The Space Technology Hall of Fame® honors those who transform technology originally developed for space exploration into products that help improve the quality of life here on Earth. Induction into the Space Technology Hall of Fame® affords space innovators much deserved recognition, increases public awareness and encourages further innovation. The Space Foundation established the Space Technology Hall of Fame® in 1988 to increase public awareness of the benefits that result from space exploration programs and to encourage further innovation. Additional information about the Space Technology Hall of Fame®, including a complete list of inducted technologies, is available at www.SpaceFoundation.org/programs/space-technology-hall-fame.
• NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA MSFC)
• Evinrude/BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products)
• Jonathan A. Lee, Materials Engineer-NASA MSFC
• Dr. Po-Shou Chen, Senior Scientist-Jacobs Space Exploration Group, NASA MSFC
• Sammy A. Nabors, Manager, Technology Licensing & Commercialization-NASA MSFC
• German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Communications and Navigation Division
• Dr. Markus Knapek, Founder & Board Member-Mynaric
• Joachim Horwath, Founder & Board Member-Mynaric
About High-Strength, Wear Resistant Aluminum Alloy 398
In 1993, the Partnership for Next-Generation Vehicles (PNGV) brought together federal laboratories, universities, automakers and other industry partners, with the common goal of increasing automotive fuel efficiency and reducing environmental impact. Toward this end, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center began work on its High-Strength, Wear-Resistant Aluminum Alloy.
Ford Motor Company recognized that its products could benefit from this new technology. NASA materials-science experts Jonathon Lee and Dr. Po-Shou Chen had significant experience developing high-strength, nickel-based super-alloys for the space program. While these materials would be too heavy for use in an automobile engine, Lee and Chen realized an aluminum alloy would be strong enough for a piston application and would significantly reduce overall engine weight.
Working together, Lee and Chen developed and patented a new aluminum alloy now known as NASA 398. This new alloy is stronger and durable enough for the piston application, while significantly reducing the weight. Months of development and testing with Ford engineers led to a successful piston design using the new alloy. Test results for the new piston design were positive, however Ford chose not to pursue further development.
Federal funding for the PNGV program ended, but the NASA team recognized the commercial possibilities for their new alloy and continued to refine and patent the technology.
Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) was searching for design and durability improvements for its Evinrude line of marine engines. Working with the NASA team, Evinrude/BRP engineers proved the alloy met their stringent criteria and produced pistons using NASA 398 which they later licensed to use in their Evinrude E-TEC™ outboard engines.
Another early customer, the ‘Twin City Fan’ company, applied the new alloy in its life-saving tunnel safety fan systems. The NASA 398 alloy helped ensure the critical systems functioned properly during emergency situations such as high intensity fires.
About Laser Terminals for the Skies and Beyond
There is an increasing worldwide demand for Internet access to connect all aspects of our modern society. Miniaturized Laser Terminals for aircraft, UAVs and satellites can provide backbone connectivity for such access in a reliable and affordable way. Digital communications technology reaches every aspect of our lives – from cell phones to the “Internet of Things” and the Big Data movement, upon which so many people rely.
The underlying laser communication technology was initially developed at DLR, the German Aerospace Center. DLR’s Institute of Communications and Navigation division had been researching optical laser communications technology for over 20 years and currently holds the data rate world record of 1.7 Terabit per second for laser communications.
In 2009, a group of DLR employees, including Dr. Markus Knapek and Joachim Horwath, licensed the technology from DLR to form Mynaric, a privately held company with the goal of commercializing this promising technology. The company went public on the German stock market to raise further growth capital in October 2017.
Having already sold optical ground stations and air terminals to a range of customers, Mynaric is now in discussions with major U.S. companies that have successfully demonstrated air-to-air and air-to-ground, as well as satellite-to-ground, communications. California-based Airborne Wireless Network has already begun using Mynaric technology to build a large aircraft-based communications network. Mynaric’s key contributions are miniaturized laser terminals that can be produced and sold at scale and which are reliable and affordable enough to be used in these large-scale networks.
Additionally, there are significant growth opportunities for Mynaric’s laser communication technology in the rapidly expanding world of data communication. Both Google and Facebook are heavily investing in R&D and are in the planning stages to construct large-scale optical communications networks above the skies supported by unmanned aerial vehicles such as steerable balloons or drones in the stratosphere. These systems, designed with large scale commercial applications in mind, are ideally suited to meet growing global communications demand.
Additional information about the Space Technology Hall of Fame®, including a complete list of inducted technologies, is available at www.SpaceFoundation.org/programs/space-technology-hall-fame.
Each year, the Space Technology Hall of Fame® solicits nominations from the industry and the public. After a thorough review process that establishes whether the technologies did, indeed, have their origins in space exploration and/or research, the qualifying technologies are reviewed and ranked by a distinguished panel of judges. The inducted technologies, individuals and organizations will be honored at a special reception and dinner during the Space Symposium.