AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 14, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 1 st Detect Corporation, a subsidiary of Astrotech Corporation (Nasdaq:ASTC), announced today that the Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (Ft. Belvoir, VA), in conjunction with U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground (Dugway, UT), has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract to the Company to design and develop a novel sample inlet system intended to significantly improve the sensitivity of mass spectrometers used for chemical detection in the field. This contract follows 1 st Detect's successful execution of a Phase I SBIR that was awarded in May 2009.

"This award recognizes the achievements we've made developing advancements in chemical detection technology, designed to enhance the U.S. Military's capability to better detect chemical warfare threats," said John Porter, Chief Executive Officer for the Company. 

The Phase II award enables the company to transition its proof of concept pre-concentrator into a field-testable prototype, and opens up significant potential markets beyond chemical and biological defense. The $735,000 award will be used to further develop 1 st Detect's pre-concentrator inlet designed to provide a fast response time along with significantly increased chemical detection sensitivity. 

The pre-concentrator will be integrated into 1 st Detect's Miniature Chemical Detector, a portable, handheld mass spectrometer. The device, originally created to sample the air quality on the International Space Station, detects residues and vapors from a wide range of toxins, organic compounds, and explosives. This technology is being marketed to the military, security, industrial and healthcare markets and was designated as CBRNe World's Editor's Choice at the prestigious Pittcon 2010 Conference.

"1 st Detect is proud to continue our work with DoD's Joint Chemical and Biological Defense Program and the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground in the development of this innovative detection technology," added David Rafferty, President and Chief Technology Officer for 1 st Detect.

A key objective of the Chemical and Biological Defense Small Business Innovation Research Program is to permit small businesses to conduct research and development, and subsequently transition innovative technologies between the Department of Defense and the private sector for mutual benefit. The program targets those technology efforts that maximize a strong defensive posture in a biological or chemical environment using passive and active means as deterrents.