NASA Spinoff

Coating used on launch pads protects bridges, condominiums, and other structures from corrosion.

In the mid-1990s, Surtreat Holding LLC, based in Pittsburgh, PA, developed two corrosion inhibitors that worked by chemical means, and were designed to be applied to the surface of concrete, where they would migrate to the steel rebar inside. By 1996, the formulas still had not been formally tested and validated.

NASA-developed heat shield technology protects iPads and iPhones from both heat and frigid cold.

In the 1960s, NASA was preparing for early forays into space, and worked to devise thin, reflective, metallic material to protect spacecraft from the dangers of solar radiation. This material — metallized polyethylene terephthalate (MPET) — is strong and not only reflects radiation, but also serves as powerful insulation to protect electronics from large swings in temperature.

NASA’s 3D imaging technology goes from space to brain surgery.

In 2007, Dr. Hrayr Shahinian was looking for an engineering team to help him develop an endoscopic device suitable for brain surgery, and capable of both steering its lens and producing a three-dimensional video image. He discovered that the person he was seated next to at a social function was Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

FAA software relies on NASA-developed programs to help pilots avoid ionospheric storms.

To permit safe and reliable aircraft navigation over North America using the Global Positioning System (GPS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has developed the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which improves the accuracy, availability, continuity, and integrity of GPS positioning enough to ensure its safe use by pilots to determine their locations. The early development of WAAS relied on software developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); particularly, the GPS-Inferred Positioning System (GIPSY) and the Global Ionospheric Mapping (GIM) software packages. More recently, the continued development of WAAS has relied on companion software also developed at JPL. The SuperTruth and IonoSTAGE packages allow the system to address the threat to accurate positioning posed by code delays and phase advances due to refraction in Earth’s ionosphere.

Studying radiation effects on spacecraft led to a personal Sun exposure monitor.

To understand the Sun’s impacts on Earth, NASA initiated the Living with a Star program in 2001, and began developing a key research satellite: the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). One of the instruments created for the SDO was the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE), tasked with measuring extreme ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which plays a key role in atmospheric heating and satellite drag. In 2005, Goddard Space Flight Center scientist Shahid Aslam joined other researchers in developing EVE.

NASA Technology

When engineers explore designs for safer, more fuel efficient, or faster aircraft, they encounter a common problem: they never know exactly what will happen until the vehicle gets off the ground.

NASA Technology

In 2008, a NASA effort to standardize its websites inspired a breakthrough in cloud computing technology. The innovation has spurred the growth of an entire industry in open source cloud services that has already attracted millions in investment and is currently generating hundreds of millions in revenue.

NASA Technology

Several years ago, NASA started making plans to send robots to explore the deep, dark craters on the Moon. As part of these plans, NASA needed modeling tools to help engineer unique electronics to withstand extremely cold temperatures.

NASA Technology

“Space weather” is a term more frequently used as solar storms and flares are closely monitored and analyzed for the impact they might have on Earth. Blasts of radiation, if strong enough, can make their presence felt by temporarily shutting down power grids or interrupting communication channels. While such events on the Earth’s surface are rare, thanks to the planet’s many layers of protection, the threat posed by radiation to satellites and spacecraft is always on the minds of the engineers who design them.

NASA Technology

The Drilling Automation for Mars Exploration (DAME) project was designed to unearth the secrets of Mars—literally. The project’s engineers designed a light, low-power drill to penetrate into the Martian surface and return clues about the Red Planet’s geological makeup and ancient life that may have once thrived there.


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