NASA Announces Early Stage Innovation Space Technology Research Grants

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 university-led proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high-priority needs of America’s space program.

The universities will work on their proposed research and development projects for up to a three-year period, and will receive as much as $500,000 each in Early Stage Innovations (ESI) grant funding from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program.

“These are critical space exploration technology challenges that NASA needs solutions for,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “We are looking forward to the technology development that comes out of these research grants.”

The proposals selected under the Early Stage Innovations 2017 solicitation address unique, disruptive or transformational technologies in a variety of areas. The 14 selected proposals for the ESI grants are:

Advanced Coating Technology for Space Fission Power and Propulsion Systems

  • Coating Core-shell Cermets for Nuclear Thrust Propulsion Fuel Protection; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
  • Conformal Pinhole-free Metallic Nanofilms for Advanced Particle Fuel Coating by Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD); University of Colorado, Boulder

Relative Navigation Algorithms and Sensors for Autonomous Maneuvering in Proximity to Small Celestial Bodies

  • Autonomous Operations at Small Solar System Bodies; University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Autonomous Multi-Spectral Relative Navigation, Active Localization, and Motion Planning in the Vicinity of an Asteroid; Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Crosscutting Technologies for EHF Band Space Applications

  • BROADband, Compact and Agile Silicon Photonics Technology; University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Chip-Scale Low-Noise Optoelectronic Synthesizer for the EHF-Band; University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Extraction of Water from Hard Extraterrestrial Soils

  • Low-mass, Low-power, Non-mechanical Excavation of Gypsum and Other Evaporites for Water Production on Mars; Michigan Technological University, Houghton
  • Material Characterization While Drilling on Lunar/Martian Surface; Colorado School of Mines, Golden

Predictive Modeling of Thermal Protection Material Thermostructural Behavior

  • Mesoscale Framework for Multi-Physics Simulation of Ablative Thermal Protection Systems; University of Florida, Gainesville
  • Predictive Modeling of Chemical and Structural Failure of Porous Ablative Materials; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamic Modeling of Additive Manufacturing Alloy Processing

  • Validated Thermal-Material Simulation to Predict Microstructure Evolution in Selective Laser Melting Additive Manufacturing of Nickel Alloys; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York

Lightweight Multifunctional Lattice Materials for Space Structures

  • Topology Optimization of Lightweight, Additively Manufactured Lattice Systems for Space Applications; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Thermo-structurally Optimized Lattice materials and structures for large-scale space applications; University of California, Irvine
  • Ultralight Lattice-based Materials for Multifunctional Space Structures; University of Virginia, Charlottesville

The Space Technology Research Grants program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program, visit:

For more information about the Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit: