Aug 01, 2018

300 Small Businesses Win NASA Research Contracts

NASA made waves earlier this year by announcing it was looking for small businesses with innovative technologies. The mission, if businesses chose to accept it, was to propose technology that could benefit NASA’s mission programs and other commercial markets.

First there would be awards of $125,000 for the businesses deemed to have innovations with the most scientific, technical, and commercial merit. After 6-13 months, awardees could apply for the second round of funding. These Phase II awards were extra special, with the amount jumping to $750,000, as technology would be developed and demonstrated in conjunction with NASA.

Well, the March submission deadline has come and gone, and NASA recently announced it has selected its winners. A total of 304 small businesses had their proposals accepted as part of Phase 1 of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. And 44 proposals were accepted for the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

In total, these Phase 1 awards are worth almost $50 million.

“The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs enable Marshall to work with industry and academic partners to tackle technological challenges that must be overcome to explore deep into space,” said Marshall Center Director Todd May. “Not only do they help NASA and the aerospace industry in conquering technology challenges, they also benefit small business in Alabama and across the nation.”

If you’re curious how the winners were chosen, two of the biggest factors were technical merit and feasibility. Beyond that, NASA’s reviewers also looked at each applicant’s qualifications, experience, and infrastructure.

The ultimate goal was to find effective innovations that had commercial potential. Many of the winners hail from areas of technology such as aeronautics, science, space exploration, and space operations. Proposals included things like spacecraft design modeling software, rocket engine nozzles, and satellite control systems.

While NASA and its partners will undoubtedly benefit from the development of these technologies, it’s a symbiotic relationship. The SBIR and STTR programs are intended to foster technological innovation in the small business realm. Specifically, they connect the research and development resources of NASA with socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs, as well as women-owned small businesses.

Down the road, the best of these small businesses will move into Phase III. At that point, the technologies perfected in Phase 1 or Phase II would transition into commercialization. And those lucky small business owners will then have a wild story to tell at dinner parties.

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About the author

Grant Olsen
Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on and Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

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