NASA Spinoff

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.

NASA Technology

The Moon hosts perhaps the most fascinating museum that no one ever visits. From reflectometers to space boots, the lunar module’s descent stage, and the famous first footprints left behind by Neil Armstrong, the Apollo 11 mission alone left over 100 artifacts on the Moon’s surface.

NASA Technology

On a December night in 1995, 159 passengers and crewmembers died when American Airlines Flight 965 flew into the side of a mountain while in route to Cali, Colombia. A key factor in the tragedy: The pilots had lost situational awareness in the dark, unfamiliar terrain. They had no idea the plane was approaching a mountain until the ground proximity warning system sounded an alarm only seconds before impact.

NASA Technology

Earth is under a constant barrage of information from space. Whether from satellites orbiting our planet, spacecraft circling Mars, or probes streaking toward the far reaches of the Solar System, NASA collects massive amounts of data from its spacefaring missions each day. NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites, for example, provide daily imagery and measurements of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, vegetation, and more. The Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) collects all of that science data and processes, archives, and distributes it to researchers around the globe; EOSDIS recently reached a total archive volume of 4.5 petabytes. Try to store that amount of information in your standard, four-drawer file cabinet, and you would need 90 million to get the job done.

NASA Technology

In November 2006, after attempting to make a routine maneuver, NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) reported unexpected errors. The onboard software switched to backup resources, and a 2-day lapse in communication took place between the spacecraft and Earth. When a signal was finally received, it indicated that MGS had entered safe mode, a state of restricted activity in which the computer awaits instructions from Earth. After more than 9 years of successful operation—gathering data and snapping pictures of Mars to characterize the planet’s land and weather—communication between MGS and Earth suddenly stopped.

NASA Technology

Getting a multitude of people to work together to manage processes across many organizations —for example, flight projects, research, technologies, or data centers and others—is not an easy task. Just ask Dr. Barry E. Jacobs, a research computer scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center. He helped NASA develop a process management solution that provided documenting tools for process developers and participants to help them quickly learn, adapt, test, and teach their views. Some of these tools included editable files for subprocess descriptions, document descriptions, role guidelines, manager worksheets, and references.

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