Click Here to visit a
Definition of Spinoff
The influence of the space program has by now become so persuasive
and is so quickly assimilated into our living patterns that we tend to
take much of it for granted. [Taylor 241]
Spinoffs are all around us. Most spinoffs usually go unrecognized
and unappreciated. They are a part of every facet of our culture
and pop up most in the areas of:
Sometimes spinoffs are things that we could not live without, such as sattelites
for communications, broadcasting, and weather forcasting. Often they
are simple things, like saran wrap or aluminum foil. Sometimes they
help us have fun by improving upon designs for sports equipment.
Spinoffs are everywhere and they are everything.
Health and Medicine
The following is a very brief sampling of a few of the spinoffs that
make our lives healthier, more fun, and safer.
Nutritional Products from Space Research
It is difficult to imagine a connection between planetary space flight
and baby food, but the connection does in fact exist. Commercially available
infant formulas now contain a nutritional enrichment ingredient that traces
its existence to NASA-sponsored research that explored the potential of
algae as a recycling agent for long duration space travel.
formula being fed to the baby contains an algae-based additive highly enriched
in nutrients believed to be beneficial to infant mental and visual development;
called Formulaid, the additive is an offshoot of space research.
The ingredient is an algae-based, vegetable-like oil known as Formulaid®.
It was developed and is manufactured by Martek Biosciences Corporation,
Columbia, Maryland, which has pioneered the commercial development of products
based on microalgae; the company's founders and principal scientists acquired
their expertise in this area while working on the NASA program.
Formulaid is Martek's leading product. Its value as a dietary supplement
lies in the fact that it contains two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids
known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid). DHA and
ARA, found in human milk but not in most infant formulas, are believed
by many researchers to be associated with mental and visual development.
®Formulaid is a registered trademark of Martek Biosciences
Comfort Products, Ltd., Aspen, Colorado, a design and development firm
that specializes in footwear, has been using NASA technology in its products
for two decades. The NASA association began back in the 1970s, when Comfort
Products adapted astronaut protective clothing technology to ski boot design.
Specifically, the company borrowed heating element circuitry that kept
Apollo astronauts warm or cool in the temperature extremes of the Moon,
and used it to create built-in rechargeable footwarming devices that were
supplied to leading ski boot manufacturers.
Comfort Products has once again applied NASA technology in a ski boot
innovation, one that has proved highly successful with recreational skiers
and has found favor among hundreds of world class competition skiers. In
cooperation with Raichle Molitor USA, Inc. and the international Raichle
organization headquartered in Switzerland, Comfort Products developed the
Raichle Flexon concept in ski boots. The Flexon concept is an adaptation
of the accordion- like corrugations of an extravehicular space suit joint,
which offer astronaut flexibility of movement yet prevent kinking or distortion
that might interfere with the suit's internal pressurization/temperature
control equipment. Raichle uses the Flexon technology in a score of different
models of its extensive line of ski and snowboarding boots. The design
features a convoluted, or corrugated, configuration of the tongue (front
of the boot); this design permits the complex curved stiff plastic tongue
to flex without substantial distortion. The Flexon "optimized geometry,"
says Raichle sales literature, "provides immediate transmission of power
and therefore precision skiing."
Says Erik 0. Giese of Comfort Products: "The idea came from the joints
in the space suit, which required articulation without distortion of a
pressure vessel. It is also similar to a vacuum cleaner hose flexing without
destruction, versus a paper towel tube that will bend and crimp when flexed."
The technologically- advanced Raichle line also offers a "ceramic fit"
system that assures a perfect fit for every individual foot. The system
consists of a chambered "breathing" bladder, filled with tiny hollow ceramic
spheres, sewn into the inner- boot. When the user puts a foot into the
boot, the spheres adapt to the contour of the individual foot. When the
boot is buckled, the air is pressed out of the bladder and the spheres
can no longer move. This, says Raichle, provides a precise "hold" for optimal
transmission of power.
The basic method of assessing heart function is thermodilution, a procedure
that involves insertion of a catheter into the pulmonary artery and is
demanding in terms of cost, equipment and skilled personnel time. For monitoring
astronauts in flight, NASA needed a system that was non-invasive and considerably
The IQ-Connect interface electronically measures impedance changes across
the thorax to reflect heart function.
In 1965, Johnson Space Center contracted with the University of Minnesota
to explore the then-known but little-developed concept of impedance cardiography
(ICG) as a means of astronaut monitoring. A five-year program led to the
development of the Minnesota Impedance Cardiograph (MIC), an electronic
system for measuring impedance changes across the thorax that would be
reflective of cardiac function and blood flow from the heart's left ventricle
into the aorta. NASA separately contracted with Space Labs, Inc., Van Nuys,
California for construction of space qualified miniaturized impedance units
based on the MIC technology. The system was introduced to service aboard
Space Shuttle flight STS-8 in 1983.
ICG clearly had broad potential for hospital applications but further
development and refinement was needed. A number of research institutions
and medical equipment companies launched development of their own ICGs,
using the MIC technology as a departure point. Among them were Renaissance
Technologies, Inc., Newtown, Pennsylvania and Drexel University of Philadelphia,
who jointly developed the IQ System®. The system provides a simple,
repeatable, non-invasive way of assessing cardiac function at dramatically
reduced cost; Renaissance states that the cost of the thermodilution technique
runs five to 17 times that of IQ monitoring. The IQ System is in wide use
in hospital Intensive Care Units, emergency rooms, operating rooms and
laboratories in the U.S. and abroad.
A monitor calculates and displays cardiac output values.
IQ has two basic elements: the non-invasive, disposable patient interface
known as IQ-Connect and the touch screen monitor, which calculates and
displays cardiac output values and trends. The hardware design of the original
MIC was retained but IQ has advanced automated software that features the
signal processing technology known as TFD (Time Frequency Distribution).
TFD provides three-dimensional distribution of the hemodynamic (blood circulation
force) signals being measured, enabling "visualization of the changes in
power, frequency and time." This clinically proven capability allows IQ
to measure all cardiac events without using estimation techniques required
in some earlier systems.
®IQ System is a registered trademark of Renaissance
|Night Vision Camera
Low light-level viewing devices are typically used by the military services
for surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities at night or in conditions
of poor visibility; they are additionally used in such applications as
medical imaging and spectroscopy. Conventional low light TV imaging systems
generally employ image intensifiers together with Charged-Coupled Devices
(CCDs), cameras that capture scenes electronically (without film) and produce
a digital image with relatively high resolution.
The sensor in PixelVision's NV652 Night Video low light level camera
makes night flying safer by increasing visibility.
PixelVision, Inc., Beaverton, Oregon has introduced a new Night Video
(Night Video is a trademark of PixelVision, Inc.) NV652 Back-illuminated
CCD Camera that operates without an image intensifier, thereby freeing
the system of certain limitations imposed by the intensifier, yet it is
capable of acquiring quality images at low light levels previously attainable
only with image intensifier tubes; the development drew upon technology
developed by Scientific Imaging Technologies, Inc. (SITe), also of Beaverton,
and on the expertise of a longtime CCD developer.
Conventional video cameras use front-illuminated CCDs that impose some
limitations on performance. The Night Video NV652 system illuminates and
collects charge through the back surface; this design permits the image's
photon to enter the CCD unobstructed, allowing for high efficiency light
detection in the visible and ultraviolet wavelengths. In a typical airborne
military observation application, the NV652 camera offers advantages over
standard intensified CCD sensors, according to scientists who developed
the back-illuminated sensor. They include greater resolution under low
light conditions through increased sensitivity; better target identification
through superior contrast and resolution; lower cost; and longer lifetime
through increased reliability.
The back illumination technology that is key to the NV652's sensitivity
was developed by SITe; George M. Williams, who worked on the program as
a SITe employee, has joined PixelVision as vice president and general manager
of the Commercial Systems Division. The NASA technology input was provided
by James R. Janesick, PixelVision vice president, chief scientific officer
and director of the company's Advanced Sensors Division; Janesick was formerly
with Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he acquired 23 years of experience
in CCD technology and systems design.
The NV652 night vision camera is representative of a broad line of PixelVision
back illuminated low light level imaging devices for government, medical,
scientific and industrial applications. Vice president Janesick states
that the company's focus is on marketing advanced CCD technology for ultra-large,
ultra-high speed arrays used in medical, scientific and movie digital camera
Manufactured and marketed by Bausch & Lomb, Inc., Rochester, New York,
the Ray-Ban® Survivors® Collection sunglasses feature a technological
advance that makes them 10 times more scratch-resistant than conventional
Ray-Ban Survivors Collection sunglasses feature a coating that offers
10 times the scratch-resistance of conventional glass lenses.
The DiamondHard® technology involves coating the lenses with a film
of diamond-like carbon (DLC) that not only provides scratch-protection
but additionally reduces surface friction, so that the lenses shed water
more easily to reduce spotting. The film coatings are supplied by Diamonex
Optical Products Group, Allentown, Pennsylvania, which employs a modified
version of a dual ion beam bonding process originally developed by Lewis
The hardest substance known, diamond offers a wide range of potential
applications but the potential was slow to develop because of the high
cost. Interested in the possibilities of synthetic diamond coatings for
aerospace systems, Lewis Research Center sought to get the advantages of
diamond without the cost penalty by depositing a thin film of DLC on an
inexpensive substrate (supporting material). Lewis conducted extensive
research on the properties of DLC and ways to deposit the film on different
types of substrates.
Among the coating methods developed was a technique known as direct
ion deposition, in which an ion generator creates a stream of ions from
a hydrocarbon gas source; the carbon ions impinge directly on the target
substrate and "grow" into a thin DLC film.
patented the technology and subsequently licensed it to Air Products and
Chemicals, Inc., Allentown, Pennsylvania, which was exploring aerospace
applications of diamond coatings. An Air Products spinoff company-Diamonex-used
the NASA technology along with its own proprietary technology in developing
both polycrystalline diamond and DLC coatings for commercial optical products.
®Ray-Ban, Survivors and DiamondHard are registered
trademarks of Bausch & Lomb, Inc.
[portions taken from
Wednesday, 10-May-2000 20:40:05 PDT
This page is brought to you by the
Arizona Space Grant
Consortium. Server courtesy of SEDS.