NASA Spinoff

In 1992, NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense jointly commissioned the research and development of a technology solution to address the challenges and requirements of communicating with their spacecraft. The project yielded an international consortium composed of representatives from the space science community, industry, and academia. This group of experts developed a broad suite of protocols specifically designed for space-based communications, known today as Space Communications Protocol Standards (SCPS). Having been internationally standardized by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems and the International Standards Organization, SCPS is distributed as open source technology by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The protocols are used for every national space mission that takes place today.

While working for NASA, Jack Sculley and Terry Brooks had a revelation. They wanted to find a novel and unique way to present the scientific principles of NASA research to the public, so as to not only enlighten, but entertain. Suddenly, their revelation morphed into something even grander. Why stop at NASA? they asked themselves. With this thought, Sculley and Brooks left NASA and set out to convey voluminous scientific findings from different organizations in the form of digital, interactive media that would enhance the exploration and adventure interests of people of all ages.

Everywhere you look, chances are something that was designed and tested by a computer will be in plain view. Computers are now utilized to design and test just about everything imaginable, from automobiles and airplanes to bridges and boats, and elevators and escalators to streets and skyscrapers.

In the summer of 1998, the blockbuster action movie Armageddon captivated audiences with a thrilling doomsday plot about a meteor the size of Texas that was racing towards the Earth. Though the premise of the movie was purely fictional, the unfortunate reality is that near-Earth asteroids such as the one portrayed in the film do exist.

The ability to understand risks and have the right strategies in place when risky events occur is essential in the workplace. More and more organizations are being confronted with concerns over how to measure their risks or what kind of risks they can take when certain events transpire that could have a negative impact.

A superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) is a gadget used to measure extremely weak signals, specifically magnetic flux. It can detect subtle changes in energy, up to 100 billion times weaker than the electromagnetic energy required to move a compass needle. SQUIDs are used for a variety of testing procedures where extreme sensitivity is required and where the test instrument need not come into direct contact with the test subject.

In 1995, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) contracted Redmond, Washington-based Lucidoc Corporation, to design a technology infrastructure to automate the intersection between policy management and operations management with advanced software that automates document workflow, document status, and uniformity of document layout. JPL had very specific parameters for the software. It expected to store and catalog over 8,000 technical and procedural documents integrated with hundreds of processes. The project ended in 2000, but NASA still uses the resulting highly secure document management system, and Lucidoc has managed to help other organizations, large and small, with integrating document flow and operations management to ensure a compliance-ready culture.

A successful launching of NASA's Space Shuttle hinges heavily on the three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) that power the orbiter. These critical components must be monitored in real time, with sensors, and compared against expected behaviors that could scrub a launch or, even worse, cause in- flight hazards.

Internet research can be compared to trying to drink from a firehose. Such a wealth of information is available that even the simplest inquiry can sometimes generate tens of thousands of leads, more information than most people can handle, and more burdensome than most can endure.

While NASA is preparing to send humans back to the Moon by 2020 and then eventually to Mars, the average person can explore the landscapes of these celestial bodies much sooner, without the risk and training and without even leaving the comfort of home.


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