NASA and small businesses across the country are now joining forces to help the space agency further reach its goals of deep space exploration. NASA has as of now chosen over 300 research and technology proposals from 277 American small businesses and research institutions as part of its scientific funding and research programs, Small Business Innovation Research, and, Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/SBTT). The programs aim to help small businesses and research institutions in the field of science and technology get seed funding for the development of new innovations that could benefit NASA with its space programs. With these innovations, NASA hopes to utilize them towards their mission objectives in future projects while helping businesses achieve commercial success with their new inventions. Such inventions include a software that enables users to control unmanned aircraft systems, measuring tools that can identify exoplanets and a manufacturing process that efficiently recycles old and worn metal parts into useful parts needed for constructs that exist in space.
To determine which proposals will get accepted, NASA takes into account certain factors such as qualifications, experience, the state of facilities being used, the technological feasibility of the applicant’s invention and its commercial potential as well. Both programs are award based and open to small businesses operating in the fields of science and technology across 36 states including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Both award programs also have a total value of approximately $ 49.9 million and are separated into two Phases each with Phase I proposals for both offering up to $ 125,000 worth of funding each for 9 months worth of research studies.
Given that the awards programs are very competitive, small businesses and research institutions must focus much of their attention on federal research and the development of new inventions that they will have the potential to profit from while helping NASA reach its mission goals. This would have a largely positive impact on the US economy as more investments are being made in the fields of science, space technology, human exploration, and aeronautics. “These proposals represent the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses that fuel our economy and create jobs on Main Street, ” says Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate.
In 1998, NASA launched the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) to help it reach its goals of developing ” long-term advanced concepts” that would alter previous aeronautic concepts used before. The program ran for 9 years before it was shut down in 2007 and revived again with modifications in 2011 by Congress after they requested a review of the previous program from the United States National Research Council who determined that bringing it back would create ” a mechanism to investigate visionary, far-reaching advanced concepts.” It is currently part of the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). For the 2017 draft of the NIAC, NASA included a Phase II award option for awardees who received the Phase I awards which will give them funding of up to $ 500,000 that would enable them to further develop their initial Phase I concepts for two years. “This program provides opportunities for companies and institutions to commercialize their innovations while contributing to meeting NASA’s goals and objectives across all mission areas,” says Jurczyk. “The dollar value of these innovation projects represents an investment in the American economy.”