NASA is collaborating with U.S. companies and small businesses to develop space technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the economy and future NASA missions.
Recent announcements of selections for the agency’s Tipping Point solicitation and Phase II of NASA’s competitive Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program include several proposals with NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
NASA selected 10 Tipping Point proposals totaling approximately $44 million and Langley is a partner on one $3 million proposal. The agency also selected 20 research and technology proposals — valued at $15 million — from 19 American small businesses for STTR Phase II and Langley will manage three of the selected proposals totaling $2.25 million.
“Building partnerships is important,” said Kim Cannon, technology transition lead at Langley. “It allows NASA to do the fundamental work that we’re good at and it allows industry to leverage that work and build their success.”
Langley will collaborate with Blue Origin on their Tipping Point proposal to advance sensor suites that would enable landing anywhere on the lunar surface. NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are the other partners. This project will mature critical technologies that enable precision and soft landing on the Moon. The project team will integrate Langley’s navigation doppler lidar technology, Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN), and altimetry sensors and conduct flight tests prior to lunar mission implementation. Testing will be performed at approximately 100 km altitude on board the Blue Origin New Shepard vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) suborbital vehicle. The resulting sensor suite will enable precision landing anywhere on the lunar surface.
The Tipping Point solicitation targeted three Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) strategic focus areas: Expand Utilization of Space, Enable Efficient and Safe Transportation Into and Through Space, and Increase Access to Planetary Surfaces. A technology is considered at a “tipping point” if investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improving the company’s ability to bring it to market.
Through firm-fixed-price contracts, STMD will make milestone payments that cover as much as $10 million per award, over a performance period of up to 36 months. Each industry partner is required to contribute a minimum of 25 percent of total cost for each project.
The selected STTR proposals cover a variety of research and development needs, including:
- Development of an optic fiber-based hybrid spectroscope, Laser & Plasma Technologies, LLC, based in Hampton, Virginia, with the University of Virginia
- Design and Process Development of Thin-Ply Composites, Composites Automation, LLC, based in Delaware with the University of Delaware
- Integrated Computational Material Engineering Technologies for Additive Manufacturing, QuesTek Innovations LLC, based in Illinois with the University of Pittsburgh
“NASA is a forward-looking agency that is on the cutting edge and that’s exciting to us,” said Mool Gupta, Laser & Plasma Technologies LLC chairman and technical advisor. “We also want to find solutions to the problems out there that are not easily solved. This is a great partnership that allows us to leverage resources to help meet our goals and NASA’s mission goals”
STTR supports NASA’s future missions in the areas of aeronautics, science, human exploration and operations, and space technology and benefits the U.S. economy by encouraging small businesses and research institutions to develop innovative ideas that meet the specific research and development needs of the federal government. The program is intended to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, increase the commercial application of research results, encourage participation of socially and economically disadvantaged persons and women-owned small businesses, and foster technology transfer through cooperative research and development between small businesses and research institutions.
Proposals were selected according to their technical merit and feasibility, in addition to the experience, qualifications and facilities of the submitting organization. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential. Only small businesses awarded Phase I contracts are eligible to submit a proposal for a Phase II funding agreement. Phase II is focused on the development, demonstration and delivery of the innovation. Phase II projects are chosen as a result of competitive evaluations and based on selection criteria provided in the Solicitation. Phase II contracts last for 24 months with a maximum funding of $750,000.
The STTR program is sponsored by STMD and managed at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.
For more information about the Tipping Point selections, visit: