronautics and space technology, but with a greater emphasis on products with strong commercial potential. As the space economy grows, NASA provides these funds to help small businesses validate their technologies, making them more appealing for potential investors.
“By investing in these early-stage ideas, we want to help these companies reduce risk for their technologies, which we hope will help them on their journey in the NASA-relevant commercial market,” said Maxwell Briggs, entrepreneurial engagement lead for NASA’s SBIR/STTR program at the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Among the 12 awardees are technologies that have potential benefits for Earth and in space. The full list of awardees is available online.
StormImpact Inc., based in Ohio, will develop technology that targets climate resilience in the electrical industry. The company will use NASA Earth science data to build machine learning risk models that customers in the electrical industry could use to prepare for storms and improve electrical infrastructure in changing climate conditions. These models could help reduce expenses that go towards repairs by monitoring vegetation growth and risk near vulnerable infrastructure; additional applications for these models could include wildfire risk management and forestry.
Canopy Aerospace, Inc., a minority-owned business based in Illinois, aims to contribute to the commercial LEO industry by developing a new Reusable Heatshields Additive Manufacturing (RHAM) platform. This technology would enable rapid production of reusable thermal protection system tiles, which protect space vehicles from aerodynamic heating. The RHAM platform could be used for near-term installation on commercial space missions.
Turion Space Corporation, based in California, will address active debris remediation by developing a system involving several CubeSats and a carrier spacecraft that could remove multiple debris objects from low-Earth orbit in a single mission. The system draws on Turion’s past experience developing commercial spacecraft for inspection and orbital transport services. Turion’s debris remediation system could have additional commercial applications by collecting data when not performing debris removal missions.
Ampaire, Inc., based in California, will develop a hybrid electric powertrain that could enable flexible implementation in a variety of aircraft applications. Ampaire’s experience and partnerships will contribute to this powertrain, combining modern engine and electric machine technology with a hybrid electric configuration. This effort appeals to a broad market of customers interested in reducing fossil fuel use and replacing it with electric or hybrid electric alternatives.
The NASA SBIR/STTR program is part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. To learn more about NASA’s SBIR/STTR program and apply to future opportunities, visit:
Last Updated: Nov 17, 2022
Editor: Loura Hall