NASA recently announced that it has entered phase two of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
NASA has recently selected several small business partners that it will be investing in. This effort was made to conduct further research and develop the technology that the agency can use to achieve its short- and long-term goals.
The SBIR program has selected a relatively long short-list of small businesses that the agency believes has promising new ideas.
NASA plans on utilizing these ideas that can be used for both its space-oriented goals but also has practical applications here on earth.
What is the SBIR program?
Since NASA lacks the manpower or the talent to develop new technology, it instead recruits smaller businesses with the necessary resources to conduct research and development.
The SBIR program funds these small partners throughout the stages of development.
The agency divided these into three stages:
- the feasibility study stage, which is phase one
- the development and testing stage, the current phase two
- the commercialization of the product, or phase three
A long short-list of partners
Phase one of the program yielded a long list of potential technologies that NASA finds worth investing into. The list is 139 proposals long and ranges from participants from 31 states across the U.S.
The focus area of the phase two awardees is broad, but the agency wants to focus mostly on initiatives that are concerned with aeronautics and space travel and exploration.
A particular focus point is the Artemis program, which plans on landing the next man and woman on the moon by 2024.
The agency did specify a few of the more promising projects in its press release, though. These include a firm that will be developing fission systems, presumably for energy self-sufficiency.
The business in question is from Tennessee and proposes to use a new material for more efficient energy conversion in small fission reactors.
Another recipient is a company development of onboard artificial intelligence (AI) for spacecraft. This AI will be designed to function as an onboard virtual assistant that can handle the minutiae of ship and material management, leaving the crew free to work on more mission-critical tasks.
Funding partners for the development of technology
NASA’s SBIR program phase two awards successful partners with a US$750,000 [AU$1.1 million] development fund. The companies are then expected to work on their individual projects for up to 24 months, after which their eligibility for graduation to phase three will be ascertained.