NASA’s version of an SBIR (similar to programs run by other agencies) awards a series of contract “Phases” to small business helping them demonstrate their technologies. Upon completion of these phases, small businesses would be empowered to independently pursue commercialization of their technologies.
Good for the company: marketable product.
Good for NASA: access to technologies at commercial-off-the-shelf prices
Phase I contracts: $100K (or less) over 6mo.
Phase II contracts: $600K over 24mo.
The SBIR program continues to show great potential, but sadly produces far fewer commercializations then anyone would like. The low commercialization success is driven by several factors (I am sure there are more than these):
- NASA chooses SBIR technologies that they want commercialized , not necessarily ones that have been analyzed to thrive in the marketplace (SBIRs are more tech development than business development). Check out #24 on my list below for a firm attempting to change this for NASA's biomedical SBIRs.
- The SBIR program has some companies that win and execute an SBIR through all of its phases, but never commercialize anything preferring the low-risk approach of perpetually submitting new SBIRs without taking the high risk/high reward attempt at commercialization. Have you heard of the term, “SBIR Shop”?
- Aerospace components don't sell nearly as well as integrated products. Since SBIRs focus on components (usually), it may take the integration of several SBIR contracts to gain enough components to turn into an integrated product slowing the path to commercialization.
But let’s talk about the good news. Wow, there are a lot of cool ideas in this batch of NASA SBIR Phase I winners. Below is my summary of 25 SBIR Ideas to watch. To make my list, the SBIR idea had to meet these loose standards:
- Have a market (I could easily think of) beyond NASA
- Be hypothetically commercialized by a small firm
- Demonstrate a space focus (sorry to all of the air-traffic control and UAV SBIR winners, you did not make the list)
- Advanced Scientific Concepts, Inc. 3D Flash LIDAR real time embedded processing
- Altius Space Machines, Inc. Attractive docking technology
- Aspen Aerogels, Inc. Ablative Flexible Aerogel TPS Materials for Mars Aerocapture and Entry
- Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation Rendezvous and Docking Technologies for Orbiting Sample Capture
- Composite Technology Development, Inc. De-orbit Devices/Technologies for Small Spacecraft
- EM Photonics Compressed Sensing for Space-Based High-Definition Video Technologies
- Firestar Engineering, LLC Low Cost Carbon-Carbon Rocket Nozzle Development
- Gloyer-Taylor Laboratories LLC Reliable, Reusable Cryotank
- HKM Enterprises Inc. Interface for grouping multiple secondary payloads into a primary mission
- Honeybee Robotics Ltd. Magnetic Bearings for Small Satellite CMG’s & Other Miniature Spacecraft Mechanisms
- Hyper-Therm High-Temperature Composites Novel Fabrication Approach for SiC/SiC Thermal Protection System Elements
- Innoflight, Inc. CubeSat Power Management Controller and Solar Array Articulation System
- Materials Technologies Corporation Durable and Conductive IR witness coatings for High Accuracy IR Thermography
- Pacific Design Technologies, Inc. High Performance Space Pump (mentions re-fueling hydrazine on orbit)
- Picometrix, LLC Miniaturized Non Destructive Evaluation for In-Orbit Inspection.
- Pioneer Astronautics Nitrous Oxide Micro Engines
- Powdermet, Inc. Aerogel Modified Structural Thermal Protection System
- Rocketstar Robotics Inc Modular Actuators for Space Applications
- Sierra Lobo, Inc. A CubeSat-Scale Testbed for Cryogenic Fluid Management Technologies
- Technology Applications, Inc. Lightweight Inflatable Cryogenic Tank
- Techshot, Inc. Life Science Research Sample Transfer Technology for On Orbit Analysis.
- Tethers Unlimited PowerCube: Integrated Power, Propulsion, and Pointing for CubeSats
- Tethers Unlimited High Thrust Efficiency MPD Thruster
- Virtual Incubation Company, LLC A venture capitalist market assessment of NASA’s Human Research Program Technologies
- XCOR Aerospace Cryogenic Composite Tank Fabrication for Reusable Launch Vehicles