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NASA Turns to Small Businesses for Advances in Space Travel

NASA is turning to entrepreneurs across the country to help further its exploration of deep space. The agency has chosen 137 research and technology proposals from 117 companies as part of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Altogether, these proposals, which were selected from a pool of 323 submitted over the past year, represent contracts valued at more than $100 million.

Related: International Space Station Crew Returns Home Today. See Photos of Their Year in Space

To cull the applications, NASA looked at a number of factors including the experience and qualifications of each small business and their idea’s feasibility and commercial potential.

Selected projects include software that powers unmanned aircraft systems, low-cost 3-D printing technology, tools that measure and identify exoplanets and sensors that help make launch sites safer.  

Related: Report: Space Projects Lured $1.8 Billion in Venture Capital Last Year

While NASA’s ultimate mission is to explore space, the program has the immediate benefit of helping small businesses back on earth.

"These proposals represent the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses that fuel our economy and create jobs on Main Street," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. "The dollar value of these innovation projects represents an investment in the American economy."

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