FLC Business

Agency/Department

FLC Region

Security Lab

Yes

Address

Technology Transfer Office
Code AT
Houston, TX 77058
United States

Laboratory Representative

Description

NASA's Johnson Space Center has served as a hub of human spaceflight activity for more than half a century. As the nucleus of the nation's astronaut corps and home to International Space Station mission operations and a host of future space developments, the center plays a pivotal role in surpassing the physical boundaries of Earth and enhancing technological and scientific knowledge to benefit all of humankind.

Established in 1961 on nearly 1,700 acres southeast of downtown Houston as the Manned Spacecraft Center, the bustling core of space activity was renamed in 1973 to honor the late president and Texas native, Lyndon B. Johnson. From the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs to the International Space Station and Orion, Johnson's nearly 14,000 person workforce helps bolster NASA's standing as an institution where creative and talented problem solvers push the boundaries of explorations innovation.

Mission

Every one of the more than 500 NASA astronauts and space explorers from our international partners who has crossed the threshold of the International Space Station or flown on the space shuttle has trained at Johnson. In the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, astronauts, engineers and other mission support professionals learn skills and procedures to operate the orbiting laboratory on full-scale modules. In facilities around the 200-plus building center, a precision air-bearing floor, a partial gravity simulator and a virtual reality simulator, among other training facilities, prepare astronauts to live and work in microgravity. At Johnson's satellite facilities close to the center, they maintain their flying skills in T-38 jets and practice spacewalks at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

NASA missions that explore new frontiers and expand understanding of how humans live and work in space are planned and supported from the Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center. A host of engineers, scientists and mathematicians help the men and women living in low Earth orbit utilize the space station to its fullest capabilities, test new technologies, and sustain the life of the orbiting laboratory through 2020. Some of the agency's experts in human spaceflight work with private companies to develop safe, reliable and affordable commercial vehicles to transport humans and cargo to low Earth orbit.

Tech Areas

Available Technologies
Displaying 1 - 10 of 412
Data Viewer for Handheld Device/Computer for 3-axis Acceleration and Attitude Measurements During Spaceflight
3D Lasers Increase Efficiency, Safety of Moving Machines
A Brighter Choice for Safety
A Dividend in Food Safety
A Head Start to a Healthy Heart
A Match Made in Space
A New Definition for Ground Control
A New Frontier for Cardiac Monitoring
A New Look for the Shopping Mall
A New Tool for the Hospital Lab

Pages

Funding

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research,or EPSCoR,establishes partnerships with government, higher education and industry that are designed to effect lasting improvements in a state's or region's research infrastructure, R&D capacity and hence, its national R&D competitiveness.

The EPSCoR program is directed at those jurisdictions that have not in the past participated equably in competitive aerospace and aerospace-related research activities. Twenty-four states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam currently participate.Fivefederal agencies conduct EPSCoR programs, including NASA.

NASA EPSCoR Jurisdictions and their Directors
View EPSCoR Directors by State/Jurisdiction

The goal of EPSCoR is to provide seed funding that will enable jurisdictions to develop an academic research enterprise directed toward long-term, self-sustaining, nationally-competitive capabilities in aerospace and aerospace-related research.

Agency
NASA
State: 
Texas
Lab Representatives
No Programs for this lab
Facilities
Displaying 11 - 12 of 12
SSATA Vacuum Chamber, EC, B-7
Vibration Acoustic Test Facility - B-49

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No publications for this lab
Success Stories
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In 1959, NASA started planning for manned space missions. Along with the myriad difficulties of developing complex systems to sustain life in space, NASA faced a seemingly mundane but vitally important problem: How and what do you feed an astronaut in a sealed capsule under weightless conditions?

There were two principle concerns: barring crumbs of food particles that might contaminate the spacecraft’s atmosphere or float their way into sensitive instruments; and assuring absolute freedom from potentially catastrophic disease-producing bacteria and toxins. To help solve these problems, NASA enlisted the aid of one of the nation’s foremost food producers, The Pillsbury Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Over the following decade, Pillsbury designated some of the first space foods and produced astronaut meals for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo manned space flight programs. (Pillsbury was acquired in 1988 by the United Kingdom-based Grand Metropolitan PLC.)

Pillsbury solved one of the two major concerns in short order by developing bite-size foods coated with material that would prevent the product from crumbling. The other part of the problem did not succumb as easily. Dr. Howard E. Bauman, now a food industry consultant in St. Louis Park, Minnesota and formerly a Pillsbury executive who worked on the initial space food program, states that the most difficult part of the program was “to come as close as possible to 100 percent assurance that the food products we were producing for space use would not be contaminated by pathogens, bacterial or viral, that could cause an illness that might result in a catastrophic mission.”

We quickly found,” he adds, “by using standard methods of quality control there was absolutely no way we could be assured there wouldn’t be a problem. This brought into serious question the then prevailing system of quality control in our plants…If we had to do a great deal of destructive testing to come to a reasonable conclusion that the product was safe to eat, how much were we missing in the way of safety issues by principally testing only the end product and raw materials?

“We concluded after extensive evaluation that the only way we could succeed would be to establish control over the entire process, the raw materials, the processing environment and the people involved.”

Using that approach, Pillsbury developed the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept, potentially one of the most far-reaching space spinoffs. HACCP is designed to prevent food safety problems rather than to catch them after they have occurred. It is essentially a two-part concept. The Hazard Analysis portion involves a systematic study of the ingredients, the products, the conditions of processing, handling, storage, packaging, distribution and consumer use directions to identify sensitive areas that might contribute a hazard. Hazard Analysis provides a basis for blueprinting the Critical Control Points to be monitored (a Critical Control Point is any point in the chain from raw materials to finished product where loss of control could result in an unacceptable food safety risk).

A significant feature of the HACCP concept is that food production is regarded as an interlocking system, not only a farm or a processing plant or a supermarket or a consumer, but all of those, along with the distribution elements of the system.

Each link in the chain is analyzed and controlled individually, but for satisfactory results each link is dependent upon the links preceding it and following it. Unexpected or unknown safety problems with raw materials, unrecognized or uncontrolled abuse in the distribution system, careless or otherwise improper handling by the consumer – these and other matters that can create food safety problems must be identified in the Hazard Analysis phase and addressed by appropriate monitoring of Critical Control Points.

With the system, food producers can control any area in the food system that could contribute to hazards, whether it involves contaminants, bacteria, physical objects, chemicals, raw materials, a process, consumer use directions or storage conditions.

The Pillsbury-manufactured food that went to the Mood aboard Apollo spacecraft was produced under the HACCP system. Within two years of the initial lunar landing in 1969, Pillsbury plants were producing food for regular consumers following the same food safety control system. Later, Pillsbury taught a course in HACCP for personnel of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the mid-1970s, FDA published the Low Acid Canned Foods Regulations, which employ the HACCP concept to ensure safety of all canned foods in the U.S.

In 1985, HACCP was recommended by the National Academy of Sciences as the method of choice for preventing microbiological food safety problems. In 1988, it was further recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. HACCP has been endorsed by components of the World Health Organization, suggesting, in the words of Dr. Bauman, “that some day the world food industry may be playing with the same deck of cards.”

In the United States, three other government agencies are taking preliminary steps toward extending HACCP to meat/poultry and seafood inspection operations.

Today, Pillsbury plants are still operating under HACCP and their managers are delighted with the results. Says Pillsbury: “There have been more than 130 food safety-related recalls of product from the marketplace from 1983 to 1991. None were Pillsbury products. HACCP works!”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the public health agency responsible for inspecting meat and poultry, each year inspects more than 120 million head of livestock, six billion birds, and billions of pounds of meat and poultry products. It is, says FSIS Assistant Administration Dr. Catherine E. Adams, “the most intensive food inspection system in the world.” Nonetheless, FSIS is engaged in a major effort to improve it. Dr. Adams elaborates:

“It is the industry’s job to produce safe, wholesome, accurately labeled meat and poultry products. It is the agency’s job to see that industry does its job well and consistently.

“We are committed to the continuous improvement of our inspection program to better protect the public health. We believe the inspection job can be done by preventing potential problems from occurring – including microbial and chemical contamination. The FSIS is convinced the HACP system will serve as the best mechanism for preventing unsafe and unwholesome product.”

Following up on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, FSIS is conducting a study to determine the best way to incorporate HACCP into the meat and poultry inspection program. Dr. Adams is executive director of the HACCP project; Dr. Wallace Leary, a 20-year FSIS employee, heads a HACCP Special Team that is conducting workshops, pilot plant tests and evaluations. Says Dr. Leary:

“The HACCP study will allow us – and the industry – to develop and test model HACCP plans for specific products and processes. We’ll then test the HACCP plans in volunteer plants, working with our in-plant processes. We’ll then test the HACCP plans in volunteer plants, working with our in-plant employees. The process will allow us to see how HACCP works under realistic conditions.”

Dr. Leary believes that HACCP will permit inspection personnel to do an even better job of protecting public health. The focus of inspection will change with less emphasis on the final product and greater attention to the safety steps along the way where contamination could occur. To explain HACCP, he cites an example: production of cooked turkey breast that is vacuumed packaged and then pasteurized.

“The first step is to identify the Critical Control Points (CCPs), or those steps in the process that could result in an unsafe product if not properly followed. In this example, CCPs could include cooking, chilling, rehydrating, pasteurization, chilling again, and storing. Once you’ve determined the CCPs, you then set the criteria that must be met for each one, as well as the monitoring and verification methods.

“In our example, according to current regulations, the cooking CCP would require the turkey to be cooked to a 160-degree Fahrenheit internal temperature. Plant personnel would be required to check and record the cooking temperature regularly; the inspector would check the plant’s records for authenticity and accuracy, verify that the thermometer measured the temperature accurately, and periodically double-check the internal temperature of the product.

“This example illustrates the simplicity of HACCP, but when the CCPs are determined, monitored and verified on an ongoing basis, you have a sophisticated process control system with little chance of manufacturing an unsafe or otherwise contaminated product.”

To read the full-length NASA spinoff success story, click here.

They’re in your cell phone camera and DSLR, but they were likely in your dentist’s X-ray machine first: CMOS digital image sensors.

NASA spent much of the 1980s developing imagers based on charge-coupled device (CCD) technology, which had enabled the first digital cameras. But in the early 1990s, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer Eric Fossum set out to build a more efficient image sensor based on complementary metal oxide semiconductors (CMOS), which are microelectronic transistors that had been integral to computers since the 1960s. It had been tried before, but Fossum and his team figured out how to correct for noise that plagued earlier versions.

To develop the sensors, JPL entered into several Technology Cooperation Agreements with companies, including dental device manufacturer Schick Technologies of Long Island City, New York, which wanted to use them for dental X-rays. Engineers from Schick and JPL worked together to advance the technology and adapt it to X-ray imaging.

In 1995, Fossum and colleagues founded Photobit with an exclusive license for CMOS imaging, and Schick obtained an exclusive license for CMOS dental imagers.

What came to be called the active pixel sensor was more energy-efficient than CCD imagers, which was important for imagers Schick wanted to power with batteries. Active pixel sensors also allowed for smaller devices, which translated to patient comfort in imagers that are placed in the mouth. They were also less susceptible to electrical noise.

As CMOS sensors came to dominate the entire digital imaging industry, Schick, now owned by Sirona Dental Systems, benefited from rapid improvements in size, speed, memory, and quality, as well as cheaper mass production.

Today any company using CMOS dental image sensors has licensed the technology from Sirona, which still holds the license from JPL’s managing entity, the California Institute of Technology.

While best known for groundbreaking innovations that expand our knowledge of the universe, technology created at NASA is also responsible for everyday items that better our daily lives.

Technology transfer (T2) allows industry professionals the chance to work with federal agencies such as NASA to bring innovations made in federal labs into commercial use. Licensed technologies, test facilities, and even the knowledge of NASA teams are opened to industry through the T2 process.

Houston-based medical technologies company Tyrell Inc. utilized NASA engineering professionals to help redesign a heating element found in an in-home acne-fighting device, according to NASA’S Spinoff publication. The idea came from company founder Robert Conrad, who while working at a biological testing firm experimented with growing bacteria colonies and then shocking them with heat to kill bacteria. Conrad began considering the same treatment for the bacteria that creates pimples.

Conrad created a working prototype that proved to be too large and too expensive to manufacture. With guidance from business accelerator Houston Technology Center, Conrad contacted NASA through the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program.

With NASA’s help, Conrad created a smaller device with an improved 5-volt heating element resistant to oils and acids. The outreach program then pointed Conrad to Allen Saad of Boeing, who helped reduce the cost of the unit and pave the way to commercialization, bringing the new Zeno portable acne treatment system to the market. Conrad said NASA’s help is what brought Zeno from a prototype to the market.

Zeno was named NASA’S Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program success story of the year in 2006.