The NASA award is driving advancements in 3D printing for space recycling and the development of next-generation heat shields.

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Title: Fostering Innovation: NASA Awards Grants to Reimagine Space Sustainability


In an exciting turn of events, NASA’s SBIR Ignite initiative has chosen 12 small businesses and entrepreneurs for Phase II awards, recognizing their groundbreaking projects in additive manufacturing (AM). Notably, re:3D and Canopy Aerospace have stood out for their innovative approaches to sustainability in space. This blog post explores their remarkable initiatives and the potential they hold for shaping the future of space exploration.

re:3D: Pioneering Sustainability with On-Orbit Additive Manufacturing

Known for its commitment to sustainability, re:3D has been selected for its project, “On-Orbit Additive Manufacturing Using Recycled Waste.” This groundbreaking effort aims to establish a recycling system that converts thermoplastic waste generated in orbit into functional objects using 3D printing technology. Partnering with the NASA Gateway Deep Space Logistics (DSL) team, re:3D envisions a future where recycling in space becomes a reality. Bianca Rhym, a NASA engineer, describes this endeavor as a “trash to treasure adventure,” embodying the spirit of combining AM and sustainability.

Founded by NASA veterans Samantha Snabes and Matthew Fiedler, re:3D has consistently pushed boundaries in sustainability. The company’s flagship 3D printer, GigaBot, has garnered attention for its capacity to manufacture larger objects using recycled materials. Perfectly aligning with their open-source philosophy, re:3D actively engages with its community to enhance its products, making industrial-grade 3D printing accessible and sustainable for all.

Canopy Aerospace: Revolutionizing Heatshields through Additive Manufacturing

Canopy Aerospace, based in Chicago, has caught NASA’s attention with its innovative project, “Reusable Heatshields Additive Manufacturing (RHAM).” This trailblazing system streamlines the creation of reusable thermal protection system (TPS) tiles through groundbreaking 3D printing techniques and advanced heat treatments. Canopy’s novel material formulations and binder jetting processes enable the production of highly insulative ceramics.

The need for better heat tiles for spaceships has spurred Canopy to propose the development of the RHAM platform. Currently, NASA employs an outdated, labor-intensive process from the Shuttle program, limiting their tile production to about two per week per worker. Canopy’s solution fills this gap, promising “digitally defined tailorability” and rapid production of reusable TPS tiles. Their developments in Phase II will bring them closer to testing with both NASA and commercial space entities.

SBIR Ignite Initiative: Nurturing Aerospace Innovators

NASA’s SBIR Ignite initiative, a part of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, is driven by the intent to support and encourage innovative companies in the aerospace sector. Unlike traditional programs, SBIR Ignite focuses on fostering new commercial opportunities, providing funding and assistance to make these technologies more appealing to investors.

Starting with Phase I awards in 2022, the 12 companies selected for this program showcased promising yet risky technology ideas, spanning from climate solutions to recycling methods. After successfully completing Phase I, these businesses, including re:3D and Canopy, advanced to Phase II. This phase offers funding of up to $850,000 to further develop their prototypes.

A Diverse Range of Projects Moving Forward

Joining re:3D and Canopy in the Phase II cohort are other exceptional companies recognized by NASA’s SBIR Ignite initiative. Ampaire, Cecilia Energy, Crystal Sonic, H3X Technologies, Outpost Technologies, Solestial, StormImpact, Terrafuse, Trans Astronautica, and Turion Space are all making strides in hybrid aircraft powertrains, waste plastic conversion to hydrogen, space photovoltaics, aircraft electric propulsion, cargo transportation, space solar arrays, electrical system resilience, wildfire risk predictions, space debris remediation, and CubeSat technology, respectively. This diverse collection of companies across the United States embodies the SBIR Ignite initiative’s mission of supporting a wide range of cutting-edge projects.


NASA’s SBIR Ignite initiative continues to fuel innovation in the aerospace sector, as evidenced by the groundbreaking projects of re:3D and Canopy Aerospace. Their initiatives in sustainable 3D printing and reusable heatshield manufacturing offer immense potential for driving progress in space exploration. By supporting these visionary entrepreneurs, NASA is taking an active role in shaping the future of orbital care and reinforcing its commitment to sustainability and technological advancement.

Hey fellow innovators! We have some exciting news to share with you. NASA’s SBIR/STTR program is back with its SBIR Ignite initiative, and it’s bigger and better than ever. This program not only provides funding for groundbreaking projects but also opens up a world of opportunities for collaboration and networking.

NASA understands the importance of bringing in fresh ideas and talent, and that’s why they have introduced initiatives like the Space Startup Ecosystem Digital Community and unique networking events. These efforts have paid off, as 75% of the awardees in the first year had never received a NASA SBIR award before. This shows that NASA is actively reaching out to new entrepreneurs and encouraging them to be part of their program.

Quenton Bonds, entrepreneurial engagement lead for NASA’s SBIR/STTR program, highlighted the significance of this approach. He stated, “Bringing new entrepreneurs and ideas into NASA is a focal point for our program, and we’re excited that SBIR Ignite has been able to serve as a testing ground for us to appeal to small businesses in new ways. We’re optimistic that the experiments we’re running through SBIR Ignite will provide insights that will improve the impact of the whole SBIR/STTR program.”

Now, let’s get to the part you’ve been waiting for. The 2023 SBIR Ignite Phase I application is now open! If you have a groundbreaking idea that can revolutionize the future, this is your chance to make it happen. The application process started on August 1, 2023, and will close at 5 PM EDT on September 21, 2023. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of the incredible work happening at NASA.

And while we have your attention, don’t forget to stay updated on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry. We’ll make sure you receive information and offers from third-party vendors that can help fuel your innovation journey.

So, gear up, fellow innovators, and let your ideas soar with NASA’s SBIR Ignite program. The future is in your hands, and NASA is eagerly waiting to see what you can accomplish. Good luck!

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