The Orion spacecraft is designed to be the first craft to carry astronauts out of Earth’s orbit and out into the solar system since the Apollo missions took us to the moon. In its quest to get us off the planet, NASA is supporting small businesses here at home by outsourcing some tasks required for the completion of the Orion craft and the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket that will carry it out of orbit and into the stars.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program
NASA is home to some of the greatest minds of our time, but they can only do so much before Orion’s next planned unmanned launch in 2018. With that in mind, NASA reached out to small businesses in the fields of technology, aerodynamics, and other space-related fields. With approximately $100 million in their pocket to negotiate with, the space giant selected proposals from 112 small businesses, providing each of them with grants of up to $125,000 for their phase 1 projects and up to $750,000 to complete their phase 2 projects.
Phase 1 is designed to last six months, while phase 2 can continue for no longer than two years. Successful projects after that will continue to phase 3, which is the commercialization of their invention.
In addition to receiving the grant money provided for the SBIR program project, those small businesses that continue to phase 3 will be set up for potentially exponential growth.
Small business projects
While there isn’t a lot of information available about the specific projects contracted by NASA, the goal of the program is to find small businesses capable of creating the new technologies that will carry the human race into the stars. Some examples of technological goals might include:
- New Ultra-Compact Light Detecting and Radar (LIDAR) Systems that reduce the weight and size of the sensors needed for functional LIDAR systems.
- Software and hardware that allows for precise formation flying for both manned and unmanned craft.
- Plastic recycling that…