NASA Selects 8 Small Business LEO Platform Utilization & Microgravity Research Proposals

Experiment sample trays on MISSE-8. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected eight proposals focused on International Space Station (ISS) utilization and microgravity research under its Small Business Research Innovation (SBIR) program.

The proposals include a new module for producing pharmaceutical crystals, a multi-material 3D printing facility, systems for the automated processing of biological samples, and other projects.

Each of the selected proposals would receive SBIR Phase I awards worth up to $125,000 for a period of up to six months.

Techshot, Inc.
Greenville, IN

Biopharmaceutical Uniform Crystallization Test Bed

Techshot will use the funding to develop hardware to commercializing the production of pharmaceutical crystals in space.

Techshot will adapt and test up to four hardware modules under laboratory conditions. The company will also perform mathematical modeling to approximate conditions on the space station.

Vistacent, LLC
Metairie, LA

Utilization of the ISS to Commercialize A Multi-Material Additive Manufacturing Facility

Vistacent’s project involves the development of an additive manufacturing facility capable of using plastics, fiber reinforce composites, and metals to producing 3D printed parts.

“Such a facility currently does not exist in orbit or terrestrially. The only operational printing facility on the ISS is for plastics such as ABS and PLA,” the company said. “There are no printing facilities for composites and metals. The proposed AM technology for composites and metals will therefore be a significant advancement for on demand printing in orbit.”

G-Space, Inc.
Sunnyvale, DE

ATOM – An AI Environment for New Microgravity Materials Development

G-Space’s ATOM platform is designed to improve the production of materials in microgravity “through the addition of first-principles modeling, computational tools, and machine learning algorithms.

“G-Space approach will reduce the amount of costly trial and error, and ensures that space-manufactured material approach their true theoretical performance limits while also narrowing down the optimized reduced gravity manufacturing envelope,” the proposal summary said.

AI Biosciences, Inc.
College Station, TX

A Compact and Automated Library Preparation Device for Nanopore Sequencing

A Compact and Automated Liquid-Handling Robot for Microgravity Uses

One AI Biosciences project involves creating a compact and automated robot to handle liquids used in microgravity experiments.

“For example, it can be used to carry out DNA/RNA isolation, library prep for space sequencing, serial dilutions, immunoassay, even DNA/RNA amplification pathogen detection of space-grown vegetables,” the proposal summary said. 

“Our system has a closed system design that will minimize spills/leakages. This near-term deployable platform system also has the capability to allow change of protocol commands from the ground,” the proposal added.

The other AI Biosciences project is focused on developing a compact and automated preparation device for the space station’s Nanopore sequencing system, which is used to analyzes samples.

“This compact system will allow previously complicated, labor-intensive, and time-consuming processes to be carried out by a turn-key and closed system with minimal crew-time needed,” the proposal stated.

Space Micro, Inc.
San Diego, CA

Advanced Space Communications Experiment on MISSE-FF

MISSE-FF Experiment on Advanced COTS Processors

NASA selected two proposals from Space Micro of San Diego for experiments that will make use of the Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF), which is attached to the exterior of the space station.

In one project, Space Micro would test the performance of an advanced Ka-band software-defined radio (SDR) in the radiation and thermal environment of space.

Space Micro’s other project involves comparing how advanced computer processors perform when exposed to the rigors of space.

Martian Sky Industries, LLC
University Heights, OH

Vacuum Impregnation Process for Extraterrestrial Realization (VIPER) for International Space Station Commercial Development

Martian Skies Industries’ VIPER system seeks will use Vacuum Pressure Impregnation (VPI) to enhance the production of power generation equipment in space.

“The VPI process increases dielectric strength of an electrical assembly while enhancing thermal  insulation properties and mitigating potential catastrophic issues caused by Foreign Object Debris (FOD) in the system.  Expansion of power systems on orbit benefits colonization efforts in space, maturing motor generator manufacturing processes that impact fluid management and safe operation of habitats,” the proposal summary said.