A Cedar Springs manufacturer received a grant from NASA for a thermoplastics welding technology process it is developing for use in space.
Bill Dykstra, president and owner of Cedar Springs-based Temper Inc., received a $100,000 phase I grant from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, the agency said last week.
Temper Inc. will use the grant for the welding of thermoplastic composites using smart susceptor technology, according to the manufacturer’s grant proposal.
“Humanity’s future in space requires technologies that enable long-duration, long-endurance missions to support human exploration and habitation. Essential to this goal is servicing, assembly and manufacturing outside of Earth’s gravity,” the proposal said. “Upon completion of the proposed work, Temper hopes to provide proof of concept of a fast, low-energy and reliable method for welding thermoplastic composites both on Earth and on-orbit. Designs for robotic end effectors to automate the process will also be developed.”
The proposal went on to state that Temper Inc.’s smart susceptor alloy allows for the welding of thermoplastic composites without the risk of softening, overheating or deforming the components.
Temper said the space-based welding technology has “applicability across several of NASA’s planned missions,” including Artemis, which has the goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024.
“We would like to do our part in achieving NASA’s Artemis program goals,” Dykstra said.
To fulfill the terms of the grant, Temper will need to further develop the technology over the next six months and then apply for phase II funding. Two employees currently are working on the project.
Through the SBIR/STTR funding program, NASA works with U.S. small businesses and research institutions to advance cutting-edge technologies. The agency provides up to $125,000 for companies to establish the merit and feasibility of their innovations.
Phase I SBIR contracts are awarded to small businesses and last for six months, while phase I STTR contracts are awarded to small businesses in partnership with a research institution and last for 13 months.
Based on their progress during phase I, companies may submit proposals to subsequent SBIR/STTR opportunities and receive additional funding.
NASA selected 289 small businesses and 47 research institutions to receive phase I funding this year. More than 30% of the awards will go to first-time NASA SBIR/STTR recipients.
“At NASA, we recognize that small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “This year, to get funds into the hands of small businesses sooner, we accelerated the release of the 2021 SBIR/STTR phase I solicitation by two months. We hope the expedited funding helps provide a near-term boost for future success.”
NASA selected proposals to receive funding based on their technical merit and commercial potential. The selections span the breadth of NASA missions to empower the agency’s work in human exploration, space technology, science and aeronautics.
The small businesses and research institutions selected are as varied as the technologies they will develop. Hailing from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, they include women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, as well as minority-serving institutions and other types of research organizations. Some examples include:
- Syrnatec Inc., a woman-owned small business and first-time NASA SBIR awardee based in Middletown, Connecticut, will develop radiation tolerant, high-voltage, high-power diodes. This power management and distribution technology could enable the next generation of efficient, high-power green technology in space and on Earth.
- Innoveering LLC, a Hispanic-owned small business and first-time program awardee based in Ronkonkoma, New York, will use its SBIR award to develop a wind sensor to enable a flight path control system for high-altitude scientific balloon operations. Outside of NASA, this technology could aid in providing more accurate weather predictions.
- Qubitekk of Vista, California, will use its STTR award to partner with the University of New Mexico, a Hispanic-serving institution. Together, they will develop a cheaper and more compact hardware package that provides a reliable calibration tool for detectors of quantum-sized information. This technology could be applied to secure satellite communication networks, deep-space laser communications, cybersecurity and computing.