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1 Jul, 2020 13:35

Purifying water on the moon & solar arrays: NASA plugs $51mn into small business projects to aid mankind’s journey into space

Purifying water on the moon & solar arrays: NASA plugs $51mn into small business projects to aid mankind’s journey into space

US space agency NASA is funding a range of new projects such as solar panels for use on the moon, air-taxi technology, in-situ water purification and compact sterilizer for space travel.

NASA has selected 409 tech proposals for funding from the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The ‘Phase I’ projects will receive up to $125,000 and include a variety of ideas and technologies that aim to benefit human space exploration. 

This includes aiding NASA’s lauded next moon-landing mission, the Artemis program.

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“Whether we’re landing Artemis astronauts on the Moon, sending rovers to Mars, or developing next-generation aircraft our small business partners play an important role,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. 

SBIR funding is strictly business-based, whilst STTR awards are made to small firms partnered with non-profit research institutions. “A Phase I award is just the first step in helping these small businesses bring their technologies and ideas to market,” explained NASA SBIR/STTR Program Executive Jenn Gustetic. 

As the awarded technology matures, more investment can be allocated, if needed. Phase II funding, for example, is for prototyping, with Phase III marking the point where the tech in question may enter the marketplace – or join NASA on one of their missions.

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Among the projects currently selected for funding is a system that can help source and purify water on the moon (essential for creating fuel for human space missions further afield), a compact sterilizer for use during long space journeys, and high-powered solar arrays which can provide power on other planets. 

Another of the proposals concerns life closer to home: an air traffic control system for when urban transport takes to the skies.

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