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Stoke Space and Sequoia Scientific win NASA funding to advance tech innovations

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Injector test firing
Stoke Space Technologies’ second-stage engine injector undergoes a test firing at the company’s component test facility. (Stoke Photo)

Two Washington state companies have won grants of up to $750,000 each from NASA to take space-related technologies they’re already working on to the next stage of development.

The awards to Renton-based Stoke Space Technologies and Bellevue-based Sequoia Scientific are part of the latest batch of NASA Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grants. Nationwide, $105 million in awards were allocated to 140 projects proposed by 127 small businesses spread across 34 states and Washington, D.C.

The aim of the program is to encourage the development of innovations that could contribute to NASA’s efforts in human exploration, space technology, science and aeronautics — and could find commercial, non-NASA applications as well. All of the Phase II awardees previously received NASA SBIR Phase I awards that were worth up to $125,000 each.

“These small businesses received Phase I awards towards the onset of the global pandemic and persevered through it to evolve promising up-and-coming technology solutions,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a news release issued Thursday. “As the government helps get small businesses back on track, we value their commitment and dedication to supporting NASA missions and goals.”

Sequoia Scientific’s NASA-supported project is aimed at building a new submersible imaging device for analyzing ocean color and biogeochemistry. The hyperspectral absorption spectrophotometer could provide significantly greater accuracy and resolution than existing in-water sensors, and may provide validation for future NASA ocean-color missions such as PACEGEO-CAPE and GLIMR.

Stoke Space’s award will fund the development and testing of hardware for a new type of rocket engine that’s designed for use in planetary landers, reusable second stages and other types of spacecraft that perform entry, descent and landing maneuvers. The engine’s nozzle would serve as an actively cooled metallic heat shield as the spacecraft descends through the atmosphere, and as a shield against debris thrown up during terminal descent.

Phase II projects typically cover up to 24 months of development work. If the projects show promise, NASA’s SBIR program offers additional funding opportunities to help small businesses find investors and customers outside the space agency.

“The Phase II contract period is an exciting time, as small businesses put their ideas into practice and develop prototypes attractive to NASA and private investors,” said Jason Kessler, NASA’s SBIR program executive. “The selected technologies have displayed great potential impacts for their respective sectors, and we are proud to continually invest in today’s booming aerospace economy through these small businesses.”

Stoke Space has already attracted private investors: In February, the startup raised $9.1 million in seed funding to support the development of reusable second stages.

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