NASA SBIR/STTR Program Solicitation Details | 1. Program Description

1. Program Description

1.1 Legislative Authority and Background

The SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022 (Pub. L. 117-183.) amended the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638) to extend the SBIR/STTR programs until September 30, 2025. Policy is provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the combined Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs Policy Directive. The main purpose of the legislation is to stimulate technological innovation in the Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) sector and increase private sector commercialization in both the SBIR and STTR programs. Accordingly, the NASA SBIR program is in a unique position to meet both goals by transforming scientific discovery and innovation to be used in NASA programs and missions as well as emphasizing private sector commercialization.

The SBIR program is Congressionally mandated and intended to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds to build a strong national economy by stimulating technological innovation in the private sector; strengthening the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs; increasing the commercial application of federally supported research results; and fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.


1.2 Purpose and Priorities

This solicitation includes instructions for small business concerns (SBCs), hereforth called offerors to submit a Phase I completed proposal package to the NASA SBIR program. Furthermore, program background information, eligibility requirements for participants, information on the three program phases, information for submitting completed and responsive proposal packages to NASA specific research subtopics are contained herein. The fiscal year 2023 solicitation period for Phase I submission of completed proposal packages begins on January 10, 2023 and ends at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on March 13, 2023.   

The NASA SBIR Program does not make awards solely directed toward system studies, market research, routine engineering, development of existing product(s), proven concepts, or modifications of existing products without substantive innovation.

The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) provides overall policy direction for implementation of the NASA SBIR program. The NASA SBIR/STTR Program Management Office (PMO), hosted at the NASA Ames Research Center, operates the program in conjunction with NASA mission directorates and centers. Additionally, the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) provides the overall procurement management for the programs. 

For the SBIR program, NASA research and technology areas to be solicited are identified annually by the agency’s mission directorates. The directorates identify high-priority research problems and technology needs for their respective programs and projects. The range of problems and technologies is broad, and the list of research subtopics varies in content from year to year to maintain alignment with current interests.

For details on the research subtopic descriptions by Focus Area, see chapter 9. 


1.3 Three-Phase Program

The NASA SBIR program is carried out in three separate phases. The three phases are described in detail on the NASA SBIR/STTR website:

Phase I

This solicitation is only for the preparation and submission of Phase I proposals. The aim of a Phase I project should be to demonstrate technical feasibility of the proposed innovation and the potential for infusion within a NASA program or mission and/or use in the commercial market.

Maximum value and period of performance for Phase I:


Phase I Contracts


Maximum Contract Value


Period of Performance

6 months

Phase II

Phase II proposals continue the R/R&D developed under Phase I to bring the innovation closer to infusion into a NASA program or mission and/or commercialization of the innovation in a commercial market. Phase II will require a more comprehensive proposal, outlining the proposed effort in detail and the commercialization strategy for the effort. Only prior Phase I awardees are eligible to submit a Phase II proposal at the conclusion of the Phase I contract. A separate solicitation will be published for the preparation and submission of Phase II proposals.


Phase II Contracts


Maximum Contract Value


Maximum Period of Performance

24 months

Post-Phase II Opportunities for Continued Technology Development

NASA recognizes that Phase I and II awards may not be sufficient in either dollars or time for the offeror to complete the total R/R&D and the commercialization activities required to make the project ready for infusion or the commercial marketplace. Therefore, NASA has several initiatives for supporting its small business partners beyond their Phase I and Phase II awards.

Please refer to for eligibility, application deadlines, matching requirements and further information.

Phase III

Phase III is the commercialization of innovative technologies, products, and services resulting from either a Phase I or Phase II award. This includes further development of technologies for transition into NASA programs, other Government agencies, or the private sector. Phase III contracts are funded from sources other than the SBIR and STTR programs and may be awarded without further competition.

Please refer to for Phase III information.


1.4 Availability of Funds

There is no commitment by NASA to fund any proposal or to make a specific number of awards and NASA may elect to make several or no awards in any specific research subtopic. Number of awards will be based on the level of appropriated funding provided to the program in FY 2023.

It is anticipated the SBIR Phase I completed proposal packages will be selected for negotiation of firm-fixed-price contracts for a period of performance not to exceed six (6) months.

Under this SBIR Phase I solicitation, NASA will not accept more than 10 completed proposal packages from any one offeror to ensure the broadest participation of the small business community. NASA does not plan to award more than five (5) SBIR contracts to any offeror. See sections 3.1 and chapter 4.



1.5 Eligibility Requirements

1.5.1 Small Business Concern (SBC)

Each Phase I offeror must submit a certification stating that it meets the size, ownership, and other requirements of the SBIR program at the time of a completed proposal package submission, award, and at any other time set forth in SBA’s regulations at 13 CFR §§ 121.701-121.705. Socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned SBCs are particularly encouraged to propose.

1.5.2 SBC Size 

A Phase I offeror, combined with its affiliates, must not have more than 500 employees.

1.5.3 SBIR Restrictions on Level of Small Business Participation

The offeror must be the primary performer of the proposed research effort. To be awarded an SBIR Phase I contract, a minimum of two-thirds or 67% of the research or analytical effort must be carried out by the offeror during Phase I; correspondingly, a maximum of one-third or 33% of the effort may be performed by an outside party such as consultants or subcontractors.

1.5.4 Place of Performance and American-made Products and Equipment 

All work shall be performed in the United States.  When purchasing equipment or a product under the SBIR Funding Agreement, purchase only American-made items whenever possible. However, based on a rare and unique circumstance (for example, if a supply, material, or other item or project requirement is not available in the United States), NASA may allow a particular portion of the research or work to be performed or obtained in a country outside of the United States.

Completed proposal packages must clearly indicate if any work will be performed outside the United States, including subcontractor performance, and justification must be provided by downloading and completing the “Request to Use a Foreign Vendor/Purchase of Items from a Foreign Vendor” form found at while completing the budget under section 3.5.

Prior to award, approval by the Contracting Officer for such specific condition(s) must be in writing.

Note: NASA will not approve purchases from or work with countries that appear on the Designated Country list. For reference, please see

1.5.5 Principal Investigator (PI) Employment Requirement



Primary Employment

PI shall be primarily employed with the SBC

Employment Certification

For Phase I, the primary employment of the principal investigator/project manager must be with the SBC at the time of award and during the conduct of the proposed project. Primary employment means that more than one-half of the principal investigator/project manager's employment time is spent in the employ of the SBC (based on a 40-hour workweek). This precludes full-time employment with another organization.


Not allowed

Deviation Request

Any deviation requests will be reviewed during negotiation of the award and either approved or declined before final award by the Funding Agreement officer

Misrepresentation of Qualifications

Shall result in rejection of the completed proposal package or termination of the contract

Substitution of PIs

Requires a prior approval from NASA after award


Note: NASA considers full-time employment to include salaried employees and employees who regularly work a 40-hour workweek. NASA considers a 19.9-hour or more workweek elsewhere to conflict with this rule. In rare occasions, minor deviations from this requirement may be necessary; however, any minor deviation must be approved in writing prior to the award by the Contracting Officer after consultation with the NASA SBIR/STTR Program Manager.,

1.5.6 Restrictions on Venture-Capital-Owned Businesses

At the current time, small businesses owned in majority part by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms are not eligible to submit a proposal package under this NASA SBIR Phase I solicitation.

1.5.7 Joint Ventures or Limited Partnerships

Both joint ventures and limited partnerships are permitted, provided the entity created qualifies as an SBC in accordance with the definition of an SBC here: A statement of how the workload will be distributed, managed, and charged should be included in the completed proposal package. See definitions for Joint Ventures along with examples at 13 CFR 121.103(h).

A copy or comprehensive summary of the joint venture agreement or partnership agreement should be included when uploading the completed proposal package.

1.5.8 Required Benchmark Transition Rate

The SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022 ( reauthorizes through FY2025 and modifies the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, and related pilot programs.

The bill requires minimum performance standards for more experienced firms.

Progress to Phase II - Increased Performance Standards for More Experienced Firms

This new Phase I to Phase II transition standard applies to firms that have won more than 50 Phase I awards during the five fiscal years preceding the most recent year. These firms must double their transition rate. The current minimum standard applies to firms with more than 20 Phase I awards and requires a minimum transition rate of 1 Phase II award per 4 Phase I awards. Firms with more than 50 awards, as detailed above, will now be required to meet an average of at least 2 Phase II awards per 4 Phase I awards.

Progress to Phase III - Increased Performance Standards for More Experienced Firms

Tier one applies to firms that have won more than 50 Phase II awards during the ten fiscal years preceding the two most recent. The performance standard would increase by 150% and require an average of $250,000 of sales and/or investments per Phase II award received during the covered period. The current standard is an average of $100,000 for firms that have won more than 15 Phase II awards during the covered period. This Act codifies the current practice that sales and/or investments shall result from awards within the covered period.

Tier two applies to firms that have won more than 100 Phase II awards during the ten fiscal years preceding the two most recent. The standard would increase by 350% and require an average of $450,000 of sales and/or investments per Phase II award received during the covered period. The current standard is an average of $100,000 for firms that have won more than 15 Phase II awards during the covered period. This Act codifies the current practice that sales and/or investments shall result from awards within the covered period.

Consequence of Failure to Meet Standard. If a firm does meet an increased performance standard, it may not receive more than 20 Phase I or Direct to Phase II awards at each agency in the following year. An agency may implement more restrictive limitations on the number of Phase I or Direct to Phase II awards. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) limits its SBIR program to 10 proposals and 5 awards, and its STTR program to 10 proposals and 2 awards; NASA would be permitted to continue those limitations.

Patents for Increased Standards. Unlike the existing minimum performance standard that allows firms to use sales and investments or patents to meet the commercialization standard, patents may not be used under the increased commercialization standards.

Documentation. A small business that is subject to the increased minimum performance standards for progress to Phase III commercialization shall submit supporting documentation to SBA to verify reported sales associated with their SBIR and STTR awards during the covered period; the requirement relates to the covered sales that the small business reports to SBA as helping to meet the standards. The sales do not include federal transactions because those can be verified through the federal database. The small business must provide documentation for such sales going back five fiscal years.

Waiver. SBA may grant a waiver for a topic that is critical to an agency’s mission or relates to national security. For topics that receive waivers, all firms may compete and receive awards for the specific topic, including a firm that did not meet the increased performance standards and would otherwise be subject to a 20 award per agency cap.

Reporting. Not later than July 2023 and annually thereafter until the increased minimum performance standards expire, the Administrator shall submit to Congress a list of the small business concerns that do not meet the minimum performance standards or the increased performance standards and identify those that received an award because of a waiver. The list shall be confidential and exempt from section 552 of title 5, United States Code.

SBA must expand the SBIR/STTR annual report to Congress to include 1) the minimum and increased performance standards and the number of firms that have not met the transition and commercialization performance standards, and 2) the aggregate number and dollar amount of SBIR and STTR awards made pursuant to waivers for firms that did not meet the performance standards. SBA is prohibited from publishing personally identifiable information, the identity of the firm, or otherwise sensitive information.

Implementation. The Administrator (SBA) shall implement the increased minimum performance standards not later than April 1, 2023 (the Fiscal Year 2023 benchmark assessment).


1.6 NASA Technology Available (TAV) for SBIR Use

Offerors have the option of using technology developed by NASA (Technology Available (TAV)) related to the subtopic to which they are proposing. NASA has over 1,400 patents available for licensing in its portfolio, including many patents related to sensors and materials. NASA has over 1,000 available software applications/tools listed in its Software Catalog ( While NASA scientists and engineers conduct breakthrough research that leads to innovations, the range of NASA's effort does not extend to commercial product development in any of its intramural research areas. Additional work is often necessary to exploit these NASA technologies for either infusion or commercial viability and likely requires innovation on behalf of the private sector. These technologies can be searched via the NASA Technology Transfer Portal,, and may be a NASA-owned patent and/or computer software. Use of a TAV requires a patent license or Software Usage Agreement (SUA) from NASA. TAVs are available for use on SBIR projects. NASA provides these technologies "as is" and makes no representation or guarantee that additional effort will result in infusion or commercial viability.

Whether or not an offeror proposes the use of a NASA patent or computer software within its proposed effort will not in any way be a factor in the selection for award.

1.6.1 Use of NASA Software

If an offeror intends to use NASA software, a Software Usage Agreement (SUA), on a nonexclusive, royalty-free basis, is necessary, and the clause at 48 C.F.R. 1852.227-88, Government-Furnished Computer Software and Related Technical Data, will apply to the contract. The SUA shall be requested from the appropriate NASA Center Software Release Authority (SRA), after contract award.

1.6.2 Use of NASA Patent

All offerors submitting a completed proposal package that include the use of a NASA patent must apply for a nonexclusive, royalty-free evaluation license. After offerors have identified a patent to license in the NASA patent portfolio (, a link on the patent webpage (“Apply Now to License this Technology”) will direct them to NASA’s Automated Licensing System (ATLAS) to finalize their license with the appropriate field center technology transfer office. The completed evaluation license application must be provided with the proposal following the directions in section 3.5.3. Such grant of nonexclusive evaluation license will be set forth in the successful offeror’s SBIR contract. The evaluation license will automatically terminate at the end of the SBIR contract. License applications will be treated in accordance with Federal patent licensing regulations as provided in 37 CFR Part 404.

In addition to an evaluation license, if the proposed work includes the making, using, or selling of products or services incorporating a NASA patent, successful awardees will be given the opportunity to negotiate a nonexclusive commercialization license or, if available, an exclusive commercialization license to the NASA patent. Commercialization licenses are also provided in accordance with 37 CFR Part 404.

An SBIR awardee that has been granted a nonexclusive, royalty-free evaluation license to use a NASA patent under the SBIR award may, if available and on a noninterference basis, also have access to NASA personnel knowledgeable about the NASA patent. Licensing executives located at the appropriate NASA field center will be available to assist awardees requesting information about a patent that was identified in the SBIR contract and, if available and on a noninterference basis, provide access to the inventor or surrogate for the purpose of knowledge transfer.

Note: Access to the inventor for the purpose of knowledge transfer will require the requestor to enter into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or other agreement, such as a Space Act Agreement. The awardee may be required to reimburse NASA for knowledge transfer activities. For Phase I completed proposal packages, this is a time-consuming process and is not recommended.


1.7 I-Corps™

NASA has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to allow Phase I awardees the opportunity to participate in the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program. Phase I Offerors are encouraged to opt into and participate in this training if selected for an award. This training is designed to lower the market risk inherent in bringing a product or innovation to market, thereby improving the chances for a viable business. The NASA I-Corps program enables small businesses, including startup firms, to increase the odds of accelerating the process of developing their SBIR technologies into a repeatable and scalable business model. The program accomplishes this by putting the firms through a version of the Lean Launchpad/I-Corps process, which includes:

  • Developing their business model hypotheses using the Business Model Canvas.
  • Testing those hypotheses through the Customer Development Interview process.

The intended results of I-Corps are to enable offerors to conduct customer discovery to learn their customers' needs, to obtain a better understanding of their company's value proposition as it relates to those customer needs, and to develop an outline of a business plan for moving forward. For more information on the NASA I-Corps program, see

Offerors who are selected for Phase I contract negotiations will be provided the opportunity to participate in the NASA SBIR/STTR I-Corps program as indicated in section I-Corps awards will be made separately with a modification with the Phase I contract.    

NASA will conduct an abbreviated competition for I-Corps after Phase I offerors are selected for Phase I SBIR contracts. NASA anticipates making approximately 25 I-Corps awards to SBIR Phase I awardees. The amount of funding is up to $10,000 to support participation in the shortened I-Corps version for SBIR awardees.


1.8 Technical and Business Assistance (TABA)

The Small Business Act 15 U.S.C. 631, Section 9 (q) Discretionary Technical and Business Assistance permits SBIR Phase I and II awardees to enter into agreements with one or more vendors to provide Technical and Business Assistance (TABA). TABA allows an additional supplement to the award ($6,500 for Phase I) and is aimed at improving the commercialization success of SBIR awardees. TABA may be obtained from entities such as public or private organizations, including an entity established or funded by a U.S. state that facilitates or accelerates the commercialization of technologies or assists in the creation and growth of private enterprises that are commercializing technology.

In accordance with the Small Business Act, NASA may authorize the recipient of a NASA Phase I SBIR award to purchase technical and business assistance services through one or more outside vendors. These services may, as determined appropriate, include access to a network of non-NASA scientists and engineers engaged in a wide range of technologies, assistance with product sales, intellectual property protections, market research, market validation, and development of regulatory plans and manufacturing plans, or access to technical and business literature available through online databases, for the purpose of assisting such concerns in

  1. Making better technical decisions concerning such projects;
  2. Solving technical problems that arise during the conduct of such projects;
  3. Minimizing technical risks associated with such projects; or
  4. Commercializing new commercial products and processes resulting from such projects, including intellectual property protections.

For information on how to request TABA at Phase I, please see section, Request for Use of Technical and Business Assistance Funds. Technical and business assistance does not count toward the maximum award amount of your Phase I contract. Approval of technical and business assistance is not guaranteed and is subject to review by the Contracting Officer and the SBIR/STTR Program Management Office. A description of any technical and business assistance obtained under this section and the benefits and results of the technical or business assistance provided will be a required deliverable of your contract.


1.9 Small Business Administration (SBA) Applicant Resources

The SBA oversees the Federal SBIR and STTR programs. The SBA has resources that small businesses can take advantage of in learning about each of the programs and obtaining help in developing a completed proposal package to submit to a Federal SBIR/STTR program. Offerors are encouraged to review the information that is provided at the following links:,, and at


1.10 NASA Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP)

The purpose of the NASA Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) is to provide incentives to NASA contractors, performing under at least one active approved subcontracting plan negotiated with NASA, to assist protégés in enhancing their capabilities to satisfy NASA and other contract and subcontract requirements. The NASA MPP established under the authority of Title 42, United States Code (U.S.C.) 2473(c)(1) and managed by the Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), includes an Award Fee Pilot Program. Under the Award Fee Pilot Program, a mentor is eligible to receive an award fee at the end of the agreement period based upon the mentor’s performance of providing developmental assistance to an active SBIR Phase II contractor in a NASA Mentor-Protégé agreement (MPA).

The evaluation criterion is based on the amount and quality of technology transfer and business development skills that will increase the protégé’s Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). TRLs measure technology readiness on a scale of 1 to 9. A mentor should attempt to raise the TRL of the protégé and outline the goals and objectives in the MPA and the award fee plan. A separate award fee review panel set up by NASA OSBP will use the semiannual reports, annual reviews, and the award fee plan in order to determine the amount of award fee given at the end of the performance period of the agreement.

For more information on the Mentor-Protégé Program, please visit


1.11 Fraud, Waste and Abuse and False Statements

Fraud is described as “any false representation about a material fact or any intentional deception designed to deprive the United States unlawfully of something of value or to secure from the United States a benefit, privilege, allowance, or consideration to which an individual or business is not entitled.”

Note: The Federal Government reserves the right to decline any completed proposal packages that include plagiarism and false claims.

Note: Knowingly and willfully making any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations may be a felony under the Federal Criminal False Statement Act (18 U.S.C., section 1001), punishable by a fine and imprisonment of up to 5 years in prison. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has full access to all completed proposal packages submitted to NASA.

Pursuant to NASA policy, any company representative who observes crime, fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement or receives an allegation of crime, fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement from a Federal employee, contractor, grantee, contractor, grantee employee, or any other source will report such observation or allegation to the OIG. NASA contractor employees and other individuals are also encouraged to report crime, fraud, waste, and mismanagement in NASA's programs to the OIG. The OIG offers several ways to report a complaint:

NASA OIG Hotline: 1-800-424-9183 (TDD: 1-800-535-8134)

NASA OIG Cyber Hotline:

Or by mail:

NASA Office of Inspector General
P.O. Box 23089
L'Enfant Plaza Station
Washington, DC 20026


1.12 NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program

The NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program is available under this solicitation as a procedure for addressing concerns and disagreements concerning the terms of the solicitation, the processes used for evaluation of completed proposal packages, or any other aspect of the SBIR procurement. The clause at NASA Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Supplement (NFS) 1852.215-84 (“Ombudsman”) is incorporated into this solicitation.

The cognizant ombudsman is: 

Marvin Horne, Procurement Ombudsman  
Office of Procurement 
NASA Headquarters 
Washington, DC 20546-0001  
Telephone:  202-358-4483 

Offerors are advised that, in accordance with NFS 1852.215-84, the ombudsman does not participate in any way with the evaluation of completed proposal packages, the source selection process, or the adjudication of formal contract disputes. Therefore, before consulting with the ombudsman, offerors must first address their concerns, issues, disagreements, and/or recommendations to the Contracting Officer for resolution. Offerors are further advised that the process set forth in this solicitation provision (and described at NFS 1852.215-84) does not augment their right to file a bid protest or otherwise toll or elongate the period in which to timely file such a protest.


1.13 General Information

1.13.1 Questions About This Solicitation and Means of Contacting NASA SBIR Program

To ensure fairness, questions relating to the intent and/or content of research subtopics in this solicitation cannot be addressed during the open solicitation period. Only questions requesting clarification of completed proposal package instructions and administrative matters will be addressed.

The cutoff date and time for receipt of Phase I solicitation questions requesting clarification of completed proposal package instructions and administrative matters is March 6, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. ET. 

Offerors that have questions requesting clarification of completed proposal package instructions and administrative matters should refer to the NASA SBIR/STTR website or contact the NASA SBIR/STTR helpdesk.

  1. NASA SBIR/STTR Website:
  2. Help Desk: The NASA SBIR/STTR Help Desk can answer any questions regarding clarification of completed proposal package instructions and any administrative matters. The Help Desk may be contacted by:

a. Email:

b. The requestor must provide the name and telephone number of the person to contact, the organization name and address, and the specific questions or requests.


1.14 Definitions

A comprehensive list of definitions related to the programs is available at These definitions include those from the combined SBIR/STTR policy directives as well as terms specific to NASA. Offerors are strongly encouraged to review these prior to submitting a completed proposal package.