NASA Spinoff

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.

As NASA’s leading organization for information sciences, the Intelligent Systems Division at Ames Research Center conducts world-class computational research to enable out-of-this-world capabilities. In particular, this division is dedicated to ushering in a new era of autonomous spacecraft and robotic exploration, as well as extending abilities in space through human-computer interactions and data analysis.

Design errors are costly. When it comes to creating complex systems for aerospace design and testing system readiness, engineering system requirements must be clearly defined, and these systems need to be tested to ensure accuracy, consistency, and safety. Testing a system, however, can require as much as 50 to 70 percent of the total design cycle time. The ability to identify potential problems early in the design cycle saves time and expense, while still ensuring safe and reliable systems. This type of research is of interest not only to the NASA Ames Research Center’s Robust Software Engineering group, but to government agencies and industry, any sectors which build critical, expensive systems, such as control software for an aircraft or the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System’s command and coPartnershipntrol system.

In 1984, researchers from Ames Research Center came together to develop advanced human interfaces for NASA's teleoperations that would come to be known as virtual reality. The basis of the work theorized that if the sensory interfaces met a certain threshold and sufficiently supported each other, then the operator would feel present in the remote/synthetic environment, rather than present in their physical location. Twenty years later, this prolific research continues to pay dividends to society in the form of cutting-edge virtual reality products, such as an interactive audio simulation system.

I/NET, Inc., is making the dream of natural human-computer conversation a practical reality. Through a combination of advanced artificial intelligence research and practical software design, I/NET has taken the complexity out of developing advanced, natural language interfaces. Conversational capabilities like pronoun resolution, anaphora and ellipsis processing, and dialog management that were once available only in the laboratory can now be brought to any application with any speech recognition system using I/NET's conversational engine middleware.

NASA software created to help scientists expeditiously search and organize their research documents is now aiding compliance personnel, law enforcement investigators, and the general public in their efforts to search, store, manage, and retrieve documents more efficiently.

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