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Space-Based Images Aid in Mineral Exploration
August 12, 2011

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Innovators at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) have patented a system for surveying and evaluating space-based images to locate geographic areas favorable for petroleum deposits. The technology identifies accumulations of sediments arranged in fluvial fan patterns that may be indicative of deposits of petroleum and other minerals. The fans can spread out to radii of 100 kilometers or more and are barely recognizable from the ground or low-altitude photographs because of their scale and gentle slopes. International Space Station photographs, supported by 1:1,000,000 maps, reveal basinal geological settings with relatively young sediments and distributary drainage. A process that can reliably narrow the search for petroleum deposits could result in tremendous savings for the petroleum industry. JSC has received patent number 6,985,606 for this technology.


  • Predictive: Narrows the search for petroleum reserves
  • Economical: Reduces costs associated with exploration activities


  • Petroleum exploration
  • Mineral exploration


Johnson Space Center has received patent protection (U.S. 6,985,606→) for this technology.

Licensing and Partnering Opportunity

This technology is being made available through JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to consider licensing this technology for commercial applications.

Contact Information

If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA's technology transfer program, please contact:

Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center
Phone: 281-483-3809
E-mail: jsc-techtran@mail.nasa.gov

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Page Last Updated: January 16th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator