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NASA Wants to Help Propel Space Tech Past ‘Tipping Point’

NASA wants its technology to be used by more people than just astronauts.

NASA wants its technology to be used by more people than just astronauts. // NASA

The next big thing in commercial space technology may not be quite ready to head to market. And that’s where NASA is stepping in.

The space agency announced last week it wants to invest in a number of industry-developed space technologies that are at the so-called “tipping point” -- everything from systems for robotic, in-space manufacturing to remote-sensing applications.

An infusion of NASA cash could help propel these technologies into viable commercial applications. In the future, these technologies could also benefit NASA.

Submissions are due July 23. The companies selected must then sign a fixed-price contract, which involves at least a 25 percent corporate or customer contribution, according to the statement.

The tipping-point program puts a greater focus on collaboration between the agency and the commercial space sector, said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in a statement.

"While developing the technology to enable NASA's next generation of science and human exploration missions, we will grow the economy and strengthen the nation's economic competitiveness,” he said.

Along with tipping-point technologies, the agency also announced its plan to partner with the private sector to advance emerging space technology capabilities. NASA asked for submissions in such areas as small satellite launch systems and liquid rocket engine development. The agency will provide winning companies technical expertise and test facilities.

These submissions will be July 30, according to the statement.

NASA anticipates selecting a total of about 20 proposals across both projects and plans to spend a total of about $50 million.

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