NASA recently selected 128 proposals as part of Phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. These selections will look to offer support for NASA's future space exploration missions. Proposals were selected according to technical merit, feasibility, and the experience, qualifications, and facilities of the submitting organization. Additional criteria included the effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential.
Some examples of winning submissions included:
- Low-power, ultra-fast, deep-learning neuromorphic computer chips designed for unmanned aircraft systems and delivery drones. Neuromorphic computer chips can analyze, in real-time, big data streams coming from cameras, sensors, and avionics.
- Solid-state oxygen concentrator and compressor designed to minimize hardware weight, volume, and power footprint, while still meeting required capabilities. This technology concentrates the oxygen within future crewed space environments, providing the required concentration of oxygen to crew members.
- Sensors and cameras for detecting and tracking near-Earth asteroids. These asteroids are mostly dark, small, and cold, and are best detected in long-wave infrared wavelengths greater than 12 microns, where they glow brightest.
- A new wheel concept for enhanced surface mobility designed to emulate the behavior of a variable pressure tire without an inflation system. This wheel can benefit future NASA planetary exploration missions to the Moon and Mars by enhancing the mobility and controllability of surface exploration rovers and future vehicles.
Phase II of SBIR is focused on development, demonstration, and delivery. These projects are chosen as a result of competitive evaluations and selection criteria. Phase II contracts last for 24 months with a maximum funding level of $750,000. Phase III will be the commercialization stage.