NASA Spinoff

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

In the increasingly sophisticated world of high-definition flat screen monitors and television screens, image clarity and the elimination of distortion are paramount concerns. As the devices that reproduce images become more and more sophisticated, so do the technologies that verify their accuracy. By simulating the manner in which a human eye perceives and interprets a visual stimulus, NASA scientists have found ways to automatically and accurately test new monitors and displays.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Robot Systems Technology Branch engineers at Johnson Space Center created the remotely controlled Robonaut for use as an additional “set of hands” in extravehicular activities (EVAs) and to allow exploration of environments that would be too dangerous or difficult for humans. One of the problems Robonaut developers encountered was that the robot’s interface offered an extremely limited field of vision. Johnson robotics engineer, Darby Magruder, explained that the 40-degree field-of-view (FOV) in initial robotic prototypes provided very narrow tunnel vision, which posed difficulties for Robonaut operators trying to see the robot’s surroundings. Because of the narrow FOV, NASA decided to reach out to the private sector for assistance. In addition to a wider FOV, NASA also desired higher resolution in a head-mounted display (HMD) with the added ability to capture and display video.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

To relay data from remote locations for NASA’s Earth sciences research, Goddard Space Flight Center contributed to the development of “microservers” (wireless sensor network nodes), which are now used commercially as a quick and affordable means to capture and distribute geographical information, including rich sets of aerial and street-level imagery.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Expert system software programs, also known as knowledge-based systems, are computer programs that emulate the knowledge and analytical skills of one or more human experts, related to a specific subject. SHINE (Spacecraft Health Inference Engine) is one such program, a software inference engine (expert system) designed by NASA for the purpose of monitoring, analyzing, and diagnosing both real-time and non-real-time systems. It was developed to meet many of the Agency’s demanding and rigorous artificial intelligence goals for current and future needs.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

NASA missions require advanced planning, scheduling, and management, and the Space Agency has worked extensively to develop the programs and software suites necessary to facilitate these complex missions. These enormously intricate undertakings have hundreds of active components that need constant management and monitoring. It is no surprise, then, that the software developed for these tasks is often applicable in other high-stress, complex environments, like in government or industrial settings.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

The Structures and Materials Division at Glenn Research Center is devoted to developing advanced, high-temperature materials and processes for future aerospace propulsion and power generation systems. The Polymers Branch falls under this division, and it is involved in the development of high-performance materials, including polymers for high-temperature polymer matrix composites; nanocomposites for both high- and low-temperature applications; durable aerogels; purification and functionalization of carbon nanotubes and their use in composites; computational modeling of materials and biological systems and processes; and developing polymer-derived molecular sensors. Essentially, this branch creates high-performance materials to reduce the weight and boost performance of components for space missions and aircraft engine components.

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Managed by Goddard Space Flight Center, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) was launched on December 30, 1995, from Kennedy Space Center, and to this day, it is still active. The satellite carries several instruments and is part of the Science Mission Directorate’s study of deep space. The RXTE measures the timescale of flickering X-rays, called oscillations, revealing the underlying physics of the violent environment around objects such as neutron stars and black holes. The oscillations reveal the nature of the physical environment of the star system, so by studying these oscillations and tracking the same X-ray sources for years, RXTE scientists form a picture of the events that are taking place.

Future spaceborne astronomy missions will require telescopes with increasingly greater power, driving the dimensions of the optics and their housing structures to significantly greater sizes.

Scientists and engineers have long used computers to model physical systems. Physical modeling is a major part of design and development processes, as well as failure analysis. At NASA, scientists and engineers rely heavily on physical modeling to evaluate the overall health and performance of all mission-related flight vehicles.

When it comes to solving some of NASA’s most challenging technical problems, the mathematical minds that make up the Computational Sciences Branch at NASA’s Glenn Research Center are ready and waiting to crunch some numbers. Calculating complex algorithms and mathematical equations like it’s child’s play, the group has worked out many technical issues for NASA over the years.

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