National Aeronautics and
Written in the Space Act that established NASA in 1958 is a call for the Agency to preserve the United States’ place as a leader in space technology—to pursue new knowledge that enables challenging missions into uncharted territory. While the first applications of these technologies are for the specific requirements of NASA missions, the Agency also recognizes that such knowledge will nearly always have broader applications, and we regard the collective potential of our knowledge base as a national resource. Also written into our foundational legislation is the requirement to “provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination” of this knowledge.
Whether these technologies are patented inventions, innovations created through partnerships with industry, or software, the goal of the Technology Transfer Program is to see them dispersed to the public as broadly as possible. We also track results of our efforts—the commercial products and services known as spinoffs that you will read about in the following pages. Each has its unique history, but all are examples of how missions to space lead to wider practical benefits in every sector of the economy.
This year’s Spinoff features 52 technologies. Among my favorites are:
An FDA-approved drug, Prolia, used to treat osteoporosis. Research on the effects of microgravity on mice, conducted during Space Shuttle missions as well as aboard the International Space Station, validated the effectiveness of an antibody incorporated in the drug for preventing bone loss. The company is using data from its NASA partnership in two other drugs still in development. (Go to page)
The Rice Decision Support System, created under contracts with NASA and using data from various Earth-imaging satellites. Rice is among the world’s most important crops, but a shortage of useful data during its growth season has led to unstable markets, sharp price fluctuations, and shortages. The new system provides real-time crop yield predictions that will reduce risk and volatility in rice markets and, ultimately, help keep hungry people fed. (Go to page)
The world’s largest private fleet of nanosatellites now in orbit. A researcher at NASA who helped start the Agency’s innovative PhoneSat Project—which demonstrated the feasibility of constructing small, affordable satellites using off-the-shelf parts—is now cofounder of a startup company that has raised over $100 million in investment. Planet Labs’ groundbreaking flock of nanosatellites provides a daily picture of Earth that benefits a range of commercial, research, nonprofit, and government organizations. (Go to page)
Alongside these success stories, you will also find 20 NASA inventions that the Technology Transfer Program has identified as having notable commercial potential, including information on how you can acquire them or partner with us to develop them further (Go to page).
Technology transfer is the Agency’s oldest continuously operated mission, but our work is ongoing and of continuing significance. Today there are many new technologies being developed at NASA, and we are hard at work accelerating the rate at which they end up in the hands of companies and organizations that can put them to use in spinoff applications. We are proud to present Spinoff 2016 as the latest showcase of success stories from this effort, and I hope that you enjoy reading it.