Pittsfield-bound space chamber company wins $225,000 from National Science Foundation

Electro Magnetic Applications plans to develop a new aerospace testing chamber in Pittsfield. The 3-foot-by-5-foot stainless steel cylinder chamber would re-create an outer space environment that can be harsh to materials and equipment on manned and unmanned spacecraft.

PITTSFIELD — The company planning an aerospace testing chamber at the Berkshire Innovation Center has won a $225,000 federal grant.

Electro Magnetic Applications Inc. was awarded the funding through the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research program. The program awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses to turn scientific discoveries into products and services with both commercial and societal impact.

EMA is based in Colorado, but the work associated with this grant, which also includes the development of a space simulation environment, will be performed in Pittsfield, said the company's principal scientist Justin McKennon.

The research and development of the commercial radiation effects facility is associated with EMA's aerospace testing chamber project, he said.

"The work here under the grant is the development and characterization of the chamber," McKennon said. "This is for the development of the phase one part of our simulation project."

The 3-foot-by-5-foot stainless steel cylinder chamber will re-create an outer-space environment that will test materials and equipment used on on manned and unmanned spacecraft. The tests should help advance improvements to how those materials hold up in space.

Under the terms of the NSF program, EMA is eligible to receive a second grant of up to $750,000. Small businesses with phase two grants become eligible for additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales. The NSF is an independent federal agency.

With the new funding, EMA plans to add an additional employee to its Pittsfield operations, which will increase its local workforce to four employees, McKennon said.

"That person we hope will come on in the next month or so," he said.

In December, the City Council approved $25,000 in tax credits from the state's Economic Assistance Coordinating Council for EMA's new project.

EMA announced in September that it planned to open a facility in Pittsfield as the BIC's first tenant. The $13.8 million innovation center is expected to open early this year, but EMA has already moved into its space and begun working on the aerospace chamber and other projects, McKennon said.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.