NASA, the US space agency, has undertaken a phenomenal amount of research at a host of institutions to further its work in space.
However, a remarkable number of technologies have sprung out of NASA research that have found their way into other applications. So many, in fact, that NASA produces an annual report of when its technologies have ended up.
This year’s report, entitled Spinoff 2013, was released yesterday, and includes examples in everything from health and safety to transportation and energy.
Here we highlight some of the latest products and innovations made with NASA technology.
ICON A5 Aircraft
NASA technology has contributed to the development of spin-resistant aircraft, such as the ICON A5. NASA undertook 8,000 stall-spins in special test aircraft to develop the spin-resistance standards for the Federal Aviation Administration, the US’ flight regulators. The ICON A5 has been designed to meet these standards for consumer recreational flying.
“We wanted to design a plane that was spin-resistant,” said Kirk Hawkins, founder and CEO of ICON. “If it wasn’t for the NASA work, there would be no FAA standard, and we wouldn’t have done this.”
Image courtesy of ICON Aircraft.
The development of the International Space Station’s robotic crew member, Robonaut, at its successor, Robonaut 2, at Johnson Space Center resulted in the development of robot reasoning and interaction technology. This has been reworked for use in fields including warehousing and mining by Universal Robotics in the form of a technology called Neocortex.
“We found there might be some really good approaches for teaching robots and letting them learn and develop capabilities on their own, rather than having to hard program everything,” said Johnson Space Center automation and robotics engineer Robert Ambrose.
Image courtesy of NASA.
Airocide Air Purifier
Through Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA funded the University of Madison-Wisconsin to develop ethylene scrubbers that were designed to keep food fresh in space. But the technology has been developed for another use here on earth by Akida Holdings – as an airborne pathogen-killing air purifier that you can have in your home.
“In two days, you’ll notice how the bedroom just feels different. And as you get the chance to breathe in the air, you’ll start feeling better physically. You’re going to wake up feeling refreshed,” said Akida Holdings vice president Barney Freedman.
Image courtesy of Airocide.
The technology designed to keep astronauts’ gloves at a comfortable temperature has been appropriated for temperature-responsive clothing that can remove moisture and control odours and bacterial growth. The Apollo shirt from Ministry of Supply is one of a range of clothes using phase-changing materials to keep you smart but comfy throughout the day. The company, which is co-founded by NASA glove designer Gihan Amarasiriwardena, funded Apollo through Kickstarter, raising $430,000 in the process.
“We are different from the rest of the fashion industry because we are not about releasing new products every season. We are about putting a lot of thought, engineering, and great design into each garment before we launch it,” says Amarasiriwardena. “It’s performance wear designed to be office-wear appropriate.”
Image courtesy of Ministry of Supply.
The Kennedy Space Center collaborated with spacecraft software engineers Blue Sun Enterprises to develop improvements to virtual machine language (VML), which is used to control remote devices such as unmanned or manned spacecraft. After proving itself on the RESOLVE mission, the technology has spread to use in commercial applications, and can be used to improve control of weather balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and submarines.
“Any application that requires remote autonomy could use VML to implement that autonomy and decision-making,” said VML author Dr Chris Grasso.