NASA’s spin-off magazine is one of the things I look forward to reading every year. Space agency research has penetrated into other parts of the world in a surprisingly interesting way and is tracked and collected in this annual publication. This year is no exception, and NASA’s technology can be found in everything from hiking gadgets to heavy industry and, strangely, space.
There are dozens of technologies that are routinely used in different places featured in this year’s issue, which you can browse here. (The length is about 60 pages, so pour coffee and calm down.)
I spoke with Daniel Rockney, who is responsible for NASA’s technology transfer program. Daniel Rockney oversees the development of technology and research among ground companies seeking to make good use of it.
“Usually what happens is that NASA develops something and reports it to my office. We look at it and first determine if it works. Second, who else can use it? And if anyone can, we’ll figure out how to get it to them, “Lockney explained. “I’m trying to offer as much as I can for free. I have no direction to generate income or bring anything back to the US Treasury. The 1958 NASA that created us. The law says it doesn’t spread any of our work there about making dimes. “
The result is cheap or free licenses for interesting technologies such as compact and long-lasting water purifiers, rare mechanical parts, and other technologies needed for space and launch purposes but may find a second use on the ground. You can get it.
Lockney highlighted some of the latest batches that he found particularly interesting.
“In partnership with GM, we have developed RoboGlove, a functional glove that astronauts wear to reduce the burden of repetitive tasks and increase grip strength,” he said. “If you squeeze something out of the space, you can do it several times, but if you’re holding a tool all afternoon … we’ve developed this glove to help you with that, and it’s now used in factories around the world. It has been. “
The Swiss company Bioservo has licensed the NASA patent for Robo-Glove and has repeated this concept for years. Its latest version of the Ironhand device was launched last summer. Its most common use case is for employees who can injure their hands and lose their jobs, but gloves can be used to get back to work faster and reduce painkillers. ..
The technology is not necessarily licensed by just one company. Lockney noted that NASA was the first organization to investigate the problem of precision agriculture under completely artificial conditions.
“NASA has many experiments to keep its crew healthy in long-range space flight. One of the things we have to do is grow our own food. In addition. There are also psychological benefits of seeing plants, “he said. “But I needed to find a way to grow a crop without a heavy growth medium like soil, or even hydroponic water is very heavy and very valuable. And you need to illuminate him correctly. But you can’t use too much energy, so we created these agricultural techniques to grow a lot of plants in a small space. If you control the stress of the plants, the exact growth conditions You can actually dial to improve the yield. We actually use a nutrient film that covers the roots, an LED to give the right spectrum of light. Of course, there are sensors everywhere. . “
“This is a similar situation in cities. How do we feed this population without wasting farmland resources? But no one else needed it, so we He led this study, which was a direct result of space flight demands, and now he is practicing vertical farming in dense urban areas and actually providing vegetables to grocery stores. There are several companies that do, “he continued.
We’ve actually covered some, and while they’re still in their infancy, both consumers and investors eat efficiently and within a few blocks rather than shipping 1000 miles abroad. There is a clear desire to grow.
NASA’s work is used not only in the leisure industry, but also in the life support industry. At least three items in this year’s spin-off relate to outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. Originally used to line spacecraft, One, a thin-film radiation barrier, has been adopted by 13-One and others as an ultra-lightweight insulating layer for jackets. Airgel’s research from the 90’s has given way to new gear from Seattle-based outdoor research, the brand I crave when I’m walking through their stores. And a material called NanoCeram is used in new portable water purifier bottles.
One of the new applications you wouldn’t expect to find in a publication on spin-off technology is the Astrobotic Peregrine Moon Lander. In the past, such things were exclusively in the area of nationally supported programs, but as the commercial space sector expands rapidly, NASA’s technology is also valuable to space industry companies.
Not all of these are new, some are decades old, and we are still finding new applications and companies to sell them.
“By the time we’ve done all the work and found a commercial, manufacturing, and marketing partner … The next thing we know is that ten years have passed,” Lockney said. Said. “The R & D timeline is long, and the commercialization timeline is long.”
But that means that even if the paper and materials are out of date, they will always be fresh. Check out this year’s spin-off for dozens of more notable technologies and companies. If you have time, please visit the archive.
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