October 23, 2023

Canopy Aerospace Receives NASA SBIR Ignite $850k Phase II Award to Democratize Access to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO)


Littleton, CO – October 23, 2023 – Canopy Aerospace, a venture-funded startup at the intersection of advanced manufacturing, high-temperature materials, and digitization, proudly marks a groundbreaking achievement with the recent award of a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Ignite Phase II contract. This contract totals up to $850,000 and accelerates Canopy’s development of additively-manufactured thermal protection systems (TPS) required for space re-entry and hypersonic missions.

Canopy was founded in 2021 through FedTech’s NASA Startup Studio, which uniquely pairs entrepreneurs with NASA technologies that are prime for commercialization and is supported by NASA’s Technology Transfer Program. Canopy’s mission is to solve a critical challenge for the United States: the lack of a commercial supply base for what investors refer to as the “New Space” industry. Without reliable and cost-effective availability of key components such as TPS, new business models involving asteroid mining, lunar resource harvesting, and microgravity drug manufacturing could not be enabled.

Matt Shieh and John Howard, PhD, co-founders of Canopy, set out to solve this problem first by transferring technology from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley to commercialize TPS using traditional manufacturing methods. These are proven materials and methods with flight heritage, validated through decades successful missions on the Space Shuttle and capsule return missions flown by NASA. This strategy allows Canopy to alleviate an immediate supply chain gap needed for space re-entry missions with qualified materials.

However, to succeed long-term in supplying not only the New Space but hypersonic industry, Canopy realized that it would have to advance the manufacturing process for TPS in a major way. Thus, the strategy for additively manufacturing TPS was born: through this technology, Canopy can eliminate significant material waste, consolidate processes and lead times, and produce more complex geometric shapes, enabling new mission capabilities. This ultimately leads to lower launch costs and faster design cycles for spacecraft development.  

“Leveraging advanced manufacturing techniques is critical to our ability to support increased access to LEO; we believe that the New Space and Hypersonic supply chains must be elastic: able to flex on demand and provide a cost-effective, reliable product for extreme mission partners” said Matt Shieh, co-founder and CEO of Canopy.

Figure 1: Canopy CEO Matt Shieh (center) speaking at an industry panel in Denver, CO

NASA first funded development of this technology through its innovative SBIR Ignite opportunity focused around building the next-generation of space technology companies – Canopy was part of the program’s inaugural set of awards in 2022. SBIR Ignite is focused on providing a lower barrier to entry to doing work with NASA for companies where NASA may not be their primary customer.  

Canopy has also raised $3.5M in private venture capital and been competitively awarded development awards from other agencies like the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Canopy is proud to partner with NASA on multiple fronts, having licensed IP from NASA Ames as well as being awarded in-kind testing resources through a 2022 Announcement for Collaboration Opportunities (ACO) selection.

Figure 2: Oxyacetylene torch testing of a TPS sample at Canopy's HQ - measuring thermal conductivity

For more information on Canopy Aerospace and our mission to advance space technology, please visit our website at Stay updated on our latest developments by following us on LinkedIn.

See NASA’s official press release here.

For more information on SBIR Ignite, see here.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Attn: Will Dickson

Director, Strategy and Development

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