NASA expands the boundaries of human knowledge and exploration through its space and aeronautics
Space Technology Mission Directorate
missions, and this cannot be done without continually pushing the limits of what we are capable of achieving. Every day, NASA researchers and engineers must constantly advance the Agency’s technological capabilities. The Technology Transfer Program then takes on another critical part of the Space Agency’s mission—to ensure that the entire country benefits from those advances.
As NASA works to develop and mature technical solutions for the Agency’s broad array of future missions, these inevitably can also be applied to challenges facing U.S. businesses, institutions, and citizens. We often forge industry partnerships to overcome technical challenges and to ensure that the resulting solutions are also applied here on Earth. But that’s just one of many ways NASA technology finds its way into the hands of the public. In 2016, for example, the Agency issued close to 100 patent licenses and more than 2,600 software usage agreements, setting two new records.
Since 1976, NASA’s Spinoff publication has documented the stories of more than 2,000 spinoff technologies, from their origins in NASA missions to their successful commercialization and positive impact on society. In the following pages, you can read about 49 more. Some of my favorites are:
A device that locates survivors trapped under rubble. At the request of other Federal agencies, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory built a tool that detects slight physical movements, basing it on NASA’s technology that allows analysis of weak data signals amid huge amounts of noise. In space, this technology has helped us identify minor alterations in a satellite’s path that indicate fluctuations in the gravity field of the planet it orbits. On Earth, the device has already saved four people buried in debris after an earthquake in Nepal by identifying their breathing and heartbeats through rubble. (Go to page)
A fogger that sterilizes ambulances. The company knew what it wanted to make but couldn’t arrive at a product until a NASA expert was assigned to the case through a local partnership program. The NASA researcher knew about the corrosive power of atomic oxygen in Earth’s upper atmosphere and helped design a device that decontaminates surfaces by oxidizing organic compounds. It’s now preventing the spread of disease and infection in ambulances across the country, as well as in a school and in police cars and jail cells. (Go to page)
Sophisticated software used to design aircraft. Computational fluid dynamics software (CFD) has been helping air- and spacecraft engineers test their designs since the 1990s. Pegasus 5 software, designed through NASA partnerships and now hosted at Ames Research Center, greatly simplifies the use of CFD, eliminates large amounts of tedious work, saves time and money, and improves designs. For its pervasive impact on commercial and government air and space travel Pegasus 5 was recognized with NASA’s 2016 Software of the Year Award. (Go to page)
In addition to these success stories, this issue of Spinoff also features 20 NASA technologies that the Technology Transfer Program identifies as promising future spinoffs, as well as information on how to license them or partner with us to further develop them for commercialization. (Go to page)
Transfering technology into the private sector, as well as across other Federal agencies, has been a part of NASA’s congressional mandate since its founding, and Spinoff 2018 demonstrates the continued success of that mission. Over the decades, NASA spinoffs have saved thousands of lives while generating tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in revenue, and billions more in dollars saved. I hope you enjoy this look at the wide variety of benefits America’s investment in aeronautics and space brings to the public.