Space Technology Research Institutes

Funding Agency:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Many of the country's greatest scientific and technological advances have come from our universities. They continue a tradition of scientific and technological excellence, and are uniquely positioned to bring together the best and brightest minds from many disciplines and from a broad range of institutions and perspectives to help solve the most complex technical challenges. University leadership is essential to producing graduates with the capability to lead the U.S. into the future.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) continually looks for ways to help advance the development of U.S. aerospace technology. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) already features multiple programs engaged in ground-breaking work with university researchers, most notably the Space Technology Research Grants (STRG) Program. With this Space Technology Research Institutes (STRI or research institute) Appendix, STMD complements the individual research grants and project opportunities already offered in STMD programs with the addition of larger, multi-disciplinary, university-led research efforts. 

The research institutes construct enables coordination of experts from a wide range of fields and organizations in a single distributed research structure. For research areas of overlapping interest, this approach could significantly increase partnerships between NASA, other government agencies, industry, and academia, enabling greater progress and benefit for all involved. The institute approach facilitates a more focused and coordinated set of research and development (R&D) efforts than typically arise from a series of separate solicitations and individual research grants. Because the research institute maintains its focus for several years, more effective and substantial research progress is envisioned for the selected high priority research areas identified in this Appendix. In addition, the research institutes have the potential to increase the cadre of STMD researchers by involving experts and/or organizations that do not typically work closely with NASA. The alternate perspectives and new approaches they bring could lead to exciting new solutions and advances.

The goal of an STRI is to strengthen NASA’s ties to the academic community through long-term, sustained investment in research and technology development critical to NASA’s future. The STRIs will enhance and broaden the capabilities of the Nation’s universities to meet the needs of NASA’s science and technology programs. These investments will also create, fortify, and nurture the talent base of highly skilled engineers, scientists, and technologists to improve America’s technological and economic competitiveness.



  • Duke Internal Deadline: July 9, 2018
  • Preliminary Proposals Due: July 30, 2018 
  • Invited Full Proposals Due: November 05, 2018

If the internal deadline has passed and you are interested in this opportunity, please email Anastasia Maddox at to find out if it is still open.

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

Topic 1: Revolutionary Propulsion for Rapid Deep Space Transit

The objective of this solicitation topic is to form a multidisciplinary institute to advance the development of revolutionary space propulsion technologies that could substantially reduce mission trip times and fundamentally transform deep space transportation.

Topic 2: Smart Deep Space Habitats (SmartHabs)

The objective of this solicitation topic is to form a multidisciplinary institute to fundamentally change how deep space habitats are designed for resilient and autonomous operation.

Eligibility Requirements

Only accredited U.S. universities are eligible to submit proposals to this solicitation. The PI on the proposal must be a tenured faculty member or untenured, tenure-track faculty member in an engineering or science department at the lead university. 

Creative teaming arrangements (i.e., diverse, multidisciplinary, and multi-institutional teams) are sought. The lead university is encouraged to not only take advantage of existing partnerships but to establish new partnerships, keeping in mind that diversity of thinking and new approaches could lead to exciting new solutions and advances. Teaming among accredited U.S. universities is required, with a minimum of three participant universities (including the lead university), each receiving at least 15% of the overall research institute budget. 

A university may be the lead on at most one proposal submitted under each topic described in 1.3 of this Appendix. However, a lead university can receive only one award through this Appendix.

An individual may serve as Principal Investigator (PI) on only one proposal and may not participate as PI or Co-Investigator (Co-I) on any other proposals submitted to this Appendix. The PI on the proposal – who serves as the Director of the research institute – will be responsible for the overall technical Vision and leadership of the STRI.

There is no limit on the number of STRI proposals in which a university may participate in a non-lead capacity.



Amount Description

Award Details: The planned award duration is 5 years; the maximum annual award amount is $3M (total award amount may not exceed $15M). Up to two awards are anticipated under this Appendix.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences

Internal Nomination

Owing to the sponsor's restriction on the number of applications that may be submitted from Duke, anyone wishing to pursue nomination should submit the following materials as one PDF.

* A letter of support from dean or chair - 1 to 1.5 pages
* Project title and a brief description of the primary research area(s) and objective(s) of the anticipated work
* CV or Biosketch of project leader

Please submit internal materials through My Research Proposal. (Code ILN)

Instructions for setting up your account and uploading internal applications can be found here:

Internal Deadline

July 9, 2018

External Deadline

July 30, 2018