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Derek Martin and Ryan Cox work on robotic instrumentation with the BluHaptics team in Seattle. (University of Washington Photo / Conrado Tapado)

Space projects led by two small businesses headquartered in Washington state — Seattle-based BluHaptics and Bothell-based Tethers Unlimited — are among 128 proposals selected by NASA to receive grants of up to $750,000.

NASA today announced its selections for 2017 Phase II grants in the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

SBIR Phase II contracts provide maximum funding of $750,000 over 24 months for the further development of projects that support NASA’s future space exploration missions while also benefiting the U.S. economy.

“We look forward to working with these promising small businesses to further advance NASA’s missions,” Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a news release. “NASA is proud of our investment in the success of small businesses and its long-term impact on our economy.”

Phase II contracts are traditionally awarded as a follow-up to Phase I contracts, which provide up to $125,000 over a six-month span. BluHaptics and Tethers Unlimited both received Phase I grants from NASA last year.

The actual amount for Phase II will be negotiated between NASA and the awardees in the weeks ahead.

BluHaptics won follow-up funding to apply its proprietary software to remote robotic operations in space. Its primary goal for Phase II is to develop and deliver a solution that enables intuitive telerobotic control in dynamic scenarios, such as when targets and potentially interfering objects are moving in the workspace.

The company plans to perform on-the-ground task demonstrations using the Schilling Robotics Titan 4 manipulator as well as MANTIS (Modular Advanced Networked Telerobotic Interface System), a robotic-arm system that Tethers Unlimited is helping to develop.

“Obviously this is a terrific win for us, and a real vote of confidence for NASA and BluHaptics,” Don Pickering, BluHaptics’ CEO, told GeekWire in an email.

BluHaptics has also received small-business grants from the National Science Foundation for underwater applications of its robotic control system.

Tethers Unlimited won additional support for its MakerSat project, which aims to demonstrate how in-space manufacturing technologies could allow small satellites to grow and evolve into significantly larger structures.

“A SmallSat that once on orbit can increase its size from one to two orders of magnitude provides an exciting option to formation flying or deployable structures,” Tethers Unlimited said in its Phase II proposal.

Tethers Unlimited and its subsidiaries have won an assortment of other NASA grants for technologies ranging from 3-D printer/recyclers to satellite mini-thrusters.

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