NASA Spinoff

Seven years ago, NASA was in the planning stages of producing an aluminum alloy with higher strength and resistance at elevated temperatures for aerospace applications. At that time, a major automobile manufacturer happened to approach NASA for solutions to lowering engine emissions and the costs associated with developing aluminum engine pistons. The Space Agency realized the answers to the manufacturer's problems could lie within the proposed alloy.

Producing a new aircraft engine currently costs approximately $1 billion, with 3 years of development time for a commercial engine and 10 years for a military engine. The high development time and cost make it extremely difficult to transition advanced technologies for cleaner, quieter, and more efficient new engines. To reduce this time and cost, NASA created a vision for the future where designers would use high-fidelity computer simulations early in the design process in order to resolve critical design issues before building the expensive engine hardware.

NASA's Langley Research Center scientists developed a family of catalysts for low- temperature oxidation of carbon monoxide and other gases. The catalysts provide oxidation of both carbon monoxide and formaldehyde at room temperature without requiring any energy input, just a suitable flow of gas through them.

Wake vortices are generated by all aircraft during flight. The larger the aircraft, the stronger the wake, so the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) separates aircraft to ensure wake turbulence has no effect on approaching aircraft. Currently, though, the time between planes is often larger than it needs to be for the wake to dissipate. This unnecessary gap translates into arrival and departure delays, but since the wakes are invisible, the delays are nearly inevitable.

NASA's Plum Brook Station, a 6,400-acre, remote test installation site for Glenn Research Center, houses unique, world-class test facilities, including the world's largest space environment simulation chamber and the world's only laboratory capable of full-scale rocket engine firings and launch vehicle system level tests at high-altitude conditions. Plum Brook Station performs complex and innovative ground tests for the U.S. Government (civilian and military), the international aerospace community, as well as the private sector.

If it were 50 years ago, NASA's contribution to rock and roll could have been more than just the all-astronaut rock band, Max Q, composed of six NASA astronauts, all of whom have flown aboard the Space Shuttle. If it were 50 years ago, a new NASA spinoff technology, Synthetic Vision, would likely have been able to prevent the fateful, small plane crash that killed rock and roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper on that stormy night in 1959. Synthetic Vision is a new cockpit display system that helps pilots fly through bad weather, and it has incredible life-saving potential.

Langley Research Center conducts research in support of all of the aeronautics project at NASA. It continues to forge new frontiers in aviation research, as it has since 1917, when it was established as the Nation's first civilian aeronautics laboratory. Langley's mission and contributions to aerospace, atmospheric sciences, and technology commercialization are improving the way the world lives and flies.

On December 28, 1997, a United Airlines plane flying from Japan to Hawaii experienced severe turbulence while over the West Pacific Ocean. Over 100 individuals on this flight of 374 passengers and 19 flight crew members were injured during the encounter, one fatally. Investigative reports issued following the incident indicated that the plane was subjected to a “sudden upward push of almost twice the force of gravity,” followed by a “sharp, downward push” about 6 seconds later.

All turbofan engines work on the same principle. A large fan at the front of the engine draws air in. A portion of the air enters the compressor, but a greater portion passes on the outside of the engine—this is called bypass air. The air that enters the compressor then passes through several stages of rotating fan blades that compress the air more, and then it passes into the combustor. In the combustor, fuel is injected into the airstream, and the fuel-air mixture is ignited. The hot gasses produced expand rapidly to the rear, and the engine reacts by moving forward.

A new information system is delivering real-time weather reports to pilots where they need it the most—inside their aircraft cockpits. Codeveloped by NASA and ViGYAN, Inc., the WSI InFlight™ Cockpit Weather System provides a continuous, satellite-based broadcast of weather information to a portable or panel-mounted display inside the cockpit. With complete coverage and content for the continental United States at any altitude, the system is specifically designed for in-flight use.

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