NASA Spinoff

The Microgravity Combustion Science group at NASA’s Glenn Research Center studies how fire and combustible liquids and gasses behave in low-gravity conditions. This group, currently working as part of the Life Support and Habitation Branch under the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, conducts this research with a careful eye toward fire prevention, detection, and suppression, in order to establish the highest possible safety margins for space-bound materials.

As fleets of aircraft age, corrosion of metal parts becomes a very real economic and safety concern. Corrosive agents like moisture, salt, and industrial fluids—and even internal problems, like leaks and condensation—wear away and, especially over time and repeated exposure, begin to corrode aircraft.

LUNAplast™ EXIT signs illuminate without the need for electricity, maintenance, or a power connection.
Emergency exit signs can be lifesavers, but only if they remain visible when people need them. All too often, power losses or poor visibility can render the signs ineffective. Luna Technologies International, Inc., of Kent, Washington, is shining new light on this safety issue. The company’s LUNAplast™ product line illuminates without the need for electricity, maintenance, or a power connection. LUNAplast, which benefited from tests conducted at Johnson Space Center, is so successful that NASA engineers selected it for the emergency exit pathway indicators on the International Space Station (ISS).

A unique sensor developed by ProVision Technologies, a NASA Commercial Space Center housed by the Institute for Technology Development, produces hyperspectral images with cutting-edge applications in food safety, skin health, forensics, and anti-terrorism activities. While hyperspectral imaging technology continues to make advances with ProVision Technologies, it has also been transferred to the commercial sector through a spinoff company, Photon Industries, Inc.

An unexpected tragedy took place on April 28, 1988, when the roof of an Aloha Airlines 737 aircraft ripped open at 24,000 feet, killing a flight attendant and injuring eight people. The in-flight structural failure of Aloha Flight 243's 19-year-old aircraft prompted NASA Langley Research Center to join with colleagues at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Air Force to initiate the Nation's first Aging Aircraft Research program.

Cybernet Systems Corporation, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, originally developed its gesture recognition technology for the U.S. Department of Defense. A 1997 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with NASA's Johnson Space Center also contributed to the development of the company's gesture recognition and tracking system, which observes human hand motions and interprets gestures in order to control devices.

Hailstorm damage to the Space Shuttle's External Tank inspired a NASA innovation with extensive photography applications. In order to measure the defects caused by the storm, Kennedy Space Center used telephoto lenses to zoom in on the tank and view the damage clearly. However, since there was no reference object in the image, the engineers could not determine the scale of the damage.

Pattern-recognition technologies developed by NASA to identify spacecraft and other objects in space have helped in the development of new, biometrics-based security solutions on Earth that recognize individuals to grant access to protected facilities, equipment, or information.

A fiber-optic voltage sensor developed a decade ago for NASA's aircraft and space power systems has been the building block for a string of new sensor products offering safe, accurate detection and measurement for electrically noisy and hazardous environments.

Beginning with the Apollo Program in the early 1960s, the NASA White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) has supported every U.S. human exploration space flight program to date. Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, WSTF is part of Johnson Space Center. The facility's primary mission is to provide the expertise and infrastructure to test and evaluate spacecraft materials, components, and rocket propulsion systems to enable the safe human exploration and utilization of space


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