NASA Spinoff

Computer Technology

Anyone who excelled at the Game Boy’s top-selling video game will recall the animated rocket liftoffs that celebrated high scores. In addition to simulated rocketry and the name,...

Think of the national airspace as a complex highway system, but with planes. They’re all moving at different speeds and converging on relatively few airports, intent upon arriving...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Debugging Code Is Rocket Science

Incorrect computer code can blow up rockets, as NASA learned from the first launch in the Ariane 5 rocket series. The 501 rocket used computer code written for the Ariane 4 series – but the change to...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Communicating via Long-Distance Lasers

Visible light has been used to communicate for centuries: lanterns on ships and Morse code flashes allowed information to be conveyed at a distance. But now there’s a better way to use light to...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Catch the Waves

It’s very important that the highly tuned components in sensitive instruments, whether on a spacecraft or used in a lab, don’t see their own reflection. In sensing devices across the electromagnetic spectrum like...

In 2010, open source software, once the playpen of renegade hackers and hobbyists, had already gone mainstream. Cloud computing was newer and less defined, but already commercially...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Recalibrating Fine Motor Skills

A touchscreen control panel similar to an Apple iPad seems like it would be easier to use than a panel of switches and buttons that must be flipped and pushed in the right order. But what if an...

When astronauts on the International Space Station venture outside to install new equipment or perform maintenance, dozens of people on Earth are involved. These extravehicular...

NASA Technology

Even before much-anticipated autonomous drones finally take to the sky, the U.S. airspace is saturated, says now-retired Langley Research Center scientist Kennie...

NASA Technology

NASA famously uses simulation software to design spacecraft, predict satellite orbits, and train astronauts. But modeling and simulation are...

NASA Technology

Today conference calling is so easy and common it is essentially unremarkable. Share a toll-free phone number and instantly dozens, hundreds, or even...

NASA Technology

When it comes to monitoring and managing the health of any system, sensors are the front-line technology. They gauge a system’s vital signs, such as...

NASA Technology

The software started as a way to evaluate the reliability of systems that look for anomalies in aircraft components and respond to them in flight. Today it is...

NASA Technology

Only 12 people have walked on the Moon. That may soon change—within the next few decades, when it simply becomes a matter of buying a ticket. It will...

NASA Technology

In the Old English epic Beowulf, the warrior Unferth, jealous of the eponymous hero’s bravery, openly doubts Beowulf’s odds of slaying the monster Grendel that...

NASA Technology

There are so many pieces to a successful mission in space, and keeping track of it all is no easy task. Software designed to simplify the interface between mission...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Software Toolkit Steadies Rockets

NASA Technology

“Combustion instability is the part of rocket science that makes rocket science hard,” says Paul Gloyer, actual rocket scientist and cofounder of a company that hopes to help...

NASA Technology

In the late 1980s, NASA engineers were working to improve software to simulate how air flowed around vehicles in flight. But the Space Shuttle posed a...

NASA Technology

NASA tackles some of the biggest questions in the universe, and the tools needed to look for answers are often, themselves, big, in both size and cost. But one...

NASA Technology

Since the advent of the laser in the 1960s, engineers have struggled to use light beams in free space to send information the way we use radio waves....

NASA Technology

It’s the 2050s. On the far side of the Moon, in the vast, pockmarked South Pole-Aitken Basin impact crater, groups of college students from...

NASA Technology

Most Internet users may not know that every time they see an online ad, it was placed there after a near-instant auction for that slot. Each slot...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Tiny Springs Improve Electronic Reliability

NASA Technology

Space exploration comes with many giant challenges, but some of them are downright tiny. One project to solve a connection issue in printed circuit boards has resulted...

NASA Technology

Once you’ve designed a robot that can autonomously explore planetary terrains, putting the same technology in cars, toys, and drones seems...

NASA Technology

At the top of the food chain, an apex predator hunts without fear of being hunted. That’s why MSC Software Corporation branded its latest software...

NASA Technology

NASA engineer Semion Kizhner spent an entire week trying to understand the Hilbert-Huang Transform with the colleague who had developed it, but...

NASA Technology

Earthquakes are among the most destructive natural disasters, in terms of death tolls and the cost of recovery. They’re also nearly impossible to predict, but...

NASA Technology

In the mid-1990s, NASA, the Air Force, and McDonnell Douglas Corporation realized they were duplicating each other’s efforts to make better software...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Software Models Atmosphere for Spacecraft

NASA Technology

When the Curiosity rover made its spectacular landing on Mars, most of the attention was focused on the revolutionary “sky-crane maneuver” that helped slow the...

Spinoff: Computer Technology
Software Takes Cost Estimating to the Stars

NASA Technology

When imagining what it takes to design a spacecraft, few people think about the engineering work that goes into getting an accurate cost estimate before the building...