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NASA doles out $98M in funding to small business innovators, including 6 Texas firms

Houston-area Ad Astra Rocket Company, which is working on a technology that could increase the speed of space travel, received fresh funding from NASA. Photo via

Almost 100 small businesses with aerospace technology received the greenlight from NASA on their proposals for grant funding.

NASA approved 112 proposals from 92 small businesses in April. These businesses will receive a slice of the $98 million Phase II funding from the Small Business Innovation Research program. The early-stage $850,000 SBIR grants allow awardees to build on their success from the program's first phase. The firms will have 24 months to execute on their proposals with the fresh funding.

“These Phase II awards support a breadth of technologies that have the potential to be transformational for so many different projects and missions across NASA,” says Jenn Gustetic, director of early stage innovation and partnerships for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, in a news release. “In addition, it’s important that we’re including the innovative potential of all of America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs, so we’re proud that 28% of these awards are to underrepresented small businesses and 31% are to first time SBIR Phase II awardees."

Six of the award recipients are based in Texas. Here are the companies and their proposal technology:

  • Ad Astra Rocket Company, headquartered in Webster: Improved Thermo-Mechanical Design of the VASIMR RF Coupler
  • Lunar Resources Inc., headquartered in Houston: Ultra-Electrical-Efficient Process to Perform Regolith Additive Manufacturing of Complex Structures
  • Lynntech Inc., headquartered in College Station: Miniaturized Reagent Regenerative Ion Analyzer for Elemental Analysis
  • QED Secure Solutions, headquartered in Coppell: Avionics Intrusion Detection and Attack Identification
  • Stone Aerospace Inc., headquartered in Del Valle: Sediment Sequestration for Hot Water Drilling Cryobots
  • Texas Research Institute Austin Inc., headquartered in Austin: Accelerated Creep Test Methodologies for Space Habitat Softgood Structural Materials

The Ad Astra Rocket Company's technology, the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, is an electrothermal thruster that, once developed using the grant, would allow for faster space travel.

“Our program has the responsibility of supporting ideas and technologies that will have impact on NASA’s work and have strong commercial potential,” says Jason L. Kessler, program executive for NASA's SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer program, in the release. “We're always excited when we can find technologies that help our agency's missions while also having direct benefits for all."

NASA's SBIR program, which takes no equity, offers up to $1 million to selected business during the first three years. Post Phase II opportunities include up to nearly $3 million in funding. The program is a part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

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