Nasa is set to provide a total of $96m in funding to 128 proposals selected from small US businesses to advance research and development (R&D) in the field of technology.

The award will be offered under Nasa’s phase II of the 2017 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme and is expected to support the agency’s future space exploration missions, as well as the US economy.

The SBIR programme encourages small businesses and research institutions to develop innovative ideas that meet the specific R&D requirements of the US federal government.

Nasa Space Technology Mission Directorate acting associate administrator Jim Reuter said: “We look forward to working with these promising small businesses to further advance Nasa’s missions.”

“Sensors and cameras will also be developed under a selected proposal to help scientists detect, count, and track near-Earth asteroids.”

One of the selected proposals will support the R&D of a low-power, ultra-fast, deep-learning neuromorphic computer chips that can be used for unmanned aircraft systems such as delivery drones.

Neuromorphic computer chips are designed to evaluate incoming big data streams from cameras, sensors and avionics in real-time to help achieve better navigation and collision avoidance.

The proposals also include the development of a solid-state oxygen concentrator and compressor capable of reducing hardware mass, volume and power footprint.

Sensors and cameras will also be developed under a selected proposal to help scientists detect, count, and track near-Earth asteroids.

Among other proposals, one will see the development of a new wheel concept for improved surface mobility to imitate the behaviour of a variable pressure tire without the need or risk of an inflation system.

The wheel can improve Nasa planetary exploration missions to the Moon and Mars by improving the mobility and controllability of surface exploration rovers and future vehicles.