NASA Reaches Out to Small Businesses on Research, Technology

Among the advanced research areas in NASA's selected proposals include new technologies to reduce drag on aircraft, and life support systems.

While it's probably safe to say that every enterprising small business owner shoots for the moon, NASA is looking to take that expression to a whole new level through its Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.

The organization announced it has selected 295 research and technology proposals from 216 American small businesses for negotiations that may lead to contract awards worth a combined $38.7 million. Numerous NASA efforts, including modern air traffic control systems, Earth-observing spacecraft, human spaceflight and the International Space Station, and NASA's Mars rovers have already benefited from the programs, like SBIR, which addresses specific technology gaps in agency missions while striving to complement other agency research investments.

In addition, the STTR program facilitates the transfer of technology developed by a research institution through the entrepreneurship of a small business. This year, NASA issued two concurrent solicitations for Phase I proposals. A general solicitation for both SBIR and STTR sought Phase I proposals in response to a broad range of research topics. A select solicitation was for the SBIR program only and focused on a small group of topics of particular interest to the agency.

"NASA's small business innovation research projects are strong and valuable investments that continue to pay dividends to NASA and the American people," Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology in Washington, said in a statement. "If successful, these early-stage technology concepts will mature to meet NASA's mission needs while also providing solutions that have wide applicability in the marketplace, potentially becoming new products, services and jobs here in the U.S."

Among the advanced and innovative research areas in these selected proposals include new technologies to reduce drag on aircraft and thereby increase fuel efficiency during supersonic flight, improved advanced spacesuit life support systems, developing a rugged laser transmitter for new detection systems to profile Earth's atmospheric ozone, and cutting-edge concepts and technologies to enable significant increases in the capacity and efficiency of air transportation systems, potentially aiding in on-time arrival, departure and taxiing of airplanes while reducing their fuel consumption, noise and pollution.

Selection criteria included technical merit and feasibility, along with experience, qualifications and facilities. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential and feasibility. Awards typically are for six months for the SBIR contracts and 12 months for the STTR contracts. The maximum amount is $125,000 for general SBIR and STTR contracts and $200,000 for SBIR select solicitation proposals, a NASA release explained.