Spring 2021 Newsletter

National Aeronautics and Space Administration 

Volume 15, Number 2 | Spring 2021


Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Program

In This Issue

Hello, Innovators • Key Program Milestones • Phase II-E • SBIR/STTR Tech on Mars • VP Calls ISS Astronauts • HBCUs Shape Leaders at NASA • Other Opportunities • Events • Success Stories

Hello, Innovators

Jason L. Kessler

Hello, Innovators 

Last month, we announced the selection of 365 small business proposals to receive a total of more than $45 million for our 2021 SBIR/STTR Phase I awards. The selected recipients include 289 small businesses—27% of which are from underrepresented groups, including women-owned and minority-owned small businesses—as well as 47 research institutions, 19% of which are classified as Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The selected proposals span the breadth of NASA missions in aeronautics, human exploration, science, and space technology, with the chosen recipients hailing from 38 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

As the new NASA SBIR/STTR Program Executive, I am proud that our program can directly bolster small businesses with funding, especially during this time, while also working to benefit NASA and the American taxpayers with technology innovation. I am also excited for two upcoming initiatives we are launching to increase STTR participation by MSIs, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). We are working with MSI STEM Research and Development Consortium to increase STTR participation, and we will collaborate with NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project to offer research planning grants and incentivize partnerships between MSIs and small businesses. The grants will also let MSIs develop plans for proposing to an STTR solicitation subtopic. Please stay tuned for more information on these growing initiatives. 

I look forward to the upcoming Phase I SBIR and STTR developments and to increasing opportunities for small businesses and research institutions to participate in the program! If you are new to the program and are looking to learn more about how to get involved, I encourage you to check out our Resource Library. It offers a wealth of information that can help you get started on your journey with the NASA SBIR/STTR program.    

Jason L. Kessler 

NASA SBIR/STTR Program Executive 

Key Program Milestones

  • 2021 SBIR/STTR Phase I Selections: Announced March 25, 2021

  • 2021 SBIR/STTR CCRPP Selections: May 7, 2021* 
  • 2020 SBIR Phase II Selections: May 13, 2021* 

*Dates are scheduled but subject to revision. 

Phase II-E

The deadline to submit a Phase II-E proposal to be considered for the next award selection meeting is May 3rd, 2021. The eligibility window for SBIR/STTR Phase II-E proposal submission starts after the 12th month of Phase II performance and ends 60 days before the Phase II contract end date. 

Learn more about Phase II-E proposal instructions for preparation and submission at sbir.nasa.gov/content/post-phase-ii-initiatives 

Potential Investor: NASA Flight Opportunities 

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program is interested in participating as a Post-Phase II investor, specifically in support of suborbital flight testing to help advance development or commercialization of technologies. Upcoming opportunities to take advantage of matching funds from Flight Opportunities include Phase II-E proposals and the next round of CCRPP applications. 

Flight Opportunities recently invested in the following SBIR/STTR firms for their II-E contract option: 

  • Air Squared, Inc. of Broomfield, Colorado 
  • Creare, LLC of Hanover, New Hampshire 
  • Space Foundry, Inc. of Sunnyvale, California 

Learn more about Flight Opportunities Phase II-E funding: go.nasa.gov/2Kdkw1e 

SBIR/STTR Technologies Land on Mars! 

The world watched on February 18, 2021 as the Perseverance rover descended onto the red planet to search for signs of ancient microbial life. As Perseverance landed on Mars, so did 8 distinct assemblies, subsystems, or components that were initially researched and developed with NASA SBIR/STTR funding —check out the companies and technologies in this graphic: 

SBIR Tech On-board Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

Vice President Kamala Harris Calls ISS Astronauts 

Shannon Walker & Kate Rubins 

During Women’s History Month in March, NASA celebrated and paid tribute to the many women who have played an essential role in shaping the history of the agency. As part of the celebration, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris interviewed astronauts Shannon Walker and Kate Rubins about their work on the International Space Station. One of the technologies that made an appearance—the free-floating satellite that Walker holds—was made possible with SBIR-developed innovations! 

Watch the conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpQUTSPGz-0&ab_channel=NASA  

Undaunted by the Fight, HBCUs Shape Leaders at NASA 

HBCUs and MSIs make important contributions to our SBIR/STTR missions, not just through our awards but also within our team. Our very own Ashley McQueen, NASA SBIR/STTR Procurement Liaison and Ames Research Center Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native Americans, was highlighted in a feature showcasing just a couple of the many HBCU graduates at NASA. McQueen and Tawnya Laughinghouse, Technology Demonstration Missions program manager, discussed how their HBCU experience inspired and drove them in their careers and lives. 

Read the feature: nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/Undaunted_by_the_Fight_HBCUs_Shape_Leaders_at_NASA

Other Opportunities 

NASA Public Prize Competitions: NASA Centennial Challenges 

NASA Centennial Challenges is a program of prize competitions that aim to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest and value to NASA and the nation. The following public prize competitions are open for registration. To check out more activities, visit: www.nasa.gov/solve 

Deep Space Food Challenge Phase 1 

Registration deadline is May 28, 2021; Submission deadline is July 30, 2021 

Award: Up to $500K for Phase 1 

The Deep Space Food Challenge seeks to create novel food production technologies or systems that require minimal inputs and maximize safe, nutritious, and palatable food outputs for long-duration space missions, and which have potential to benefit people on Earth. 

Read more and register to participate: www.deepspacefoodchallenge.org

Break the Ice Lunar Challenge Phase 1

Deadline for Registration and Submission is June 18, 2021 

Award: Up to $500K for Phase 1 

The Break the Ice Lunar Challenge seeks to incentivize innovative approaches for excavating icy regolith and delivering water in extreme lunar environmental conditions, specifically solutions for maximizing water delivery while minimizing energy use and the mass of equipment required to be transported to the lunar surface. 

Read more and register to participate: www.breaktheicechallenge.com

CASIS Releases Two ISS National Lab Research Announcements for In-Space Production Applications 

Step one (concept summaries) are due by end of day May 6, 2021.  

Step two (full proposals from those invited to submit) are due by end of day June 22, 2021. 

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, has released two research announcements soliciting proposals for in-space production applications that would utilize the space-based environment of the orbiting laboratory. The focus areas are:  

  • Advanced Manufacturing and Materials (NLRA 2021-5) (Learn more)  
  • Tissue Engineering and Biomanufacturing (NLRA 2021-6) (Learn more)  


Commercial Space Lecture Series: April 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm ET 

Location: Virtual 

Jason L. Kessler, NASA SBIR/STTR Program Executive, will present “NASA and Small Business: Partnering Today to Create the Industry of Tomorrow” as part of the Space Portal Office Commercial Space Lecture Series at NASA Ames. This weekly telecon meeting began in 2009 and provides a unique environment and opportunity for the Agency, and the Commercial Space community, to connect with the pulse of commercial space activities and engage in an open dialogue about their challenges, opportunities and relevance to NASA. Jason’s presentation will explore the Earth observation renaissance that has occurred over the past 20 years, and the potential for climate and Earth science to follow a similar path. 

HBCU/MSI Spring Virtual Tour: April 21, 2021 

Location: Virtual 

Damian Taylor, NASA SBIR/STTR Deputy Program Executive for Integration, will be participating in this event which provides an open platform for HBCU and MSI representatives to learn about NASA’s Minority Serving Institutions Sustainability Initiative, Agency acquisition opportunities, product service lines and Vendor Database, Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) opportunities, as well as the agency’s science research opportunities, grants, fellowships and contracts. In addition to presentations and group sessions, there will be virtual networking sessions with participating federal government representatives, NASA Center Technology Transition Leads, and NASA prime contractors.

Keep an eye on our events page for regular updates. 

Success Stories

Read about news and successes from some of our SBIR/STTR firms. If you are an SBIR/STTR firm with a success story to share, email us at ARC-SBIR-Outreach@mail.nasa.gov.


Iris Technology Corporation received NASA SBIR awards to advance its cryocooler electronics, which control mechanical cryocoolers that enable thermal imaging systems to capture data to improve our knowledge of water and possibly life in space. Originally partnering with the Air Force SBIR program, Iris has since won several contracts to provide its cryocooler electronics on NASA missions— including a mission to examine the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa—and on a satellite mission with the Air Force. sbir.nasa.gov/success-stories/cryocooler-electronics-enable-thermal-imaging-planetary-objects-deep-space  


NASA’s Gateway in lunar orbit will play a critical role in the Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. The development of the Power and Propulsion Element for Gateway is being led by Maxar Technologies, a mid-size organization, with contributions from two NASA SBIR/ STTR awardees—Deployable Space Systems and Busek Company, Inc, both of which initially developed their Gateway contributions with support from the NASA SBIR/STTR program. sbir.nasa.gov/success-stories/power-and-propulsion-gateway-nasa-sbirsttr-success-story


Check out more of our success stories at sbir.nasa.gov/success-stories.

Thank You for Reading!

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