NASA Supports Small Business Research to Power Future Exploration

WASHINGTON—NASA has selected hundreds of small businesses and dozens of research institutions to develop technology to help drive the future of space exploration, ranging from novel sensors and electronics to new types of software and cutting-edge materials. The newly awarded projects under the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program also include a high-power electric rocket and a coating to make solar panels more efficient that could be used both in space and here on Earth.

The awards total nearly $50 million, with investments spread out over 39 states and Washington, D.C. Under the selection, 333 proposals from 257 small businesses and 41 research institutions – including 10 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) – will be awarded first-round funding for technology development. View the full lists of SBIR awardees and STTR awardees online.

NASA investments in American small businesses and research institutions help provide the innovations needed for the exciting and ambitious missions on the agency’s horizon and foster robust commercial space and technology sectors.

bdpatoday | ICYMI 04.30.22“NASA is working on ambitious, groundbreaking missions that require innovative solutions from a variety of sources – especially our small businesses,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Small businesses have the creative edge and expertise needed to help our agency solve our common and complex challenges, and they are crucial to maintaining NASA’s leadership in space. The SBIR program is one of the key ways we do that as well as creating jobs in a growing, sustainable space economy.”

Each proposal team will receive $150,000 – a 20% increase over previous years’ funding – to establish the merit and feasibility of their innovations. Phase I SBIR contracts are awarded to small businesses and last for six months, while Phase I STTR contracts are awarded to small businesses in partnership with a research institution and last for 13 months.

“The selections span a breadth of areas to empower the agency’s work in human exploration, space technology, science, and aeronautics,” said Jenn Gustetic, director of early-stage innovation and partnerships for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “We’re excited about the uses for these technologies for Artemis and other missions, as well as their potential use in the commercial space industry and people’s everyday lives.”

About 30% of the awards will go to first-time NASA SBIR/STTR recipients. This includes Ad Astra Rocket Company based in Webster, Texas. With its Phase I award, the company will develop a new way of manufacturing part of its Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, engine – a high-power electric rocket engine the company has been working on with NASA for 25 years. In the engine, powerful radiofrequency waves are launched by special antennas, called couplers. The waves ionize gas into plasma, which is then accelerated to provide rocket thrust. The Phase I funding will be used to manufacture couplers in a way that increases the engine’s power limit. This innovation will help move the entire engine closer to commercialization, where it could be used for high-maneuverability satellites, lunar settlement cargo delivery, and more.

Nearly 25% of the selected companies are women-owned, veteran-owned, disadvantaged, and/or HUBzone small businesses. For example, D2K Technologies, a women- and minority-owned small business based in Oceanside, California, will create a monitoring and advisory system for health management of solenoid operated valves (SOV) used in industrial applications with its Phase I award. This technology could find use in many of NASA’s research centers, testing centers, and launch sites, since SOVs are basic components of most fluid systems. And, with the widespread use of SOVs in industrial applications, the system could be useful to oil and gas, nuclear, manufacturing, power generation, chemical, food, and pharmaceutical companies. This eight-person company is also a first-time NASA SBIR awardee.

“Finding and building a diverse community of entrepreneurs is a central part of our program’s outreach, and the efforts to reach them can start even before Phase I,” said Gynelle Steele, deputy program executive for NASA’s SBIR/STTR program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “For example, working in partnership with NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project, we started offering M-STTR planning grants last year, which incentivized partnerships between MSIs and small businesses and prepared them to submit a STTR Phase I proposal in 2022.”

National BDPA’s “Space City” Chapter in Huntsville, Alabama is a Meta Data Center  Community Action Grant winner for FY22 . Funding for nonprofits and schools support long-term vitality of Huntsville.

M-STTR awardee Oakwood University, a historically Black university (HBCU) based in Huntsville, Alabama, will continue working alongside SSS Optical Technologies, a small business also based in Huntsville, using their Phase I award to develop a new type of coating for photovoltaic (PV) cells embedded in solar sails. The coating could generate extra electricity and improve the overall PV conversion efficiency, which could advance solar sailing and other power and energy conversion needs for space exploration. This technology could improve the efficiency of commercial solar panels.

NASA selected Phase I proposals to receive funding by judging their technical merit and commercial potential. Based on their progress during Phase I, companies may submit proposals for $850,000 in Phase II funding to develop a prototype, as well as subsequent SBIR/STTR Post Phase II opportunities. The NASA SBIR/STTR program is part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate and is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

To learn more about NASA’s SBIR/STTR program and apply to future opportunities, visit: https://sbir.nasa.gov/.

— Source and photos: NASA


A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Air Force HBCU/MI Collider
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NASA’s New Computational Research Facility named after Hidden Figures’ “Human Computer”

HAMPTON, VA–When she heard that NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, would name its newest building after her, Katherine Johnson responded the only way she could – with surprise.

“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,” the 99-year-old Johnson, of “Hidden Figures” fame, said with a laugh.

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, or CRF, was dedicated Sept. 22 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by family and friends of Johnson and her fellow “human computers,” students from Black Girls Code and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, and special guests from across Virginia.

“You have been a trailblazer,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during the ceremony. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”

Johnson held a fascination with numbers as a girl growing up in West Virginia. Eventually, she translated that love into using her math skills to help advance the nation’s space program in the 1960s.

“I like the stars, and the stories we were telling, and it was a joy to contribute to the literature that was going to come out,” said Johnson, the central character in the book and movie “Hidden Figures.” “But little did I think it would go this far.”

“We’re here to honor the legacy of one of the most admired and inspirational people ever associated with NASA,” said Langley Director David Bowles. “I can’t imagine a better tribute to Mrs. Johnson’s character and accomplishments than this building that will bear her name.”

State of the art

The CRF is a state-of-the-art facility that will enable innovative research and development supporting NASA’s missions. It is the third building in Langley’s 20-year revitalization plan.

“I always like something new,” Johnson said of the facility. “It gives credit to everybody who helped.”

The $23-million, 37,000-square-foot (3,437 square-meter) structure is consolidating four Langley data centers. The building incorporates energy-saving features that are expected to be 33 percent more efficient than if those features had not been included.

The significance of the facility is that it advances Langley’s capabilities in modeling and simulation, big data and analysis. Powerful computers like those in the CRF are capable of ever more complex analysis and simulation, in some cases replacing but also validating and complimenting the research done in NASA’s labs and wind tunnels. The CRF also houses an office area for researchers to do their work.

“We know that these are the tools that will help shape the world of the future,” Bowles said. “We’ll do more calculations that ever, and we’ll do them faster, more efficiently and with greater reliability.”

Johnson was a “human computer” at Langley who calculated trajectories for America’s first spaceflights. She worked at Langley from 1953 until retiring in 1986. Her contributions and those of other NASA African-American human computers are chronicled in “Hidden Figures,” based on author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name. After Johnson’s story began to emerge, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by then-President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015.

The backstory

In 1962, as NASA prepared for the orbital mission of John Glenn, Johnson was called on to do the work that she would become most known for. The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Bermuda.

The computers had been programmed with orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission, from blast off to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts.

As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to “get the girl” — Johnson — to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine.

“If she says they’re good,” Johnson remembers Glenn saying, “then I’m ready to go.” Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in space.

Breaking down barriers

“Thank goodness for the book and movie to come out so people got to understand what this woman meant to our country,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “She really broke down the barriers.”

Shetterly, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, praised Johnson and fellow human computers Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan as being revolutionary by just doing their jobs. “We are living in a present that they willed into existence with their pencils, their slide rules, their mechanical calculating machines – and, of course, their brilliant minds.”

Shetterly said the path to the future is rarely predictable, smooth or direct – and Johnson’s was no exception.

“At every fork, her talent, her hard work and her character pulled her toward her destiny,” she said. “At every turn, she made a choice to become the protagonist in her own story and then of ours.”

Shetterly said Johnson’s story is one of a thirst for knowledge and a celebration of teamwork.

“Telling your story has been an honor,” she said. “You work changed our history and your history has changed our future.”

Johnson, who received four standing ovations at the ceremony, happily recalls her time at Langley, saying that her job was to just answer questions to the best of her ability at all times, whether she got them correct or not.

“I didn’t do anything alone but to try to get to the root of the question – and succeeded there,” she said.

→ Source and credits: Eric Gillard, NASA

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Patriots Technology Training Center to Host 19th Annual Youth Summit on Technology

Seat Pleasant, MD—”Empowering Students Through Technology” has been the mission for over 19 years by increasing the number of students entering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) ultimately leading towards college education and career paths in these fields. Over the years, Patriots Technology Training Center (PTTC) has partnered with major technology corporations, governments, non-profits such as BDPA, and related foundations to support their mission.

pttc-cyber2015bPatriots’ program stems from having an annual Youth Summit on Technology, Summer Camps and the Patriots STEM Carnival. Patriots also engages in Lego, Robotics, Bio-medical, Solar System, Flight Simulation, Video Design, Cyber Security and Science Bowl competitions. PTTC students have attended the National Society of Black Engineers conferences from Charlotte, NC; Boston, MA; Las Vegas, NV; to Dallas, TX.

This year, Patriots Technology Training Center will host their 19th annual Youth Summit on Technology at Bowie State University, Saturday, April 30, 2016. Select here for details.

—Source and photos: Patriots Technology Training Center

Don’t miss the largest celebration of STEM in the US!

USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo at Washington Convention Center

April 16-17, 2016

WASHINGTON—What is the universe made of? Why did dinosaurs go extinct? What do magic tricks and hip-hop have to with math? What will be the next medical breakthrough? What do fossils and rocks tell us about the Earth’s secrets? What does baseball have to do with physics? Find out at the 4th USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo! Explore 3,000 hands-on exhibits from the World’s leading professional scientific and engineering societies, universities, government agencies, high-tech corporations and STEM outreach and community organizations.

USASEF_16The two-day Expo is perfect for teens, children and their families, and anyone with a curious mind who is looking for a weekend of fun and discovery. More than 350K+ attendees will celebrate science at the Expo, and engage in activities with some of the biggest names in STEM, hear stories of inspiration and courage, and rock out to science during our incredible stage show performances.

The Expo is the pinnacle event of the 4th USA Science & Engineering Festival to be held in the greater Washington D.C. area in April 2016. The Festival is a collaboration of over 1,000 of the nation’s leading science and engineering organizations. For more information on all Festival events and how you can get involved, visit www.usasciencefestival.org.

Source: http://www.usasciencefestival.org

DOD STEM Leads in Technology and Innovation

WASHINGTON—The Department of Defense (DoD) STEM mission is to attract, inspire, and develop exceptional STEM talent across the education continuum to enrich our current and future DoD workforce to meet defense technological challenges. In alignment with the Federal plan, the Department’s strategy collectively addresses critical STEM challenges as a national priority through communication, talent inspiration and cultivation, and diversity emphasis using evidence-based approaches.

dodstem2DoD provides learning opportunities from elementary school through graduate school to inspire and cultivate a diverse pool of exceptional STEM talent.

DoD programs connect STEM education in the classroom to the excitement, skills, and challenges that come with safeguarding our country.

Discover more at dodstem.us or watch their latest video.

—Photos and video courtesy: Department of Defense

The Achampong theorem of life at NSA

Math @ NSA
The Achampong theorem of life at NSA
FedScoop.com

Christina Achampong knows what that’s like. The 30-year old operations researcher has applied her mathematics expertise at NSA since 2009. She describes her experience working at the agency as “wonderful.” But there was that one moment, shortly after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed thousands of classified documents detailing NSA’s operations around the world, when the mainstream media began painting the agency with the broad strokes of an evil empire bent on destroying liberty that Achampong and her colleagues felt the need to pause and think about what was being said about them.

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