Celebrating Small Business Week

It’s National Small Business Week, and NASA salutes the innovative partners who have contributed so much to our mission.

The dedicated and mission-focused work of our small business partners has been essential to our missions, and I’m especially proud of NASA’s work with them. Due to the hard work of everyone in the agency, NASA exceeded our Small Business Goal for fiscal year 2011.

NASA was only 1 of 3 of the “BIG 7” federal agencies — the ones that together spend approximately 90% of small-business-eligible dollars — that exceeded its Small Business goals.

Approximately $2.5 billion in prime contracts were awarded directly to small businesses – and that’s up about $75 million from the previous year.

Our large Prime Contractors awarded approximately $2 billion in additional subcontracts to Small Businesses in fiscal year 2011.

When you add that all up, NASA awarded approximately $4.5 billion to Small Businesses in fiscal year 2011.

This clearly shows how committed we are to the small business community and how important they are to our success.

These partnerships fuel innovation and economic development. Our Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, for instance, help facilitate innovative research and technology development among America’s most creative small businesses. The awards serve as seed funds for transformative research and technology projects that have the potential to mature new products and services of great benefit to NASA and the nation

Small business represents the best of the American spirit of innovation — the drive to solve problems and create capabilities that has led us to the moon, to great observatories, and to humans living and working in space, possibly indefinitely. Small businesses and entrepreneurs employ half of America’s workers, and create two out of every three new jobs. They’re an essential part of our economic engine, and they also are an essential part of President Obama’s vision for NASA, which drives us to focus again on the big picture of exploration and the crucial research and development that will be required for us to move beyond low Earth orbit.

For more information about NASA’s Small Business Programs, visit:





National Teacher Appreciation Week

In recognition of National Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to encourage everyone to thank a teacher today for the extraordinary daily sacrifices and contributions they make to prepare our young people for lives of purpose and meaning. Great teachers have played an especially big part in my own life. My mother, father, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were all teachers. Whenever I am asked what led me to pursue a career as a Marine, an astronaut, and to accept the President’s appointment as Administrator of NASA, I think back to my days growing up in the segregated schools of Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to the compassionate, loving guidance of my parents, I will never forget the lessons instilled in me by my teachers at Columbia’s Carver Elementary, W.A. Perry Middle School, and C.A. Johnson High School. They not only taught me the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, they taught me the hard facts of life and impressed upon me that no matter the odds, I should stay in school and follow my dreams. I took that advice to heart and it has given me the strength to break barriers and achieve goals that were unthinkable for a southern born African American 60 years ago.

One of the things I like most about my job at NASA is the opportunity I get to meet with the growing numbers of teachers and students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math, especially as these subjects relate to the exploration of space. Through NASA’s educational outreach and partnerships with students and schools, we are committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers who will ensure America’s continued leadership in technology, innovation and space. It all begins in the classroom with a great teacher. Take a moment today to thank a teacher who made a difference in your life.

Sierra Nevada Announces Space Coast Interest

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Director, Robert Cabana, andSenator Bill Nelson were on hand today for an announcement by Colorado-basedSierra Nevada Corporation of its interest in expanding the company’s spaceoperations on Florida’s Space Coast. The development serves as a reminder that the Space Coast is open forbusiness and ready for a new era in space exploration. 

Mark Sirangelo, Vice President of Sierra Nevada SpaceSystems, made the announcement today with state of Florida officials and thestate’s aerospace economic development agency, Space Florida.  This is great news for the Space Coast,which continues to be a critical focal point in our nation’s leadership inspace exploration.  It’s anothermajor step forward in the bipartisan plan crafted by the President and Congressto transition transport of cargo and crew to the International Space Station(ISS) to private industry partners, so that NASA can focus on deep spaceexploration.  The President’s planputs us on track to have American companies transporting astronauts to the ISSby 2017, ending the outsourcing of this work and creating good-paying Americanjobs.

Sierra Nevada is among the companies that have signedSpace Act Agreements with NASA in our Commercial Crew Development Program.  The company is developing its DreamChaser spacecraft that is being designed to launch from Florida’s Kennedy SpaceCenter (KSC) with the capability to safely transport astronauts and cargo tothe International Space Station and land them safely back on Earth. 

Last July, I was pleased to attend the signing of a SpaceAct Agreement with Sierra Nevada to involve KSC’s skilled workforce in launchpreparations and post-landing activities for Dream Chaser.  As Sierra Nevada follows through onmoving more of its work to the Space Coast, it will be a boost to our effortsto bolster the local economy.

NASA has already taken steps to do just that.  In fact, our Commercial Crew Program isheadquartered at KSC and all the prospective companies involved are makingsubstantial progress toward achieving crewed spaceflight.

The most exciting sign of thriving space activity on theSpace Coast is the pending SpaceX launch to the International Space Stationfrom Cape Canaveral in the coming days. Last year, NASA signed an agreement with Space Florida to lease KSC’sOrbiter Processing Facility(OPF) -3 to Boeing to manufacture and test thecompany’s Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft.  In addition, workers at KSC areinvolved in preparing NASA’s new Space Launch System and Orion crew vehiclethat will take our astronauts farther into the solar system than we have everbeen – to an asteroid and eventually Mars.  Building on the demonstrated capabilities and legacy ofFlorida’s Space Coast, President Obama’s 2013 budget includes a multi-milliondollar investment to modernize and transform the launch infrastructure at KSCto benefit current and future users.

The thousands of Floridians who have contributed to thesuccess of the American space program have much of which to be proud – for pastachievements and those yet to come.  Today’s announcement is one more reminder of the importance of theFlorida Space Coast and its workforce – and the potential that lies ahead.