Infrared Imaging Sharpens View in Critical Situations
- Created: Tuesday, 01 January 2008
The Microgravity Combustion Science group at NASA’s Glenn Research Center studies how fire and combustible liquids and gasses behave in low-gravity conditions. This group, currently working as part of the Life Support and Habitation Branch under the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, conducts this research with a careful eye toward fire prevention, detection, and suppression, in order to establish the highest possible safety margins for space-bound materials.
This is not to say that fire is safer in space, though. Fire outbreak on a spacecraft is just as dangerous as any fire situation on Earth, or arguably even more dangerous, given the inability of astronauts to evacuate. For this reason, the ability to detect subtle variations in temperature in a complex and varied thermal background could prove invaluable in a spacecraft.
Innovative Engineering and Consulting (IEC) Infrared Systems is a leading developer of thermal imaging systems and night vision equipment. The Cleveland-based company was founded in 1999 by two microgravity combustion science researchers from the National Center for Space Exploration Research, an academic research organization located onsite at Glenn. In spinning off their new business venture, the two researchers utilized the engineering know-how they developed in measuring high-temperature flames for NASA space flight experiments.
Several years after opening for business, IEC Infrared Systems received a Glenn Alliance for Technology Exchange (GATE) award worth $100,000, half of which was in the form of additional NASA assistance for new product development. The GATE award was established by Glenn, the Ohio Aerospace Institute, and the Battelle Memorial Institute to assist small Ohio-based companies interested in collaborating with NASA to advance their products and processes.