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Spinoff

 
Spinoff Frequently Asked Questions

What is a spinoff?

What is Spinoff's objective?

When and why was Spinoff created?

Who receives Spinoff?

How do I subscribe to Spinoff?

How does NASA transfer its technology to the private sector?

What is the difference between a "NASA spinoff" and a "NASA success"?

How does Spinoff differ from NASA's Tech Briefs publication?

Did NASA invent the ever-popular memory foam found in many consumer applications?

Did NASA invent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)?

Did NASA invent cordless power tools?

Did NASA invent barcodes, quartz clocks, or smoke detectors?

Are Tang, Teflon, and Velcro NASA spinoffs?

 


What is a spinoff?

A NASA spinoff is a technology, originally developed to meet NASA mission needs, that has been transferred to the public and now provides benefits for the Nation and world as a commercial product or service. NASA spinoffs enhance many aspects of daily life, including health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology, and industrial productivity. These spinoffs are transferred to the public through various NASA partnerships including licensing, funding agreements, assistance from NASA experts, the use of NASA facilities, and other collaborations between the Agency, private industry, other government agencies, and academia. As of 2012, NASA has documented nearly 1,800 spinoff technologies in the annual NASA Spinoff publication.


What is Spinoff's objective?

To foster a greater awareness of the practical benefits resulting from the investment in aerospace research and development. Technologies published in Spinoff ultimately benefit the American consumer and global competition.


When and why was Spinoff created?

NASA’s Spinoff magazine is the result of a U.S. Congressional mandate issued through the Space Act of 1958, whereby NASA was formed. More specifically, Section 203 of the Act called for dissemination of NASA research and development to the public.

In 1973 and 1974, NASA issued annual “Technology Utilization Reports” in black and white print that documented the Space Program’s technology transfer efforts. These reports were popular with Congress and within NASA, so NASA decided to transform the annual report into a four-color publication that came to be known as Spinoff in 1976. The publication has been issued on an annual basis ever since.

Please be sure to visit our History of Spinoff page for more information.


Who receives Spinoff?

Spinoff is widely available in print, on an interactive CD-ROM, and on this Web site.  It is circulated amongst the general public, U.S. Congressional leaders, and the NASA aerospace community, as well as at industry trade shows and conferences, public libraries, museums, and academic institutions of all levels, across the world.


How do I subscribe to Spinoff?

There is not a subscription list. Please email marian.c.roby@nasa.gov to request a free copy of this year’s edition. Please allow at least 2 weeks for delivery. You may download your free copy of the Spinoff book from the NASA Spinoff Web site at:

Spinoff 2011


How does NASA transfer its technology to the private sector?

There are many different paths NASA technologies follow to move from the laboratory and launch pad to the private sector and then to the market place. Often, this process can take several to more than 10 years. Depending on the type of technology, its readiness, the work involved in preparing it for a secondary application, and the level of work required to launch the product, this timeframe can vary greatly.
 
For some technologies, the target market is so specialized or the product is so advanced that it takes a long time to be commercialized. For example, rotating cellular bioreactors have taken nearly twenty years to reach commercial maturity, as their application in cellular-level biological research is more advanced than current state-of-the-art technology. Some medical technologies require regulatory certification or clearance before they are used publicly, thus taking even longer to reach market. At the other end of the spectrum, some technologies can be rapidly commercialized. One company, for example, licensed an electrolyte-based rehydration beverage developed at NASA Ames Research Center. Within several months, the company had a product on the shelves. Each technology is different, and can take many unique paths to market.
 
To learn more about partnering with NASA, please use the NASA Online Partnering Tool:  http://octpartneringtool.nasa.gov/oct/


What is the difference between a “NASA spinoff” and a “NASA success"?

A spinoff is a commercialized product that incorporates NASA technology or NASA "know how" and benefits the public, while a success is a NASA technology that is not available on the market but still yields benefits to the public. For example, a NASA technology that was used to restore valuable artwork that was damaged in a fire is considered a “success” because it is not available for sale on the commercial market. You can learn more about NASA successes in the “Partnership Successes” chapter in each issue of Spinoff.

How does NASA's Tech Briefs publication differ from Spinoff ?

Tech Briefs, a monthly publication, lists licensing opportunities available through NASA, whereas Spinoff, an annual publication, features stories on companies that have successfully commercialized NASA technology. Tech Briefs is written for the scientific and technical community, and Spinoff is written for the general public.


Did NASA invent the ever-popular memory foam found in many consumer applications?

Memory foam, also known as temper foam, was developed under a NASA contract in the 1970s that set out to improve seat cushioning and crash protection for airline pilots and passengers. Memory foam has widespread commercial applications, in addition to the popular mattresses and pillows. For the latest Spinoff article, click here.


Did NASA invent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)?

No, NASA did not invent MRI technology, but it has contributed to its advances over the years, and elements of NASA technology have been incorporated into MRI techniques. In the mid-1960s, as a prelude to NASA’s Apollo Lunar Landing Program, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed the technology known as digital image processing to allow computer enhancement of Moon pictures. Digital image processing has found a broad array of other applications, particularly in the field of medicine, where it is employed to create and enhance images of the organs in the human body for diagnostic purposes. Two of these advanced body imaging techniques are CT or CATScan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).


Did NASA invent cordless power tools?

No. The first cordless power tool was unveiled by Black & Decker in 1961. In the mid-1960s, Martin Marietta Corporation contracted with Black & Decker to design tools for NASA. The tool company developed a zero-impact wrench for the Gemini project that spun bolts in zero gravity without spinning the astronaut. Black & Decker also designed a cordless rotary hammer drill for the Apollo moon program.  The drill was used to extract rock samples from the surface of the moon and could operate at extreme temperatures and in zero-atmosphere conditions. Before the zero-impact wrench and rotary hammer drill could go into space, they needed to be tested in anti-gravity conditions.  Black & Decker and NASA tested the tools either under water or in transport planes that would climb to the highest possible altitude and then nosedive to simulate anti-gravity conditions. As a result of this work, Black & Decker created several spinoffs, including cordless lightweight battery powered precision medical instruments and a cordless miniature vacuum cleaner called the Dustbuster, but cordless power tools predate the Space Agency’s involvement with the company.


Did NASA invent barcodes, quartz clocks, or smoke detectors?

Barcodes were not invented by NASA. NASA developed a special type of barcode for inventory of space shuttle and other space system components that could endure harsh environments, but this should not be mistakened for the original barcode. Similarly, NASA was not the first to use quartz as a piezoelectric material for timekeeping. The first quartz clock dates back to 1927. However in the late 1960s, NASA partnered with a company to make a highly accurate quartz clock. This clock was on the market for a few years but is no longer available. Further, NASA did not invent the smoke detector. NASA’s connection to the modern smoke detector is that it made one with adjustable sensitivity as part of the Skylab project. The device was made commercially available by Honeywell. The consumer could use it to avoid “nuisance” alarms while cooking. Like the quartz clock, this device is no longer available.


Are Tang, Teflon, and Velcro NASA spinoffs?

Tang, Teflon, and Velcro, are not spinoffs of the Space Program. General Foods developed Tang in 1957, and it has been on supermarket shelves since 1959. In 1962, when astronaut John Glenn performed eating experiments in orbit, Tang was selected for the menu, launching the powdered drink’s heightened public awareness. NASA also raised the celebrity status of Teflon, a material invented for DuPont in 1938, when the Agency applied it to heat shields, space suits, and cargo hold liners. Velcro was used during the Apollo missions to anchor equipment for astronauts’ convenience in zero gravity situations. Although it is a Swiss invention from the 1940s, it has since been associated with the Space Program.


NASA log - Link Office of the Chief Technologist Image of cover Spinoff 2010 NASA Hallmarks of success videos