Mar 19, 2013 (06:03 AM EDT)
10 Space Technologies That Help On Earth
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
Two technologies with "life saving" potential are about to be induced into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The technologies -- an inflatable satellite communication system and a compact, low-power ultrasound machine -- will be inducted into the nonprofit Space Foundation's Space Technology Hall of Fame on April 11. The Hall of Fame recognizes innovations developed for use in space that are repurposed in ways that improve life on Earth.
The GATR Inflatable Satellite Communication System is a portable, inflatable antenna that uses geostationary satellites to establish communications in remote areas. The result of a partnership between NASA's Glenn Research Center and SRS Technologies, the system has been used in emergency relief efforts, as well as by the U.S. government for military and security operations.
The other Hall of Fame inductee is a compact, low-power ultrasound machine (pictured here), originally conceived to support telemedicine in space. The ultrasound devices were developed through the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM) experiment, which took place on the International Space Station from 2003 to 2005. Experts on the ground received diagnostic-quality images from the Space Station through satellite connections. The ADUM team worked with Henry Ford Hospital, Wyle and Epiphan Systems to adapt the technology to send ultrasound scans over long distances on Earth without loss of image quality.
Sixty-seven technologies have been inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame since it opened 25 years ago. They illustrate how space exploration can have "unexpected benefits" on Earth, said Kevin Cook, the Space Foundation's director of Space Awareness Programs. "Our inductees remind us of what we can achieve when we dare to explore," Cook said. "They have directly improved the quality of life we enjoy today by creating industry, protecting resources and saving lives."
NASA has long partnered with the private sector, academia and other government agencies to repurpose space technologies for commercial use. Many of those advances are documented in the agency's annual Spinoff publication, which has featured more than 1,800 spinoffs in health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and the environment, IT and industrial productivity. The latest edition of Spinoff highlighted 44 innovations, including a search and rescue system enabled by satellite ground stations, and a robot assistant that roams hospitals and registers patients. NASA says spin-off technologies save lives and contribute to the economy.
The Space Foundation works closely with the NASA spinoff group to identify nominations for the Space Technology Hall of Fame and validate them. While most inductees have been NASA technologies, the Space Foundation also works with the European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Chinese Manned Space Office, Canadian Space Agency and others. Going forward, the foundation expects to see an increase in inductees from other nations.¬¬
In this visual guide, we highlight the 10 most recent tech innovations to be inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame. Image credit: NASA
The GATR Communication System is a portable, inflatable antenna that enables high-bandwidth satellite communications in remote parts of the world. The system is a product of the NASA Glenn Research Center and the former SRS Technologies, now ManTech International Technologies. GATR stands for ground antenna transmit receive. In 2004, a spinoff called GATR Technologies was formed to license and commercialize the system. It's used by military, intelligence, homeland security and non-government organizations to transmit and receive data, voice and video. The technology has also helped with relief efforts following hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, and other disasters. Image credit: U.S. Navy
Mediphan, a remote medical diagnostics company, is developing two tools for telemedicine. DistanceDoc connects to the VGA port on medical equipment, captures images, and transmits them over a LAN or the Internet. MedRecorder is a similar device that captures and archives images. The technologies' origins come from small, low-power ultrasound machines used as diagnostic tools on the International Space Station. That experiment involved a collaborative effort between the NASA Johnson Space Center, Henry Ford Hospital and Wyle Laboratories. Image credit: Mediphan
The German Aerospace Center and private firm IQ Wireless created FireWatch, a terrestrial detection tool that employs high-resolution optical sensors on towers or masts to monitor forests for fires. The system, which consists of a network of rotating high-res cameras, can detect fires in any weather and at any time of day, and uses image processing software to analyze the motion, structure and brightness of smoke. It then alerts monitoring personnel, who receive images and coordinates that are passed on to emergency responders. FireWatch protects more than seven million acres of forests around the world. The technology was inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2012. Image credit: DLR
NASA partnered with startup Aspen Systems to produce aerogel composite blankets for use in space applications, such as on launch towers and inside shuttles, as an alternative to silica aerogels, which can be expensive and brittle. Aspen Aerogels created three variations of flexible aerogels, now used for construction, refrigeration, automotive, medical, commercial and industrial purposes. Examples of commercial products built with them are home insulation and insoles for endurance runners. Flexible aerogels were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Image credit: NASA
DigitalGlobe and GeoEye were inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2011 for their geospatial products and services. The companies have since combined into a single company called DigitalGlobe that uses Earth-imaging satellites to create high-res images for use in defense, intelligence, mapping and analysis, environmental monitoring and navigation. The company's My DigitalGlobe portal and cloud services provide access to 200 million square kilometers of imagery and metadata. Image credit: DigitalGlobe
NASA researchers initially developed a "rotating wall bioreactor" to grow human cells in simulated weightlessness. In 2002, biotech firm Regenetech (then called BioCell Innovations) acquired the licenses for the NASA bioreactor and related patents for conducting adult stem cell research. Regenetech's efforts resulted in the creation of the Intrifuge System, which produces expanded cell tissues. The company uses its system and intellectual property, called CellXpansion, to develop therapies for and conduct research into medical conditions such as cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and skin problems. Image credit: NASA
Digital fly-by-wire (DFBW) technology dates to the 1960s, when engineers at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center began searching for alternatives to mechanical flight-control. DFBW systems were incorporated into aircraft design soon after. Today, aircraft equipped with DFBW are able to maintain constant speed and altitude over long distances for better fuel efficiency. Other benefits include increased payload, minimum maintenance and greater range, since there are no bulky hydraulics, cables and rods. Image credit: NASA
Eagle Eyes Optics has developed commercial sunglasses that filter out harmful radiation and permit people to see specific wavelengths of light. The glasses absorb about 99% of hazardous photo wavelengths, including UVA, UVB and blue-light. The visible light allowed to pass through is the most beneficial to the human eye and improves perception for enhanced vision. The technology's origin stems from research done by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory into better forms of eyesight protection. Image credit: Eagle Eyes Optics
Edwin Saltzman and fellow engineers at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center applied their work in the areas of aerodynamics and fluid dynamics to improved truck design. The modifications involved rounding the corners and edges of a box-shaped cab, reducing drag at those points by nearly 40%. They placed a smooth fairing on the cab's roof and extended the sides to the trailer to reduce drag and save fuel. The widely-adopted design changes translate into fuel savings of more than 6,000 gallons per year for a truck driving 100,000 miles. Image credit: NASA
NASA's Closed Environment Life Support System program led to the formation of Martek Biosciences, which specializes in microalgae research and development. Martek found that algae produces essential fatty acids similar to those in human breast milk, including DHA omega-3 and a fungus that yields arachidonic acid, or ARA. To address the deficiency of these fatty acids in baby formula, Martek developed an algae-based supplement called Formulaid. Food companies Horizon Organic, Kellogg and Yoplait now incorporate DHA and ARA into products for children and adults. Image credit: Martek Biosciences