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NASA Space Technologies Go Mainstream

In its annual report, the space agency identifies 49 technologies that are being repurposed in the private sector, including scheduling software for hospitals and a tuning circuit for 3G networks.

NASA technologies that have recently made their way into the commercial sector include a scheduling system used by hospitals, an object-oriented modeling language for green manufacturing, and microscopic circuits aimed at the 3G cellular market.

Those are among 49 technologies highlighted in NASA's annual Spinoff report, which the space agency uses to publicize how its R&D is being repurposed in the consumer and business markets. NASA has been publishing the reports for more than 30 years, following a Congressional mandate that required NASA to find new outlets for its research.

This year's Spinoff report, released this week, highlights technologies that were originally developed for the Apollo program, in recognition of the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. In one example, the Givens Bouy life raft, based on the design of rubber rafts used to recover astronauts after splashdown, is credited with saving more than 400 lives.

NASA's report identifies10 technologies being used in healthcare, including Hubble Space Telescope scheduling software adapted for use by hospitals. Others are being used in transportation, consumer goods, manufacturing, and public safety. Following are five computer technologies, as described by NASA, that are being reapplied in business.

  • Ulyssix Technologies' pulse code modulation processing board, TarsusPCM, performs data acquisition and telemetry processing, translating data into understandable measurements that get fed into display systems for engineering analysis. Pratt & Whitney and Embraer S.A. are using it for jet engine and airplane testing and development.

  • Command and Control Technologies developed software for handling complex data in real time. The company's Command and Control Toolkit is configurable for real-time "situational awareness" and is capable of handling millions of data, command, event, and message transactions. Potential industrial uses include energy generation, process control, and manufacturing.

  • JumpStart Solutions licensed three software programs (Netmark, Program Management Tool, and Query-Based Document Management) from NASA's Ames Research Center for use in its PanOptica suite of tools for managing projects, portfolios, knowledge bases, and documents. JumpStart plans to relicense the programs to other companies and government agencies.

  • TechnoSoft's Adaptive Modeling Language is an object-oriented, engineering modeling framework upon which other applications can be built. It enables multidisciplinary modeling and integration of product and process development cycles. TechnoSoft is customizing AML for use in green manufacturing, including the design of power plant exhaust filtration systems and wind turbines.

  • XCOM Wireless produced wireless RF MEMS relays and tunable capacitors that use metal-to-metal contact—moving microscopic metal beams into contact with special electrodes—operating like a light switch the width of a human hair. One of its products is an industrial relay for high-frequency test equipment and instrumentation. Another is an RF MEMS tuning circuit aimed at 3G cellular systems for simultaneous data and voice use and improved local services.
  • An archive of more than 1,600 technologies developed by and for NASA are available at the Spinoff Web site.

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