Washington: The US space agency has selected proposals from 254 small businesses and 39 research institutions in the US for grants to develop new technologies that will further NASA's journey to Mars.
"The selected proposals demonstrate the ingenuity and creativity of America's small businesses," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA headquarters in Washington.
The proposals are solicited, vetted and managed through NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programmes.
"Enabling NASA's future missions, including human exploration of Mars, requires broad participation, and the SBIR/STTR Programs ensure the agency is benefiting from the passionate and determined minds of the private sector," Jurczyk noted.
Proposals that lead to the successful development of ideas and products could result in contracts with a combined approximate value of $47.7 million.
NASA is funding proposals that will enable space transportation for human and robotic missions, new ways to protect astronauts in space, and innovative ways to keep spacecraft systems operational -- technologies that may, one day, find their way into the vehicles and systems used to explore the solar system.
Selected proposals also include technologies that could enable landing on, traversing across and sampling asteroids, Mars or other distant destinations, searching the sky for planets outside our solar system, and studying the universe back to the beginning of time.
For example, NASA hopes to develop a cognitive space communications network with the ability to adapt to environmental changes and network growth, thereby increasing system reliability.
Selection criteria included technical merit and feasibility, along with experience, qualifications and facilities. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential and feasibility.