NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program named 110 small businesses in the U.S. — three of which are right here in New Jersey — to help advance the space program’s missions.
The program provided early-stage funding and other support to small businesses to support the aerospace industry. The new round of awards gives almost $95 million to small businesses across 123 projects.
The Garden State businesses chosen are Continuum Dynamics Inc., Ewing; Gendell Associates dba Folditure, Hoboken; and Shock Tech Inc., Mahwah.
“NASA is working toward ambitious, world-changing missions — missions that require innovative solutions from a variety of innovators, including small businesses,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said in a statement. “It’s crucial that we continue to find imaginative small businesses that have the expertise to help our agency solve our common challenges, and the SBIR program is one of the key ways we do that.”
Companies first received NASA SBIR Phase I awards for establishing the feasibility of their technologies. As Phase II awardees, each small business will now receive up to $750,000 to develop, demonstrate and deliver their technologies to NASA over two years.
The agency said among the awardees are nine women-owned small businesses and five veteran-owned small business.
“It is both a program mission and passion to increase the diversity of collaborators we’re bringing into the agency’s work,” added Gynelle Steele, deputy program executive for NASA’s SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer programs at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Learn more about the New Jersey recipients:
Gendell Associates dba Folditure, Hoboken
Gendell Associates, doing business as Folditure, was selected by NASA for its Sunflake Solar Array and Ultra Compact Tripod Tower to power future robotic and human exploration of the moon. For the Phase II stage of the program, the company, which also creates foldable, space-saving furniture for consumers, will develop the kinematics and structure of the solar array and begin its environmental testing. If successful, this new solar array could be used on NASA missions that require lightweight, portable, high-efficiency solar energy, including human landers, future lunar outposts, or orbital stations planned under Artemis, according to NASA’s announcement.
Alexander Gendell, the founder of Folditure, told NJBIZ that the company’s work with NASA had a “somewhat accidental beginning.”
“During a birthday party in the summer of 2020, I was discussing my innovative furniture and other inventive work. I brought my new type of bicycle (which, of course, folded) that several kids were testing out. Someone recommended I look at NASA SBIR projects for potential funding. This was the first time I ever heard about SBIR,” Gendell wrote.
Gendell read through the Phase I solicitations, where one phrase caught his attention. It explained the deployable solar arrays that power almost all spacecraft but are “too heavy and packages too inefficiently for lunar surface power.”
Gendell said he realized his company could repurpose its patented folding mechanisms for a different application.
“Our mechanisms are designed to be super-compact, but also rigid, and deployable many times,” he wrote in an email. “Originally, the goal of Folditure was to create some of the world’s most compact folding furniture. But also, to develop foldable solutions with different applications. NASA provided a really important challenge, and opportunity for us to do so.”
Gendell said the NASA program is important for the growth of the company and said the creations for NASA could have applications for consumers, as well.
Continuum Dynamics Inc., Ewing
Continuum submitted a parallelization toolkit for space weather research. According to the company’s proposal, NASA currently uses high performance computing models of heliophysics — or the study of the sun, planets and space environment — such as its ENLIL code.
However, Continuum proposed what it believes is a more efficient method: a domain specific language, coupled with a source-to-source translator, thereby “improving the performance, portability, and ease of maintenance of ENLIL, the proposed work will support NASA’s role under the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, and have a beneficial impact on NASA’s space weather forecasting and mitigation capabilities.”
The company also said its technology could eventually find use in the financial, education and research industries.
Shock Tech Inc., Mahwah
Shock Tech proposed long-range optical telecommunications technology — called robust isolation for vibration abating — that is “beneficial for any sensitive instrument requiring high stability for improved performance.” The company said this technology is “designed to be suitable for all missions requiring high stability communication pointing and alignment.” Beyond NASA missions, the company said the technology can be adopted for non-NASA optical communication satellites with the need for high-stability alignment.
Continuum Dynamics and Shock Tech did not immediately respond to a request for comment.