NASA Spinoff

NASA Technology

If the wings of a plane could talk about what they feel during flight, what would they say? Engineers at Dryden Flight Research Center are beginning to find out.

NASA Technology

Aging aircraft are an increasing concern at the national level. Commercial and government vehicles are being flown past their originally intended service life in order to save money, and fewer aircraft are being built to replace older vehicles. The Department of Defense, for example, is replacing its fleet at well below the rate required to maintain the present average age of its aircraft.

NASA Technology

After taking off her shoes and jacket, she places them in a bin. She then takes her laptop out of its case and places it in a separate bin. As the items move through the x-ray machine, the woman waits for a sign from security personnel to pass through the metal detector. Today, she was lucky; she did not encounter any delays. The man behind her, however, was asked to step inside a large circular tube, raise his hands above his head, and have his whole body scanned.

NASA Technology

Back in 1972, Anne St. Clair worked side by side with Langley Research Center colleague Vernon Bell as part of NASA’s research and development efforts to create robust materials for space applications. Bell synthesized new building blocks for high performance polyimides while St. Clair adapted them to make thin films—very thin materials.

NASA Technology

Over the last decade, there have been a number of innovations that have made possible the largest and most powerful telescope of its time: the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Scheduled to launch in 2018, JWST will provide insight into what the oldest, most distant galaxies look like.

NASA Technology

When NASA designs a spacecraft to undertake a new mission, innovation does not stop after the design phase. In many cases, these spacecraft are firsts of their kind, requiring not only remarkable imagination and expertise in their conception but new technologies and methods for their manufacture.

NASA Technology

In order for the Hubble Space Telescope to take incredible, never-seen-before shots of celestial bodies and then send them back to Earth, the spacecraft needs power. While in orbit, Hubble cannot plug into an electrical outlet or stop at a store for some batteries. One of the ways NASA supplies power aboard a spacecraft is by harnessing energy from the most powerful entity in the solar system: the Sun. Since the 1960s, photovoltaic technology, or technology that converts sunlight into electricity, has been instrumental in the exploration of space.

NASA Technology

Here is a brief list of materials that NASA will not be using to construct spacecraft: wood, adobe, fiberglass, bone. While it might be obvious why these materials would not make for safe space travel, they do share a common characteristic with materials that may well be the future foundation of spacecraft design: They all are composites. Formed of two or more unlike materials—such as cellulose and lignin in the case of wood, or glass fibers and plastic resin in the case of fiberglass—composites provide enhanced mechanical and physical properties through the combination of their constituent materials. For this reason, composites are used in everything from buildings, bathtubs, and countertops to boats, racecars, and sports equipment.

NASA Technology

At Langley Research Center, Erik Weiser and his colleagues in the Advanced Materials and Processing Branch were working with a new substance for fabricating composites for use in supersonic aircraft. The team, however, was experiencing some frustration. Every time they tried to create a solid composite from the polyimide (an advanced polymer) material, it bubbled and foamed.

NASA Technology

Scientists have long been able to shift the direction of a laser beam, steering it toward a target, but often the strength and focus of the light is altered. For precision applications, where the quality of the beam cannot be compromised, scientists have typically turned to mechanical steering methods, redirecting the source of the beam by swinging the entire laser apparatus toward the target.

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