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Spinoff 1997

Spotlight on Langley Research Center

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Representative of the Technology Transfer & Commercialization Offices is Langley Research Center's Technology Applications Group (TAG), located in Hampton, Virginia. TAG's primary goal is to encourage broader utilization of Langley-developed technologies in the American industrial community. According to TAG director Dr. Joseph Heyman, the group is organized with very little internal structure to give it the maximum flexibility to meet the requirements of a very dynamic marketplace

Dr. Heyman says that key elements of TAG can be illustrated as four spokes of a wheel, the first being information and data. In an effort to improve internal communications, data archiving, and to develop databases and other information for the center and its customers, TAG is developing better ways to use electronic media such as disseminating information on technologies available for transfer through the World Wide Web.

This birds-eye view of NASA Langley Research Center was taken with an extreme wide-angle lens to capture most of its approximately 800 acres. The center's Technology Applications Group facilitates the transfer of Langley technology to the commercial sector.


The second element of TAG is the technology patent structure, which handles intellectual property such as hardware patents, software copyrights and technical know-how. The third is the function as a financial resource for small businesses, including the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR), the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) and the Aerospace Industry Technology Program (AITP). The purpose of these programs is to stimulate businesses to partner with the government and work in focused mission areas that have dual use.

The fourth spoke is the technology transfer team engineers and scientists who foster technology partnerships with industry. "They discover business needs by communicating with business; they identify the Langley technologies by knowing the center, not just by reading papers but by knowing the people," said Heyman. The team advertises Langley-developed technologies available for transfer through the Internet, NASA Tech Briefs and other journals, talks, and the Technology Opportunities Showcase (TOPS). TOPS was last held in 1995, providing a venue for industry to explore Langley partnership opportunities.

TAG provides the overall leadership for implementation of the center's Technology Transfer & Commercialization Program. This includes:

  • leading the center's processes for early identification of technologies of high commercial potential; promoting the expedient transfer of new technologies to the commercial sector;

  • achieving the non-aerospace uses of Langley technology by identifying potential technology applications and

  • creating teams of non-aerospace customers and Langley technologists to accomplish the transfer process;

  • coordinating the Langley program with appropriate NASA Headquarters offices,other NASA centers, and other government agencies; and

  • supporting the technology transfer process for aerospace customers.

An airplane model is tested in Langley's National Transonic Facility, one of Langley's many wind tunnels.


The center's efforts have produced measurable success: Langley's technology transfer and commercialization efforts in Fiscal Year 1996 resulted in three STTR and 50 SBIR Phase I Awards, five STTR and 21 SBIR Phase II Awards, ten licenses, 49 non-aerospace and 24 aerospace Memoranda of Agreement/Understanding, and 125 software releases. The parawing, the precursor to the hang glider developed at Langley in the late 1950's, was inducted into the U.S. Space Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1995. Langley was a recipient of NASA's 1996 Software of the Year award with the Tetrahedral Unstructured Software System (TetrUSS), an aerodynamic analysis and design system widely used throughout U.S. industry, government and universities to study aerodynamics and other problems.

By taking the initiative to know its customers and understanding their requirements, identifying new technologies for transfer and forming partnerships with industry, TAG continues to facilitate the transfer of Langley technology to the commercial sector. And, as Dr. Heyman said, "We are entering a new era of greater partnership with industry and recognizing that enhancing U.S. economic strength is part of our mission, part of our reason for being."

Langley was a recipient of NASA's 1996 Software of the Year award for the Tetrahedral Unstructured Software System (TetrUSS), an aerodynamic analysis and design system used here on the Boeing 747 to study aerodynamics and other problems.

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