May 13--NORTH HAVEN -- U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, came to Precision Combustion Monday to celebrate the company's success in winning a $125,000 contract from NASA to study the feasibility developing components for an improved system for compressing, storing and delivering carbon dioxide in a spacecraft, using lower pressure.
DeLauro's visit to the Sackett Point Road company came a little more than a week after NASA officials announced that Precision Combustion was one of seven Connecticut companies to receive one of the agency's Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program grants. DeLauro said the number of grants and the amount awarded has decreased in recent years, a trend that the congresswoman said she finds disturbing.
"The SBIR program is enormously useful for small companies," DeLauro said after touring the company's plant. "It deals with American inventorship and we need to think how this investment can be increased, not reduced. If we want to create good paying jobs, this is where the investment ought to be."
Phase I of the grant program provides money for companies to take innovative ideas and review the feasibility of developing them into prototypes that NASA can conduct testing on, said Kevin Burns, president of Precision Combustion. NASA reviews the work done by the Phase I grant recipients, winnows down the field and selects about 40 percent of the companies to advance to Phase II, in which funding is provided to develop the prototypes, according to Burns.
"It's a process that's designed to control the risk in the investments, so that the larger amounts of money are going towards the more feasible ideas," he said.
SBIR grants are not limited to NASA; they include programs involving the military, the federal departments of energy, environmental protection and agriculture, according to Burns.
Precision Combustion has shown a knack for getting the federal grants. In addition to the NASA SBIR grant, the company also received Phase I grants from the Army, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The NASA grant that Precision Combustion received is part of an effort involving other companies to develop a system for the space agency that can provide astronauts on long-term missions, like traveling to Mars, with enough air without having to weigh down the spacecraft with numerous heavy oxygen tanks.
The system would involve taking the carbon dioxide created in the breathing process, storing it and extracting the oxygen component from the waste gas. It would, in essence, reuse the oxygen.
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