The Four Coolest Concepts NASA Just Bankrolled to Solve Spaceflight Challenges


Image: MOTHERBOARD
A smart trash bag. A contaminant-resistant spacesuit. These proposals, and over 100 more, have been funded by NASA for development.

By Becky Ferreira | MOTHERBOARD

Like some glorious love child of Shark Tank and Cosmos, NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program aims to fund visionary space exploration proposals sourced from small businesses. The idea is to spur innovation in the private sector while also accelerating the exact kinds of technological advances that NASA needs to reach its lofty goals in space, including recycling systems, lightweight materials, and autonomous spaceflight mechanisms.

On Wednesday, NASA officially greenlit 133 of these SBIR concepts to receive Phase II funding. That means an estimated $100 million total in contracts will be doled out to 112 businesses to develop prototypes of their proposed technologies, which range from planetary rover anchors to contaminant-resistant spacesuits.

These companies now have two years to deliver operational versions of their proposals to qualify for Phase III funding, which focus on bringing their products to market.

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