NASA iTech Cycle 3 Challenge Wants Startups to Help With Space Exploration

September 25, 2017

1:30 pm

NASA’s technology has been instrumental in tracking the movement of this year’s devastating hurricanes. Their Aqua satellite provides infrared data to forecasters that reveals clues about highest, coldest, strongest storms within a hurricane. In addition, their suitcase-sized radar instrument capable of detecting human heartbeats under rubble helped first responders in the Mexico City earthquake.

Our government’s space agency is constantly looking for new technology to not only help people around the world, but for space exploration. NASA has announced their iTech Cycle 3 Challenge, a collaborative initiative that seeks out innovative solutions from small and large businesses, universities, non-profits, U.S. government organizations outside of NASA and undiscovered inventors.

The interesting thing about this challenge is that it is possible a startup’s technology could actually be used for space exploration or for greater good. All innovators have to do is to submit a five-page white paper is the first phase of NASA iTech Cycle 3.

“Since December 2016, NASA iTech has had 20 entrepreneurs across the U.S. present their innovative solutions to solving some of the toughest challenges here on Earth and in space,” said Kira Blackwell, Innovation program executive in the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “There is no other forum where entrepreneurs have an opportunity to present their technologies and engage with the NASA chief technologists, potential investors from outside of the agency, and industry partners.”

For this Cycle, NASA announced the areas of focus: artificial intelligence, augmented reality advancement, autonomy, high performance computing, and medical breakthrough.

The popular Cycle 2 category, X-Factor innovations, has been kept for Cycle 3 to allow for groundbreaking ideas or technology that may not align precisely with another specific focus area, but could still make a significant impact on future exploration efforts.

Companies who have been a part of past Cycle Challenges are certainly getting noticed by investors as Blackwell explains:

“This forum has proven to be a successful model for stimulating the development of groundbreaking technologies, without the government being the early investor,” said Blackwell. “At the current rate, these companies are on track to raise over $50 million dollars in private funds by December of this year. I can hardly wait to see the outcome from Cycle 3.”

The winners of the Cycle 2 included technology around: robots, ice melters and biomarkers. Watch their presentation and learn more about their technology here.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, submit your idea to the Cycle 3 Challenge here.

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.

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