NASA Spinoff

Aviation is one of the safest means of transportation, but aviation safety professionals always work to make it safer. When flights operate outside of the norm, analysts perk up, as these flights are perhaps also operating outside the realm of safety. These out-of-the- ordinary flights, or atypicalities, are, therefore, the ones that need to be studied, and this is where NASA steps in.

Often times, when people think of NASA, they think of space travel. The first “A” in NASA, however, is for “Aeronautics,” and the Agency has always held as one of its tenets to explore, define, and solve issues in aircraft design. Just as often as NASA is associated with space travel, when people hear aeronautics, they often think of airplanes, but part of NASA’s aeronautics program is one of the most advanced rotorcraft design and test programs in the world.

Gridlock, bottlenecks, bumper-to-bumper jams—we all get caught in congestion at one time or another, as the rigors of road traffic are an inevitable part of life. Sometimes we do our best to get ahead, taking advantage of the slightest opening in the next lane, in anticipation that it is moving quicker than the snail’s pace of our current position. Other times, we just patiently ride it out, opting to sit back and get comfortable, fully surrendering to the sea of cars and trucks ahead.

What do NASA and ballistics have in common? More than the average person may know. Everyday, millions of Americans drive in vehicles, cross over bridges, and fly in airplanes without knowing just how important NASA's role in studying ballistics is in making these actions viable and safe for them.

Referred to as the lifeline for any space launch vehicle by NASA Space Launch Initiative Program Manager Warren Wiley, an umbilical is a large device that transports power, communications, instrument readings, and fluids such as propellants, pressurization gasses, and coolants from one source to another. Numerous launch vehicles, planetary systems, and rovers require umbilical mating. This process is a driving factor for dependable and affordable space access.

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.

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