Small tech business in Manoa works on big NASA project

Updated: Sep. 5, 2019 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an office in the Manoa Innovation Center, a tech-savvy team specializes in designing small circuitry.

“We’re making these advanced microchips,” Nalu Scientific CEO Isar Mostafanezhad said, holding up a black circuit board the size of a Pop-Tart.

The circuits and the secrets belong to the small business that is now working on a big project for NASA.

“It’s sort of a feather in our cap,” staff physicist Ben Rotter said. “I feel really proud that I can work on a project like this, and that NASA felt that it was good to fund us.”

NASA uses lasers in LIDAR systems to measure distances in space and to map the earth. It gave Nalu Scientific a $120,000 grant and six months to figure out a way to help make LIDAR units smaller.

“If you want to put it in a payload, put it in a satellite, you really don’t have a lot of space, the power is really limited. So you want to have a data processing device that’s very small,” Mostafanezhad said.

Those smaller LIDARS could be used in future orbital and planetary missions.

And Nalu Scientific isn't stopping there.

"As a company we can't just create a cool technology, we really have to be marketing this and finding places where it would be useful for people," Rotter said.

That could be in self-driving cars or drones.

Since Mostafanezhad started the company in 2015, it’s grown to about 10 employees. He applied multiple times for NASA grants and finally got one.

"The acceptance rate is about ten to fifteen percent nationally for these competitions. So, yeah, we're very excited," he said.

The patented circuitry can be applied to other fields beyond space exploration.

"Essentially, this is a tool that helps scientists measure time better, faster and more efficiently," Mostafanezhad said.

Along with the NASA mission, Nalu Scientific was just selected to work on a project for the U.S. Air Force.

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