Technology goldmine in our midst
Stennis Space Center is just one of the technology goldmines in the region, and it’s
redesigned a part of its website to make it easier to find the technologies that can be
developed for the public...

Staff report
February 2017

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. - It is rocket science, but it’s also a goldmine for
anyone willing to do a little digging.

NASA’s Stennis Space Center has updated its website to provide something entirely
new for a visitor who clicks on the “technology” tab. With one more click, the visitor is
taken to a redesigned web presence for the Stennis Advanced Technology and
Technology Transfer Branch.

The hope is the new presence will be informative, useful and easy to navigate. It
features a series of pages and links highlighting the technologies developed at the
center. The goal is to better inform the public about the work at SSC, and, perhaps
most important, help companies that might be interested in further developing the
technologies or partnering with NASA on technology projects.

That, ultimately, can mean big bucks.

“We did not want to overwhelm people with a lot of information but let them know what
is happening and how they can contact us to learn more,” said Duane Armstrong,
who leads the Stennis technology branch.

“That’s the goal, to make it easy for people to learn about the work here at Stennis
and to get whatever additional information they need.”

Stennis Space Center is NASA’s largest rocket engine test complex. It has hundreds
of scientists and technicians working in fields as varied as rocket propulsion,
geospatial technologies and underwater research. It also has universities from two
states and workers for some of the biggest companies in aerospace. On top of that, it
has one of the world’s largest supercomputers and the largest concentration of
oceanographers in the world.

Stennis Space Center (SSC) dates to the 1960s, when it was created to test rocket
engines for NASA. The 14,000-acre SSC is surrounded by a 125,000-acre acoustic
buffer zone. Over time it expanded and other federal agencies set up operations.

The largest tenant is the Navy, which operates its oceanographic research
community from SSC. It’s also the location of the National Data Buoy Center, NASA
Shared Services Center, data centers and more. But the core NASA mission remains,
and today it’s heavily involved in the Space Launch Systems program. But a big part
of NASA’s history is ensuring its work eventually gets to the public through spinoffs.

Spinoffs are commercialized products incorporating NASA technologies or expertise.
According to NASA, more than 2,000 technologies with origins in space and
aeronautic missions have helped the world. NASA employees report more than 1,600
new inventions each year. It can mean big dollars for private companies.

“Every dollar spent on technology for space missions is a dollar spent on Earth,
benefiting the economy,” said former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in the
foreword of Spinoff 2017, an annual that highlights the work.

“But the agency also makes sure these innovations go beyond their original uses to
benefit the public as widely as possible.”

He went on to write, “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.”

Technology transfer can involve a product that incorporates NASA technology or
expertise that benefits the public, including those designed for NASA use and then
commercialized.

Others are developed as a result of a NASA-funded agreement or know-how gained
during collaboration with NASA. Some products are developed through Small
Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer contracts with
NASA.

There are also companies that incorporate NASA technology in their manufacturing
process or receive significant contributions in design or testing from NASA laboratory
personnel or facilities.   

There are also successful entrepreneurial endeavors by ex-NASA employees whose
technical expertise was developed while employed at the agency. Some are
commercialized as a result of a NASA patent license or waiver, or developed using
data or software made available by NASA.

One of the technologies that was developed at SSC is the High Dynamic Range
Stereo X, or HiDyRS-X, a high-speed camera that can capture never before seen
detail from rocket engine tests. It was developed as part of SSC’s rocket testing
program. It was featured in the October 2016 edition of the Gulf Coast Aerospace
Newsletter.

NASA has been using high-speed video to record rocket test firings and launches
since the early days of the space program. But they could not capture the extremely
bright exhaust alongside the relatively dark test structures without washing out the
plume.

Today, while NASA is developing the Space Launch System, the most powerful
rocket ever designed, testing is underway on a ground-breaking camera system that
can capture multiple properly exposed images at the same time and play them back
in slow motion. Its being developed through a partnership between NASA and
Innovative Imaging and Research (I2R) Corp., founded in 2007.

I2R specializes in remote sensing, geospatial and optics-based products and
services to industry and government customers. It has been working on different
varieties of high dynamic range imaging for several years. The new technology
captures light and dark images simultaneously without being saturated.

While the application for NASA is quite clear, there also are possible practical
applications for drivers when bright sunlight interferes with the backup camera or
boat operators when bright sunlight impairs their vision.

The revamped site’s home page features news, a looping slide show highlighting the
branch and tabs to specific pages on technology development, technology transfer,
technology-related events and contact information. Once accessed, the pages
highlight a variety of areas.

One features a link to electronic copies of NASA’s annual Spinoff publication, which
highlights dozens of technologies developed at the agency, then introduced for use
into the larger world. For each year, links provide information for the individual
Stennis-related technologies included in the annual publication. All Stennis-related
technologies in Spinoff issues dating back to the start of the publication are
highlighted on the site.

The latest edition of Spinoff highlights 50 different companies that are using NASA
technologies for products and services in every sector of the economy, including the
world’s most widely used digital image sensor, which traces back to a NASA scientist
who wanted to miniaturize cameras for interplanetary travel.

The edition also highlights self-driving tractors. Beginning in the 1990s, NASA
researchers developed software capable of correcting for GPS signal errors,
enabling accuracy to within inches. The technology was acquired by John Deere and
used to develop the world’s first widely used self-driving farm equipment.

Spinoff 2017 also includes a section, Spinoffs of Tomorrow, that highlights 20
technologies ripe for commercialization, including a new wing design that could make
airplanes more efficient.

Another page identifies the six areas of technology development work. A scroll-down
menu offers examples of the work, as well as information on current technology
projects and cooperative agreement policy. Additional pages provide information on
Stennis technologies currently patented, licensing options, NASA’s Technology
Transfer University efforts to bring real-world technologies into the classroom,
scheduled technology events the Stennis office is attending and electronic links to
request information or a copy of the NASA Spinoff publication.

Although the site is active, work is continuing to improve the experience for visitors.

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