NASA Spinoff

NASA-funded aircraft tests parameters that can’t be modeled in simulations.

Born out of a desire for aircraft to be able to take off and land capably at airports with shorter runways to alleviate congestion at the major hubs, the circulation control wing concept has been floated by the aeronautical community as a possible solution for decades. The technology calls for increased amounts of high-pressure air, derived from either the jet engines or separate compressors, to flow over the leading and trailing edges of the wings, creating greater lift. Given extra lift, an aircraft can take off and land at a lower speed, thus reducing the length of runway needed. Extra lift also enables increased weight-carrying capacity.

FAA software relies on NASA-developed programs to help pilots avoid ionospheric storms.

To permit safe and reliable aircraft navigation over North America using the Global Positioning System (GPS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has developed the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which improves the accuracy, availability, continuity, and integrity of GPS positioning enough to ensure its safe use by pilots to determine their locations. The early development of WAAS relied on software developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); particularly, the GPS-Inferred Positioning System (GIPSY) and the Global Ionospheric Mapping (GIM) software packages. More recently, the continued development of WAAS has relied on companion software also developed at JPL. The SuperTruth and IonoSTAGE packages allow the system to address the threat to accurate positioning posed by code delays and phase advances due to refraction in Earth’s ionosphere.

Studying radiation effects on spacecraft led to a personal Sun exposure monitor.

To understand the Sun’s impacts on Earth, NASA initiated the Living with a Star program in 2001, and began developing a key research satellite: the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). One of the instruments created for the SDO was the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE), tasked with measuring extreme ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which plays a key role in atmospheric heating and satellite drag. In 2005, Goddard Space Flight Center scientist Shahid Aslam joined other researchers in developing EVE.

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.

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