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Doc Mirelson
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1600)

Tracy Young
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
(Phone: 321/867-2468)

April 1, 2004
RELEASE : 04-108
NASA Selects Top Invention
The Cabin Pressure Monitor developed by Jan Zysko received NASA's Commercial and Government Invention of the Year Awards for 2003.

The Monitor, developed by Zysko, a NASA engineer, is patented by the agency. The device is a hand-held, portable, accurate, valuable, important, and life-saving instrument with many applications. The monitor was selected in both categories for its application and adaptability to both commercial and government uses.

Zysko and a team from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., developed the technology from concept to prototype to commercialization in less than 12 months for less than $100,000. NASA developed the Personal Cabin Pressure Altitude Monitor and Warning System (CPM) to respond to various requirements and to significantly improve public aviation safety. The CPM senses the local pressure environment while operating independently of other aircraft or spacecraft systems.

Hypoxia can quickly render a crew helpless. The device provides a timely warning to crewmembers, while they are still mentally and physically able to take corrective action. The monitor provides audio, vibratory, and visual alarms of the impending danger of lack of oxygen (hypoxia), when cabin pressure falls below preprogrammed levels. A lighted digital screen displays a warning text message and also annotates the pressurization condition causing the alarm.

The need for the CPM was partly inspired by the loss of golfer Payne Stewart's aircraft in October 1999. Loss of cabin pressurization was the probable cause. A strikingly similar accident happened in Perth, Australia, in 2000.

The first commercial Personal Cabin Pressure Monitor (PCM) prototypes were publicly introduced at the Air Venture Oshkosh 2000 air show in July 2000. The technology was licensed to Kelly Manufacturing Company, the largest manufacturer of general aviation aircraft instruments in the world, in January 2002.

The NASA Biomedical Engineering Laboratory purchased several CPMs to add to the inventory of emergency medical equipment used to support air medical evacuation. In its initial NASA application, the device protected workers in the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Mars Simulation Chamber from an accidental pump down to a high altitude condition.

Zysko joined NASA at the KSC Space Shuttle Operations Directorate in 1988. In 1998, Zysko moved to the KSC Sensor Development Laboratory, where he developed a number of new technologies. He works on unique projects related to sensor and scientific research system development, such as developing a gas-powered gun to fire foam projectiles at Space Shuttle-like panels and wing structures for return-to-flight technical assessments.

Kelly Aviation, a subsidiary of Kelly Manufacturing, produced the first models for sale in March 2003. Although the device is not an FAA certified flight instrument, nor is it meant to replace such, it can serve as a viable alternative for determining altitude in an emergency situation or as a simple check of primary instrument function. The PCM is also used by rural water districts to calculate head pressures at various locations based on the differential altitude measurements between the source and the end-user. Mountain climbers also use it. The PCM retails for about $400 per unit.

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