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Spinoff 1997

 
Langley Research Center Applications Projects
Applications Projects

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In addition to spinoff products, NASA's applications projects also represent successful technology transfer. These projects contribute to Langley's aerospace missions and also solve significant public sector or industrial problems through the redesign of existing NASA technology. Often, these projects also result in spinoff products, but their benefits to mankind begin much earlier.

For instance, Langley's High Performance Computing and Communications/Information Infrastructure Technology and Applications (HPCC/IITA) Program developed an Internet access system for K-12 schools that provides up to an 80% cost savings over standard connections. The commercialization outgrowth of this system is ATLAS (the Affordable Technology to Link America's Schools), a strategic plan to rapidly deploy the new connectivity design through the training of personnel, implementation of the network, and partnerships. The Virginia State HUD Office is negotiating with NASA to support the application of ATLAS to the Neighborhood Networks (NN) Project within the state, and Unified Research Laboratories (URLabs) of Virginia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Langley to support the ATLAS goal to offer affordable Internet connections to 70,000 K-12 school sites by the year 2000.

A fiber-optic displacement sensor measures the displacement of a THUNDER wafer. THUNDER is a NASA technology that could make everything from speakers to heart pumps smaller and more efficient.

 

Another current Langley applications project involves several new medical device technologies resulting from the center's expertise in instrumentation design and development and nondestructive measurement science. These include devices for non-invasive evaluation of diaphragm function, diagnosis of pressure ulcers, non-invasive intracranial pressure measurement, circumferential pressure probe for urodynamics, and a CCD mosaic for digital mammography.

One device, for the evaluation of diaphragm function, utilizes an ultrasound system positioned to view the lateral aspect of the diaphragm and automates the selection of the internal and external views of the diaphragm recorded. By judging and comparing the thickness of the diaphragm, a healthcare professional can see if a ventilated patient is breathing on his or her own, since only active breathing produces variations in thickness. The healthcare professional can then judge the minimal pressure needed for a ventilator and gradually increase the patient's independence by gradually reducing the pressure.

A Langley technology that could make everything from audio speakers to heart pumps smaller and more efficient is THUNDER (Thin-Layer Composite-Unimorph Piezoelectric Driver and Sensor). Piezoelectric materials generate mechanical movement when subjected to an electric current and generate electrical charge in response to mechanical stress. Langley researchers developed a piezoelectric material that is superior in several ways to those that are currently commercially available. It is tougher, should allow lower voltage operation, has far greater displacement, has greater mechanical load capacity, can be easily produced at a relatively low cost, and lends itself well to mass production. For this technology, Research and Development magazine presented Langley in 1996 with an R&D 100 Award, which recognizes the innovators of the 100 most technologically significant new products of the year. Six companies have signed Memoranda of Agreement to commercially develop THUNDER technologies and more than 20 other companies are negotiating agreements.

ARNAV Systems, Inc. was one of the private companies involved in an Olympic demonstration of new air traffic control technologies. Their system was used to provide automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast capability for aircraft operating within FAA temporary flight restricted areas.

 

Another applications project involved NASA, the FAA and industry partners, which together provided the technology for a revolutionary new system used during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games to move air traffic efficiently and safely in uncontrolled airspace. The Olympics offered a rare opportunity to demonstrate advanced communications/navigation/surveillance flight systems for future air traffic management and emergency response.

The technology behind the system combines the use of digital data link communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation technologies, which provide pilots information about the positions of other aircraft and ground-based GPS systems. Ground crews monitor aircraft positions and then relay the information to the pilots. This enables the specially equipped aircraft to perform self-dispatch operations in a "free flight" mode.

ARNAV Systems, Inc., a member of NASA's Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiment (AGATE), was one of the private companies involved in the Olympic demonstration. Their VHF GeoNet digital data link network was used to provide automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast capability for aircraft operating within FAA temporary flight restricted areas.

Application projects originate in various ways, including from requests for assistance from other government agencies or NASA technologists themselves.


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