Spinoff 2017

Spinoff 2017
Spinoff 2017
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We go to space to explore, and the ultimate achievement in exploration is human missions to new frontiers. In particular, NASA is on a journey to Mars—a journey that will stretch the capabilities and resolve of our Nation. To prepare for the trip, much of the cutting-edge technology being developed by NASA right now is designed to help us put astronauts on the surface of the Red Planet in the 2030s. As we develop these technologies, NASA collaborates with American businesses to do its work. Every dollar spent on technology for space missions is a dollar spent on Earth, benefiting the economy.

But the Agency also makes sure these innovations go beyond their original uses to benefit the public as widely as possible. These secondary applications can be as surprising as the scientific discoveries made by our spacecraft: as you’ll see in the following pages, NASA technologies can be found in your mobile devices, in self-driving tractors that work the fields, and in the latest 3D printers used by makers and hackers. They are making brain surgery safer and spotting rainforest fires before they spread. Spinoffs are even more diverse than the broad array of NASA missions they come from.

This issue of Spinoff celebrates our Nation’s successes with robotics missions and looks to a future of human spaceflight and planetary exploration enabled by cutting-edge technology—with ever more down-to-earth benefits sure to follow.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


5 Foreword
7 Introduction
8 Robotics Spinoffs
18 Executive Summary
30 NASA Technologies Benefiting Society
178 Partnership News
194 Award-Winning Technologies
208 Spinoffs of Tomorrow
230 Technology Transfer Program


Health and Medicine

34 Active Pixel Sensors Lead Dental Imagery into the Digital Age
38 Mini Heat Pipes Wick Away Heat in Brain Surgery
40 Fluorescent Diagnostic Test Readers Offer Fast, Low-Cost Results
42 Cooling Garments Find New Medical, Athletic, and Industrial Uses
46 Space-Based Bone Scanner Expands Medical Research
48 Temperature-Regulating Fabrics Keep Babies Comfortable


52 Reconfigurable Radio Tracks Flights Worldwide
56 Design Software Shapes Future Sonic Booms
58 Orion Parachute Innovations Carry Commercial Rockets Back to Earth
60 CO2 Sensors Monitor Vehicle Emissions from Above
62 Software Opens Computational Fluid Dynamics to the Uninitiated
64 Hydraulic Carts Streamline Structural Tests for Aircraft

Public Safety

68 Orion Video Requirement Advances High-Speed, Compact Cameras
72 Rocket Technology Stops Shaking in Its Tracks
76 Micromachined Sensors Monitor Train Rails, Predict Failures
78 Wire Sensors Alert to Dangerous Conditions in the Clouds
80 Fast-Flow Nanofiber Filters Purify Water at Home and in the Field
82 Miniaturized Vacuum Pumps Play Big Roles on Mars and Earth

Consumer Goods

86 CMOS Sensors Enable Phone Cameras, HD Video
90 Novel Threading Enables New Approach to Golf Clubs
94 Blue-Light-Cancelling Lens Gives Skiers a Clearer View
96 Rechargeable Hearing Aid Batteries Draw from NASA Research
100 Large-Scale 3D Printer Brings Manufacturing to the Masses
104 Professional Development Program Gets Bird’s-Eye View of Wineries
106 Carbon Nanotube Resin Shores Up Boats, Bikes

Energy and Environment

110 GPS Correction Technology Lets Tractors Drive Themselves
112 Controlled-Release Fertilizer Takes Root in Fields, Groves Worldwide
116 Satellite Imagery Sheds Light on Agricultural Water Use
118 Building Sensor Monitors Power Usage, Device by Device
122 Earth Observation Spots, Helps Prevent Rainforest Fires
126 Mineral Analyzer Shakes Answers Out of Soil and Rocks
130 Low-Cost Flow Meters Bring Efficiency, Reliability to Nuclear Plants
132 Computer Learning Program Inventories Farmers’ Fields

Information Technology

136 Laser Imaging Helps Archaeologists Dig Up History
140 Program Predicts Aerothermodynamics of Reentry, Subsonic Flight
142 Data Acquisition System Captures Machine Performance
144 Light-Analysis Software Explodes across Industries
148 Connectors Link Data Networks for Orion, Industry
150 Scheduling Software Plans Public, Private Space Missions
152 Power Amplifiers Boost Radar, Communications, Defense Systems

Industrial Productivity

156 3D Weaving Technology Strengthens Spacecraft, Race Cars
160 Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace, Car Testing
162 Astronauts Instruct Newcomers on Peculiarities of Spaceflight
164 Polyimide Aerogels Boost Antennas, Insulate Pipes
166 Privately Built Facility Offers Advantages in Space Exposure Testing
168 Optical Filters for NASA Imagers Focus on Cutting Edge
170 Zinc-Silicate Coating Blocks Corrosion
172 Outgassing Test Facility Brings New Materials into Space Industry
174 Shuttle, Hubble Work Lead to Strength in Custom Current Sensors
176 High-Heat Cement Gives Ashes New Life


Private industry manufacturers, scientists, inventors, operational improvement officers, American citizens, and students may be most interested in these NASA developments that impact human life. Since this text is highly illustrated throughout, middle school through high school students could use this resource for classroom essays, and undergraduate and graduate students could use this scientific resource for further research and development based on these featured technologies. Middle school, high school, academic, including community college, and public libraries will want to have this resource in their science and technology collections for patron use and research.

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Technology Transfer Program
Key Phrases:
  • Technology Transfer
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Annual Reports, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Aerospace Technology
  • Inventions
  • Technological Innovations
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