As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, NASA recently selected its top 50 "spinoff" technologies developed as a result of the space program.
A pair of technologies developed at the John C. Stennis Space Center made the list, including one described as an "all-star" development.
Spinoff: 50 Years of NASA-derived Technologies (1958-2008) celebrates the impact the national space program has had on everyday life. It cites technologies developed for space exploration that also have been used to spur the economy and improve lives. These include technologies related to artificial limbs, anti-icing systems on airplanes, heart pumps, firefighter gear, enriched baby food, computer software, food safety, automobile performance, water purification and even safe land mine removal.
The revolutionizing technologies cited in the publication include the development of a one-of-a-kind arbitrary shape deformation software capability that enhances how designers are able to study and design fluid flow components. Before development of the ASD software, designers sometimes would spend days, weeks and even months creating workable flow models. With the new software, designers are able to create models much more quickly and efficiently.
The ASD software was developed by Optimal Solutions Software LLC in partnership with Stennis engineers. NASA was able to use the software in designing spacecraft shapes, propulsion devices, pumps, valves, fittings and other components.
ASD software also has been adapted for use in a host of commercial areas, including aircraft, automobile and golf club design; swimming and boating aerodynamics; and even model airplane construction.
In addition to the ASD software, NASA's top 50 spinoff list includes the Earth Resources Laboratory Applications (ELAS) software developed at Stennis in 1978. Since that time, ELAS has been used worldwide for processing satellite and airborne sensor imagery data of the earth's surface into readable and usable information.
ELAS "aided users greatly" in making mapping information accessible, said Ray Seyfarth, one of the original developers of the program and now a computer science professor at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
Considered an "all-star" development and recognized by the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 1992, ELAS has been used in a variety of ways, including studying urban growth in the Nile River Delta, enhancing earthquake preparedness programs and enabling development of the DIPEx image processing, analysis and manipulation software employed by computer users worldwide. The DIPEx software is a true homegrown product of Stennis research; it was developed by DATASTAR Inc., which is based in nearby Picayune.
After 30 years, the ELAS concept continues to prove its value. Ramona Pelletier Travis worked with ELAS as a research scientist at Stennis in the 1980s. "ELAS has been a great example of good government research spinning off to benefit the private sector in a significant way over a long period of time," she said.
Travis now serves as manager of the Innovative Partnerships Program at Stennis, working to enable continued spinoff developments. IPP has offices at all NASA centers and uses investments and partnerships to provide the technology and capabilities NASA needs to meet its mission goals.
The IPP approach includes three key areas:
- Technology infusion. In this area, IPP uses the Small Business Innovative Research/Small Business Technology Transfer program and the Investment Seed Fund to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, among other things.
- Innovation incubator. In this area, IPP employs the Centennial Challenges program, the Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology Development and Training (FAST) program and the Innovation Transfusion project to identify and obtain innovations that can be used both commercially and in the space program.
- Partnership development. In this area, IPP focuses on technology transfer and intellectual property management to expand the technologies available to the agency for use in its space program.
NASA officials encourage outside companies to participate in any of the programs and emphases. Information is available at the IPP Web site at http://www.ipp.nasa.gov.
To obtain Spinoff copies, visit: http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/index.html.
For information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/.
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