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Science and Technology Empowered by the Public (STEP) Grants

Grants to USA, Canada, and International Nonprofits, For-Profits,
IHEs, and Individuals for Science and Technology Projects

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Planetary Society

Deadline Date:

05/26/21 23:59 UT (16:59 PT)


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Grants to USA, Canada, and International nonprofit and for-profit organizations, public and private universities, and individuals for a wide range of science and technology projects. Funding may be requested for a self-contained project or a portion of a larger or long-term project.

Topics that can be submitted to this RFP are quite broad, but must fit within the Core Enterprises of The Planetary Society as defined by The Planetary Society’s Strategic Framework 2019-2023:

  • Explore Worlds: Increase discoveries about the worlds of the solar system and beyond. Including: support scientific and technological advances in planetary exploration.
  • Find Life: Elevate the search for life as a space exploration priority. Including: develop a broad approach to the search for life in the solar system and beyond; and, support scientific efforts dedicated to detecting and understanding exoplanets, particularly those that could support life.
  • Defend Earth: Decrease the risk of Earth being hit by an asteroid or comet. Including: help observers find, track, and characterize near-Earth asteroids and comets; and, support the development of asteroid mitigation technology

STEP Grants are open to a variety of types of projects. As with past Planetary Society supported projects, the STEP Grants could fund all the costs of a well-defined science or technology project, or a portion of a larger project, or a portion of a long-term program. A grant could fund hardware, labor, or a combination of the two. It could fund upgrades to a hardware system, or other necessary expenses, e.g., rental charges for telescope time. Also welcomed are activities that enhance the ability of the public to support planetary science and exploration advances including citizen science projects. 

STEP grants will 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

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 195856

Number of Grants:


Estimated Size of Grant:

Approximately the US $50,000 level

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

STEP Grants are open to a wide variety of organizations including but not limited to public or private universities, other nonprofit/NGO organizations, and for-profit organizations. They are also open to individuals.

This is an open and international competition with the following exceptions: The Planetary Society’s employees, staff, members of the Board of Directors, and members of the Advisory Council, as well as their immediate family members (i.e., spouses, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, and siblings) and entities that are majority owned or controlled by such persons, are not eligible to submit proposals. Please note: The Planetary Society is a U.S.-based tax-exempt organization and certain activities or persons may be ineligible to participate in this program (including, for example, because of U.S. government restrictions on space technology export, or sanctions on certain countries or individuals).

Note that near Earth object observations proposals that fit the criteria for submitting to The Planetary Society Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grants program are not eligible for the STEP Grants program.

Pre-Application Information:

All proposers should submit preliminary proposals (pre-proposals). Based on the pre-proposal submissions, a small number of proposers will be invited to submit full proposals from which grant selections will be made.

- 1 Feb. 2021: Announced at COSPAR 2021. Released call for pre-proposals
- 26 May 2021: Pre-proposals due by 23:59 UT (16:59 Pacific time)
- August 2021: PIs contacted with results of the pre-proposal evaluation

Those Principal Investigators (PIs) invited to submit full proposals will be given at least 60 days following the invitation to prepare and submit full proposals. The exact due date for full proposal submission will be conveyed with the invitation.

The first round of the STEP Grants competition is in 2021. Follow-on rounds are anticipated to occur every 2 years.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Submit a Pre-Proposal Online:

Questions can be directed to

The Planetary Society
60 South Los Robles Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
Phone: (626) 793-5100
Fax: (626) 793-5528

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)

Canada: Alberta;   British Columbia;   Manitoba;   New Brunswick;   Newfoundland and Labrador;   Northwest Territories;   Nova Scotia;   Nunavut;   Ontario;   Prince Edward Island;   Quebec;   Saskatchewan;   Yukon;


International country outside of the USA, Israel and Canada.

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