NASA doled out funding to 12 startups — and one from Houston makes the cut. Photo courtesy of re:3D

Houston-based re:3D Inc was recently one of 12 innovative companies from around the country to be granted Phase II awards from a NASA small business initiative, the space giant announced earlier this week.

The grants of up to $850,000 are awarded to early-stage, high-risk technology concepts that could be commercialized for use in space and on Earth as part of NASA's SBIR Ignite pilot, which is part of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

The program was launched to support emerging companies "whose end customers may not be only NASA but are still creating technology that NASA cares about,” Jason L. Kessler, program executive for the NASA SBIR/STTR program, says in a previous statement. And it aims to attract companies that have not yet worked with NASA.

The concepts from the cohort have applications in climate resilience, low-cost solar cells and active debris remediation. Re:3D Inc.'s project looks to develop a recycling system that uses a 3D printer to turn thermoplastic waste generated in orbit into functional and useful objects, according to the project's proposal.

SBIR Ignite made its inaugural Phase I awards in 2022, granting about $2 million in total to the 12 companies, including re:3D Inc. The Phase II grants are intended to help the companies create their prototypes.

“We are proud that all 12 of the small businesses are continuing with our program and persevering through the tough realities of early-stage research and development,” Kessler said in a statement made this month. "These awards foster a unique range of technologies that we hope will have positive impacts on the lives of everyday Americans in the future."

Re3D Inc. is the only company from Texas in the cohort. The other 11 awarded companies and their projects include:

  • Ampaire Inc.: High Efficiency Powertrain for Hybrid Aircraft
  • Canopy Aerospace Inc.: Reusable Heatshields through Additive Manufacturing
  • Cecilia Energy: Catalytic Conversion of Waste Plastic to Hydrogen
  • Crystal Sonic Inc.: Reducing Cost of Space Photovoltaics via Sound-Assisted Substrate Reuse
  • H3X Technologies Inc.: HPDM-30 – A 10 kW/kg Integrated Motor Drive for UAV and Aircraft Electric Propulsion
  • Outpost Technologies Corporation: Outpost Cargo Ferry: A Rapid Cargo Downmass Vehicle
  • Solestial, Inc.: Next Generation Silicon Based Solar Arrays for Space Stations and Other Permanent Space Infrastructure
  • StormImpact Inc.: Optimizing vegetation management to improve the resilience of the electrical power system to extreme weather
  • Terrafuse, Inc.: Wildfire Mitigation through Explainable Risk Predictions
  • Trans Astronautica Corporation: Mini Bee Capture Bag for Active Debris Remediation
  • Turion Space Corp.: Low-Cost CubeSat for Active Removal of Sizable Space Debris Utilizing a Mothership Architecture

Re:3D Inc. was founded in 2013 by NASA contractors Samantha Snabes and Matthew Fiedler and is based in Clear Lake. It's known for its GigaBot 3D printer, which uses recycled materials to create larger devices.

Since its founding it's been named to numerous accelerators and has earned national recognition, like the Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which honors small businesses that are at the forefront of technology. It was selected by the SBA to participate in its inaugural America’s Seed Fund Startup Expo last year.

Co-founder Snabes spoke on the Houston Innovators Podcast in 2020. Click here to listen to the full, in-depth interview.

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 NASA.gov

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

grants lifting off

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.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.

Report: Amid difficult market, Houston sees uptick in VC funding

seeing green

Houston-area startups saw a healthy increase in venture capital funding during the first half of 2024 compared with the same period last year, new data shows.

In the first six months of this year, Houston-area startups attracted $760.55 million in VC funding, according to the latest PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. That’s up 17.7 percent from the $645.99 million collected in the first six months of 2023.

Keep in mind that these figures might not match previously reported numbers. That’s because PitchBook regularly adjusts data as new information becomes available.

In light of various factors, such as the ongoing hype over artificial intelligence, fundraising will likely continue to be challenging for U.S. startups as a whole, according to Nizar Tarhuni, vice president of institutional research and editorial at PitchBook, a provider of VC data.

Nonetheless, Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), points out that American venture capital “is finding its footing in 2024.”

Across the country, VC funding for startups in the first half of 2024 totaled $93.4 billion, up 6.5 percent from the $87.7 billion raised during the same period last year, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor.

“With steadily increasing deal values, especially across early-stage investments, more first-time financings, and increased crossover investor participation, [the second quarter of 2024] was a good one for VC,” says Franklin. “Now it’s up to founders, investors, and regulators to support, rather than stifle, these green shoots as the market heads toward a recovery.”

In the second quarter alone, VC funding in the U.S. jumped from $35.4 billion in 2023 to $55.6 billion in 2024. That’s an increase of 57 percent.

By contrast, the Houston area’s VC funding went in the opposite direction. Startups in the region scored $231.79 million in VC during the second quarter of 2024 vs. $333.17 million during the same period a year earlier. That’s a drop of 30 percent.

So far in 2024, Houston-based Fervo Energy dominates VC hauls for startups in the metro area. In March, the provider of geothermal power announced it had secured $244 million in funding, with Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company Devon Energy leading the round.

Fervo’s latest pot of VC represents more than 30 percent of all Houston-area VC funding during the first six months of 2024.

Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo, says the $244 million investment enables his company “to continue to position geothermal at the heart of 24/7 carbon-free energy production.”

Fervo says the latest VC round will support development of its 400-megawatt geothermal project in Beaver County, Utah. The Cape Station facility is expected to start generating power for the grid in 2026.

High-tech Formula 1 cars rev engines toward Houston for unique event

lights out and away we go

Houstonians with a passion for Formula 1 racing have to drive to Austin — and spend a lot of money — to get up close to the innovative cars that reach speeds over 200 miles per hour. That’s all going to change in September.

The Bayou City will be the next host of a Red Bull Showrun. Held on Saturday, September 7 at Discovery Green in downtown Houston, the free event will feature one of Red Bull’s championship-winning RB7 car flying down the streets around the park.

Best of all, it’s completely free to attend. Of course, those who want a great view of the action may purchase $50 grandstand tickets that went on sale this morning.

Held previously in other cities without F1 races such as New York, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., Red Bull uses the Showrun to bring the sport to new fans. Although the sport traces its history to the ‘50s, it has seen a boost in popularity thanks to Formula 1: Drive to Survive, a Netflix show that offers a behind-the-scenes look at key people on each of the 10 teams.

Red Bull’s Formula 1 team is riding particularly high at the moment, having won the Constructors Championship in both 2022 and 2023 on the strength of its car and driver Max Verstappen, who has won three consecutive Drivers’ Championship titles and currently leads the championship this year, too.

"The best part about any Red Bull Showrun is being able to bring Formula One to some fans that have already seen it, but more importantly to some who have never seen Formula One before," David Coulthard, a former Red Bull Racing Grand Prix driver who won 13 races during his 15-year career, said in a statement.

Held from noon to 2 pm, the RB7 car will make a number of trips on the streets, doing doughnuts and burnouts and generally being very fast and loud. In between those runs, the Showrun will feature appearances by other Red Bull athletes and a DJ battle between local legends DJ Mr. Rogers and Chase B, who is the longtime DJ for hip hop star Travis Scott. A complete lineup of appearances will be released at a later date, according to a release.

Fans will also have access to a fan zone with food vendors, F1 racing simulators, Oracle Red Bull Racing merchandise, and other free activities.

For more information, including how to purchase grandstand tickets, visit the event’s website.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.