STEP Grants: Science and Technology Empowered by the Public

We're currently accepting pre-proposals through 26 May 2021! See our Request for Proposals (RFP) for more details.

The Challenge

The Planetary Society has supported innovative science and technology projects that advance space science and exploration since our founding in 1980. By providing financial support to these projects our members, donors, and supporters help build the future they want to see in space.

Some projects like our Shoemaker Near-Earth Object grants fill gaps created by a lack of government funding. Others like LightSail and PlanetVac are next-generation technologies that need financial support to become reality. We focus on credible projects likely to make a difference in exploring other worlds, finding life, and defending Earth from dangerous asteroids.

The Planetary Society is soliciting new ideas for science and technology projects. Over the years the space landscape has broadened into a diverse array of nations, universities, commercial entities, and other individuals and organizations. Our new grants program will seek ideas from these communities as well as traditional sources. This will increase our members’ access to new ideas and opportunities.

Successful test flight
PlanetVac PlanetVac, a next-generation sample collection technology by Honeybee Robotics, is going to the Moon and Phobos thanks in part to support from members like you.Image: Richard Chute for The Planetary Society

How We Are Helping

In 2021, we introduced our new STEP grants: Science and Technology Empowered by the Public. STEP grants are competitively awarded through an open, international process. We expect to accept and select new proposals roughly every 2 years. We also expect our STEP grants to eventually comprise a significant portion of our science and technology portfolio.

STEP grants must directly relate to our core interests of exploring other worlds, finding life, and defending Earth from dangerous asteroids. As detailed in our Request for Proposals (RFP), the program seeks to fund credible and significant research and hardware development projects. STEP grants will also achieve one, or preferably more, of the following:

  • Provide seed funding that will take research to the next level, allowing future successful competition for other sources of funding
  • Fill a niche not being filled or fully filled by others
  • Develop innovative technology that may jump start its broader use
  • Involve, inspire, and/or excite Planetary Society members and the general public
  • Take advantage of a timely opportunity
  • Require funding that cannot be easily obtained from other sources

STEP grant awardees will have the backing of The Planetary Society’s 50,000-member community. We’ll help tell the world why your work is important and celebrate your successes as you seek to advance space science and exploration.

What You Can Do

Do you have the perfect project for a STEP grant? We’ve issued our inaugural Request for Proposals (RFP) and will accept pre-proposals through 26 May 2021. See the RFP for full details.

Want to get involved in other ways? Become a member or donate to support our work and join the world’s largest independent space organization. You can also help us spread the word to those who might be interested in proposing using the short URL You know your audience best; we've got tools to help.

Learn more:

Ready to take your next steps as a space advocate? Find out how you can take action in your community and government.

Action Center

Whether it's advocating, teaching, inspiring, or learning, you can do something for space, right now. Let's get to work.