NASA Spinoff

NASA Technology

Kennedy Space Center is not only home to one of the largest buildings in the world—the massive Vehicle Assembly Building—it also hosts a number of one-of-a-kind facilities. The more than 30-mile-long campus has witnessed every launch from the Space Shuttle Launch Pad, as well as many homecomings at the Shuttle Landing Facility. Just as important, the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) has seen each element of the International Space Station (ISS) that passes through Kennedy before it goes into orbit.

NASA Technology

The rescue crews have been searching for the woman for nearly a week. Hurricane Katrina devastated Hancock County, the southernmost point in Mississippi, and the woman had stayed through the storm in her beach house. There is little hope of finding her alive; the search teams know she is gone because the house is gone.

NASA Technology

Spanning nearly four decades, the remarkable Landsat program has continuously provided data about the Earth’s surface, including detailed maps of vegetation, land use, forest extent and health, surface water, population distribution, as well as how these features have changed over time. Managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, Landsat’s series of satellites obtain data through passive remote sensing, or the use of sensors to read the energy reflected or emitted from the Earth’s surface. After the data from the sensors is processed and analyzed, it can be applied to create information-rich images of the planet.

NASA Technology

Much deserved attention is given to the feats of innovation that allow humans to live in space and robotic explorers to beam never-before- seen images back to Earth. In the background of these accomplishments is a technology that makes it all possible—the rockets that propel NASA’s space exploration efforts skyward.

NASA Technology

The Partnership for Next Generation Vehicles (PNGV) is not a NASA initiative to develop powerful new rockets and spacecraft, even though it may sound like one. PNGV was a partnership established by the Clinton administration between the Federal government and the U.S. Council for Automotive Research to develop technologies that improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions from cars and trucks. More than 20 Federal laboratories from the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Transportation, and Defense; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Science Foundation; and NASA were all involved in PNGV, in addition to more than 350 automotive suppliers, universities, and small businesses.

One of the greatest dangers to aircraft—playing a role in numerous destructive and fatal accidents around the world—comes in the form of droplets of water. Clouds are made up of tiny water particles with diameters typically between 10 and 50 microns. In clean air, cloud droplets can exist in liquid form down to temperatures as low as -40 °C. These subfreezing, liquid clouds are referred to as being “supercooled.” As soon as supercooled droplets contact an aircraft ascending or descending through the cloud cover, they form layers of ice on any unprotected surface, including the leading edges of wings and rotor blades, tails, antennas, and within jet engines. This ice accretion can cause engine damage and dramatically affect the aerodynamics of the aircraft. (On the leading edge of a wing, an ice layer about as thick and rough as a piece of coarse sandpaper can be responsible for as much as a 30-percent decrease in lift and a 40-percent increase in drag.) This can lead to reduced performance and even catastrophic loss of control.

One of the more remarkable developments in aviation in recent years has been the increasing deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Since the invention of the first UAV in 1916, these remotely—or sometimes autonomously—controlled vehicles have become invaluable tools for military reconnaissance and combat, cargo transport, search and rescue, scientific research, and wildfire monitoring. Free from having to accommodate the safety needs and endurance limits of a pilot, UAVs are capable of flying extended missions and venturing into hazardous and remote locations.

When Boris Popov was 8 years old, he took one of his mother’s sheets and some thread, made a parachute, climbed a tree, and jumped. The homemade chute did little to break Popov’s fall; his father took the disappointed boy aside and said, “Son, you’ve got to start higher.”

Greek mythology tells of the inventor Daedalus using wings of his own fashioning to escape from imprisonment on the island of Crete. In 1988, a similar adventure was launched, though in this case carbon-fiber composites, gears, and driveshafts featured instead of wax and feathers.

Space exploration requires reliable and efficient communication technology. One device currently under development is the inflatable antenna. Due to several unique characteristics—it is lightweight, easy to deploy, inexpensive, and requires low storage volume—inflatable technology is especially well-suited for space applications. Without requiring mechanical actuators or human assembly, something the size of a suitcase could be inflated in space to the size of a basketball court.


The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.