Space agency looks at proposals ranging from low-cost remote sensing to hardening electronics for deep space as possible investment candidates.
NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
NASA is evaluating a range of new space technologies as part of a multimillion-dollar program to spur innovation. The proposals from small and midsize businesses include designing electronics so they can can withstand the challenges of deep space and the development of low-cost remote sensing instruments.
The technologies are part of 300 small-business proposals the space agency is looking at as possible contract awards through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, according to NASA. The programs are meant to bolster small-business research and development and help commercialize new technologies.
Among the proposals on the list are for technologies that can help fulfill NASA's future space exploration plans to build new spacecraft and other technology to send people further into space without breaking the bank. NASA has high hopes for its future space-exploration programs but like other federal agencies is hampered by budget constraints.
One of the proposals is for the design of electronics that are hardened for radiation and thermal cycling so they can endure extreme temperature and environments such as those found in deep space and on the surfaces of the Moon and planets like Mars, according to NASA.
The agency also is eyeing technology that will make it possible for it to build scientific instruments on spacecraft more efficiently and cost-effectively. A proposal for low-cost, remote sensing instruments that can achieve complex scientific measurements with smaller spacecraft could help NASA fulfill multiple mission needs while doing more with fewer resources, the agency said.
Other space technologies NASA has chosen to evaluate include technology to improve how piloted and drone vehicles prevent encounters with hazardous weather conditions as well as mitigate the negative effects of them, and research to make spacecraft positioning, navigation and timing more precise.
The agency already has invested $175 million in a series of space-technology advancements, including a space-based high-speed optical communications system, a deep-space atomic clock, and a space solar sail.
Other federal agencies also use small-business research to help them develop new technology. The Army, for instance, plans to develop new high-tech training and combat gear based on small-business proposals.
Our annual Federal Government IT Priorities Survey shows how agencies are managing the many mandates competing for their limited resources. Also in the new issue of InformationWeek Government: NASA veterans launch cloud startups, and U.S. Marshals Service completes tech revamp. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)