NASA has selected 39 small business proposals to enter into negotiations for Phase 2 contract awards through the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. The SBIR program partners with small businesses to catalyze efforts to develop new technologies to support NASA's technology needs.
NASA will award contracts to 36 small high-technology firms in 17 states with a total value of approximately $27 million. These competitive, awards-based programs encourage U.S. small businesses to engage in federal research and development, and bring new technologies to the global marketplace. "NASA's SBIR activities foster innovative approaches to technology development -- from concept to prototype to an eventual commercial product or service," said Michael Gazarik, director of the Space Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Phase 2 marks a major milestone for these projects; they've moved from the drawing board to the lab, solving tough technology problems that will enable NASA's future missions while bringing new, valuable products into our economy."
NASA's SBIR program enables businesses to explore new technologies and potentially profit from development of new commercial products and services. The program addresses specific technology gaps in agency missions and also strives to complement other NASA research investments. Program results have benefited many NASA efforts, including modern air traffic control systems, Earth-observing spacecraft, the International Space Station and the Mars rovers.
In addition to meeting NASA's needs, the Phase 2 proposals also provide innovative research in areas that have commercial applications. For example:
-- In support of NASA's aeronautics research, SBIR research will lead to the development of better software for verification and validation of flight-critical systems that will improve aviation safety. Selected research also will develop new cryo-cooling systems that could be used on future fuel-efficient airplanes powered by turboelectric motors. This technology also could be used for future alternative energy production using superconducting wind turbines.
-- As part of NASA's mission of scientific discovery, SBIR projects will develop new optical technology that can vastly improve our ability to detect extra-solar planets in the visible or near-infrared spectrum. These technologies will add innovation to America's multi-billion-dollar optical components industry.
-- To enable human exploration beyond Earth's orbit, NASA SBIR projects will explore new technologies for the next generation of radiation shielding materials needed to protect astronauts and spacecraft from the harmful effects of space radiation. These new radiation shielding materials could have Earth-bound applications as well, protecting first responders and our military from environments where harmful radiation might be present. New lightweight shielding also may dramatically reduce design and fabrication costs for nuclear medicine and radiation therapy applications.
The highly-competitive SBIR program is a three-phase award system. It provides qualified small businesses, including those owned by women and the disadvantaged, with opportunities to propose unique ideas that meet specific research and development needs of the federal government.
Phase 1 is a feasibility study to evaluate the scientific and technical merit of an idea. Awards are for up to six months. The selected Phase 2 projects will expand on the results of Phase 1 projects selected last year, with up to $700,000 to support research for up to two years. Phase 3 is for the commercialization of the results of Phase 2 and requires the use of private sector or non-SBIR federal funding.
Program participants submitted 246 Phase 2 proposals. Proposal selection criteria included technical merit and innovation, Phase 1 performance and results, value to NASA, commercial potential and company capabilities. NASA is making a limited number of new SBIR Phase 2 selections at this time, and expects to make a second round of Phase 2 awards in late spring of 2013, following passage of federal appropriations for the agency.
NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SBIR program for the agency's Space Technology Program. NASA's 10 field centers manage individual projects. For a complete list of selected companies, visit: http://sbir.nasa.gov.
NASA's Space Technology Program is innovating, developing, testing, and flying technology for use in NASA's future missions and the greater aerospace community. For more information about NASA's Space Technology Program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/oct.