NASA needs help filling technology gaps ? and help soon will be on its way courtesy of as many as 350 small businesses that NASA has handpicked to address "critical" research and technology needs within the agency.

The technology firms, which were selected from a pool of nearly 1,900 proposals from across the U.S., are negotiating contracts for seed funding with NASA , officials announced Dec. 8.

When talks end, NASA anticipates the businesses will create or improve new products and services as part of the agency?s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR).

"The (programs) help facilitate innovative research and technology development among America?s most creative small businesses," said Bobby Braun, NASA chief technologist in Washington, D.C.

Past projects within the two programs have impacted the International Space Station, air-traffic control systems and robotic explorers.

This year, some businesses proposed working on:

  • Analytical and experimental methodologies for reliably predicting the effects of aeroelasticity and its impact on aircraft performance, flight dynamics and safety of flight.
  • Advanced photovoltaic systems to enable low cost, low mass, high reliability and efficient power generation systems for a wide variety of deep space exploration missions.
  •  Innovative technologies for accurate measurements of atmospheric parameters and surface topography of the Earth, Mars, the moon and other planetary bodies.
  •  Technologies that provide innovative ways to leverage existing International Space Station facilities for new scientific payloads and on orbit analysis to enhance capabilities and reduce sample return requirements.

NASA plans to distribute about $50 million among the businesses, with roughly $45 million going toward projects for the SBIR program.

Officials use a three-phase award system to distribute funds. NASA picked businesses for Phase 1 based on their experience, qualifications and facilities as well as their proposals? technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential. In Phase 1, businesses receive as much as $100,000 to evaluate the scientific and technical merit of their ideas. Upon completion, businesses then must submit a Phase 2 proposal in which they expand on the results of the developments in first phase. Phase 3 focuses on commercialization and requires the use of private sector or non-SBIR federal funding.

NASA will award SBIR contracts to 309 technology firms in 37 states and award STTR contracts to 41 technology firms in 16 states. Businesses in the STTR program will partner with 41 universities or research institutions in 22 states. NASA?s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the programs, and NASA's 10 field centers manage individual projects.

For a complete list of selected companies, click here.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer Brian Anthony Hernandez at Bhernandez@TechMediaNetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter (@BAHjournalist) and become his friend on Facebook (BAH Journalist) to interact or stay updated on news about small businesses.

This article was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site of SPACE.com.