Managing pilotless aircraft and solar panels that could help humans live on the Moon and Mars are among the technologies NASA is looking to develop with contracts totalling $106 million for small businesses.
In all, NASA has selected 142 proposals from 129 US small businesses in 28 states (and the District of Columbia) to receive Phase II contracts as part of the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research programme.
Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission directorate (www.nasa.gov
), said: “Small businesses play an important role in our science and exploration endeavours. NASA’s diverse community of partners, including small businesses across the country, helps us achieve our mission and cultivate the US economy.
“Their innovations will help America land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024, establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface a few years later, and pursue exciting opportunities for going to Mars and beyond.”
NASA assessed the proposals on a range of criteria, including technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential, as well as the companies’ experience, qualifications and facilities.
The selected proposals will support the development of technologies in the areas of human exploration and operations, space technology, science and aeronautics.
The proposals include: solar panels that deploy like Venetian blinds; sensor technology for autonomous entry, descent and precision landing on planetary surfaces; a type of permanent magnet that creates a bonding force between two components with no moving parts, enabling large platforms to be assembled in space; a high-resolution X-ray instrument to analyse surface rocks and core samples on planets and asteroids; and a suite of technologies for managing autonomous aircraft.
Only small businesses awarded a Phase I contract are eligible to submit a proposal for a Phase II funding agreement; these are focused on the development, demonstration, and delivery of the innovations previously selected during Phase I.
Phase II contracts last for 24 months, with a maximum funding of $750,000.