Private Space Tech Startups Vie for $100,000 Prize

Space technology advancements like NASA's Robonaut 2 (left) can help humanity launch more ambitious space exploration missions.
Space technology advancements like NASA's Robonaut 2 (left) can help humanity launch more ambitious space exploration missions. (Image credit: NASA)

SAN FRANCISCO — Ten space-industry startups will compete for a $100,000 prize at a conference Friday (July 27) in Silicon Valley.

The 10 companies are finalists in the NewSpace 2012 Business Plan Competition, which is part of the NewSpace 2012 conference. The conference runs from Thursday to Saturday (July 26 to 28) in Santa Clara, Calif.

On Friday, each startup will give a six-minute oral presentation to a panel of judges. The winning team will be announced Saturday night at the NewSpace 2012 Awards Gala, and will receive $100,000 courtesy of NASA.

Here's a brief rundown of the 10 finalists:

Digital Solid State Propulsion LLC: This Nevada-based company is working on new solid-state propellants that can be switched on and off using only electrical power. The propellants are "green" formulations that can't be ignited by sparks or flames, officials said.

ExoCoat: This startup, based in Texas, is developing bioengineered coatings to clean and disinfect spacecraft interior surfaces, which could safeguard crews by removing toxins or biohazards.

Nanoly Bioscience: Nanoly is developing a nanoparticle-based chemical shield that could allow vaccines and other perishable mission-critical medicines to be stored without refrigeration for long periods. The company is composed of undergraduate and graduate students from Duke, Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Nanosatisfi LLC: This company is working on do-it-yourself platforms for tiny satellites known as cubesats. The aim is to allow users to design their own experiments, then have access to the cubesat sensor payload at an affordable price.

Pine Aerospace, LLC: Pine Aeropsace seeks to provide rapid, high-resolution imaging and analysis for the oil and gas industries, to help them monitor and clean up spills. The company plans to use microsatellites and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Saber Astronautics LLC: This Colorado-based company is developing advanced artificial intelligence capabilities with 3-D graphics to aid space operations. 

SpaceGroundAmalgam LLC: SpaceGroundAmalgam, based in Virginia, is developing inflatable components — such as reflectors, booms and solar arrays — to reduce satellites' size and weight.

Terapio: This Texas company is devising bioengineered therapeutics that could help mitigate the effects of radiation exposure.

Terminal Velocity Aerospace, LLC: Terminal Velocity Aerospace is developing basketball-size re-entry capsules for data and payload return. The company, which is based in Washington, D.C., aims to serve the nanosatellite industry. 

Unreasonable Rocket: California-based Unreasonable Rocket aims to develop a commercial nanosatellite launcher. 

You can watch's video feed of NewSpace 2012 here  courtesy of Spacevidcast beginning Thursday, July 26.  

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