NASA has released more than 50 formerly patented technologies into the public domain in recent days. These technologies can now be used by commercial space ventures and other companies free of charge, eliminating the time, expense and paperwork often associated with licensing intellectual property, according to a statement from NASA. The technologies have been loaded into a searchable database full of expired NASA patents.
The database, managed by the agency’s Technology Transfer Program, currently contains more than 1,000 expired NASA patents in categories such as manufacturing, optics and sensors. Daniel Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer program executive, said in a press release, “By making these technologies available in the public domain, we are helping foster a new era of entrepreneurship that will again place America at the forefront of high-tech manufacturing and economic competitiveness.”
Innovators and entrepreneurs can now review the information in the database for ideas that could help them in their own work. All the technologies released were developed for NASA’s space missions, but may enhance the economy and quality of life for more Americans by being released into the public sector. In order to help interested persons get started, the website for the T2 program includes the full public patent portfolio, an open source software catalog, analytics, training and success stories.
Some of the newly released technologies could see considerable interest from the corporate world. Manufacturing firms may be interested in the details of the advanced manufacturing processes used by NASA, while automotive firms may be more interested in NASA’s methods for controlling airflow around vehicles. The newly released information also includes a way of manufacturing carbon nanotubes that is about 20 times cheaper than current techniques and plans for a super-efficient rocket engine.
Some of the technologies previously released by NASA have been used to develop innovations in areas including medicine, transportation, and public safety. One of the previously released technologies was used to develop better prosthetic limbs, while another was instrumental in improving land mine removal technology.
NASA says that serious consideration goes into deciding which technologies to release to the public. The current selection in this transfer were chosen by NASA officials using a rigorous review process. That process was used to determine whether the technology had the potential for high unit values and whether the technology still required significant development before it would be marketable.
Private enterprises, like SpaceX, are expected to benefit significantly from this initiative. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private space company, is working to make made space travel cheaper and more efficient. SpaceX is already collaborating with NASA with contracts to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.