NASA Spinoff

Inflatable Antennas Support Emergency Communication

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


Smart Sensors Assess Structural Health

The materials used to make airplanes and space shuttles do not last forever. That is why NASA frequently inspects launch vehicles, fuel tanks, crew habitats, and other components for structural damage. The timely and accurate detection of cracks or other damage can prevent failure, prolong service life, and ensure safety


Hand-Held Devices Detect Explosives and Chemical Agents

Smaller, with enhanced capabilities. Less expensive, while providing improved performance. Energy efficient, without sacrificing capabilities. Smaller, less expensive, and energy efficient—but still highly durable under some of the most extreme conditions known.


Terahertz Tools Advance Imaging for Security, Industry

On January 16, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia launched on mission STS-107. At T plus 82 seconds, with the orbiter rocketing upwards at 1,870 miles per hour, a briefcase-sized chunk of insulating foam broke off from the external fuel tank and struck Columbia’s left wing. During reentry on February


Sensors Provide Early Warning of Biological Threats

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are between 4 and 11 million cases of acute gastrointestinal illnesses in the United States each year—caused by pathogens in public drinking water. The bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella have within the past few years


Robots Save Soldiers’ Lives Overseas

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution NASA intends to return people to the Moon, but this time to stay. Future plans include living quarters, scientific laboratories, a permanent lunar community, and a training ground for a future mission to Mars. Ahead of these first 21st century boots on the Moon, though, the Space Agency


Apollo-Era Life Rafts Save Hundreds of Sailors

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution The space shuttle is unique among spacecraft in that it glides back to Earth and lands like an airplane, usually touching ground near where it launched at Kennedy Space Center, but sometimes, in poor weather, gliding into the back-up landing site at Dryden Flight Research Center and then


Circuits Enhance Scientific Instruments and Safety Devices

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution Since its founding in 1958, NASA has pioneered the use of different frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum—including X-ray, microwave, and infrared wavelengths—to gather information about distant celestial bodies. During the 1962 Mariner 2 mission, NASA used microwave radiometers that operated in the range of 15–23 gigahertz (GHz) to


Tough Textiles Protect Payloads and Public Safety Officers

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution Special textiles have been mission-critical components for successful space missions since the early years of NASA’s first parachutes and space suits in the late 1950s. One of the Agency’s more recognizable uses for textiles, the Mars Pathfinder airbags, provided a cushioned, instrument-friendly landing in 1997. This same technology


Advanced X-Ray Sources Ensure Safe Environments

Originating Technology/NASA ContributionSuccessfully sustaining life in space requires closely monitoring the environment to ensure the health of the crew. Astronauts can be more sensitive to air pollutants because of the closed environment, and pollutants are magnified in space exploration because the astronauts’ exposure is continuous. Sources of physical, chemical, and