A dear friend once told me “nothing exists that wasn’t first imagined.” It has taken me years to truly appreciate the gravity of this notion: nothing exists that was not first imagined by someone (or something) somewhere. Granted, this phrase has limits depending on one’s ideas about the origin of the universe. However, let’s zoom in for a moment to planet Earth and the activities of a particularly amazing species of sentient living organisms called homo sapiens. Think for a moment on humankind’s accomplishments on this planet: supersonic aircraft, deep-sea submarines, Walt Disney, dance music festivals, the Burj Khalifa, Star Wars, universal vaccines, heart transplants, 3-D printing, the amazing personal computers capable of reaching this article from the depths of the internet—all of these wonders began as glimmers inside someone’s imagination.
The path to turning something from an idea into physical reality is rarely easy, and never certain. This concept is of central importance to the space industry and its future. The Wright brothers executed the first powered flight in 1903, and man walked on the moon only 66 years later. In the 115 years since humans first took flight, our imagination has ushered into existence amazing weather monitoring and elecommunication satellites, space shuttles, and reusable Falcon 9 rockets. However, simply imagining something doesn’t make it appear out of thin air, creation is a process. Although plenty of people come up with amazing ideas for useful technology that needs to exist, many believe they do not have the necessary resources to begin actually creating. After all, the average home garage is hardly NASA Ames. But what if it could be?
The mission of Astropreneurs.space is to help space passionate entrepreneurs begin navigating the creative process from the imagination stage all the way to Earth-orbit. One of the most amazing resources we’ve found to help turn new ideas into amazing products is NASA’s technology transfer program (NASATTP). Thanks to this program, NASA takes some of the incredible software, hardware, patents, and processes created at its research laboratories and makes them available to the public for useful applications all over the planet.
Every year since 1976, NASA has released the NASA Spinoff book documenting 50-100 new commercial technologies that were created by private individuals/companies using patents and processes originally developed in laboratories such as NASA Ames and Kennedy Space Center’s Swamp Works.
These transfer technologies include everything from cancer-fighting medical devices, aircraft design software, and drone design, to virtual reality, 3-D printing, and safe toxic waste processing. Need some inspiration for world changing ideas? Download a few spinoff books from years past (all are available for free download) and see how many amazing things are possible with a great idea and a little help from NASATTP. The possibilities are truly endless.
But how does one actually apply for NASA transfer technology? Isn’t everything government-related overly burdened by endless red tape and giant neon signs reading “NO”? As it turns out, the process is actually quite approachable. To begin, follow this link to NASA’s handy guide that details all the basic to everything NASATTP. This guide describes the types of technologies available for licensing, the various licensing options, and some tips on how to qualify for participation in the program. Once familiar with the basic process, follow this link to NASA’s Patent Portfolio.
NASA’s patent portfolio is the public treasure chest, candy land, magical world of Narnia for creative entrepreneurs. Options to explore include patents in aeronautics, power generation, robotics, optics, medicine, communications, and even propulsion (yes, ROCKET STUFF).
If one of these areas looks particularly interesting, simply click the icon and start to explore. From here, one can choose from thousands of individual patents, named and described in thorough detail. Underneath the photograph of each technology there is a link that says, “Apply Now to License This Technology!”
Clicking this link carries one to NASA’s ultra-user-friendly Technology Licensing Application System, or ATLAS. From here, simply create a “T2P” account and begin applying for a patent license.
The application process is set up for individuals/companies of all shapes and sizes, regardless of whether the user is in the beginning stages of creating a startup, or a seasoned veteran procuring technology for an established company. Licensing options are also very flexible, allowing users to choose between nonexclusive, partially exclusive, and exclusive licenses, depending on the user’s need. A new startup may even wish to acquire an evaluation license, allowing a company to internally study and evaluate the nature of various technologies before deciding to seriously commit to their development.
In addition to this vast library of available NASA patents, NASATTP also provides a massive arsenal of freely available software to aid in the development and operation of practically any technology imaginable.
Simply choose a desired software and click “Request Now!”
Whether one is developing fully electric aircraft, autonomous medical robots, or a water balloon launcher, there is a patent and associated software available through NASATTP. This is an invaluable tool for entrepreneurs exploring the possibility of an idea. The vast number of potential resources for innovation and imagineering is staggering. There has never been a better time to turn ideas into reality.
Posted by Marshall David Mckellar