If you’ve always wished you could get a “rocket scientist” (an engineer) to give you some technical assistance – don’t wish anymore – it’s a reality.
The NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) provides small-businesses with free technical assistance through the expertise of the U.S. Space Program, as well as aerospace contractors, NASA field centers, universities and colleges. These organizations join SATOP as Space Alliance Partners and donate time and expertise to help solve technical challenges for small businesses. Platinum level Space Alliance Partners include AJT & Associates, Lockheed Martin, TEAM Specialty Products, and The Boeing Company. SATOP centers are located in Titusville, Fla., Syracuse, N.Y., Houston, Texas, and Santa Fe, N.M. Here’s an example of some recent work SATOP did:
David Schweitzer approached SATOP New Mexico, a program of the Santa Fe-based Regional Development Corp., for assistance with his new product. The Super Flux Light Canoe is a lighting system that will provide stimulus for plant growth in a greenhouse-type arrangement. “I knew that there were orbital experiments made that could benefit the project,” said Schweitzer, who heard of SATOP through Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and the New Mexico Economic Development Department.
Preliminary studies had been conducted on different lights with the use of freelance CAD/CAM/3D animators, but Schweitzer needed research on what lights would best suit the application. SATOP matched his Request for Technical Assistance with The Boeing Company’s Ron Fussell, a test conductor at the Kennedy Space Center.
Drawing from years of work and knowledge of space shuttle payloads, Fussell knew that during a previous space shuttle mission, a mid-deck experiment called CERES had used Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs, for growing plants for food while in orbit.
“Essentially, I facilitated the project by turning David onto some information and products that were public domain through NASA,” said Fussell. From the CERES findings, Fussell was able to derive the information Schweitzer was searching for.
Fussell provided Schweitzer data on light frequency, the colors best applicable for supporting photosynthesis, the electronic arrangement and configuration of the device they would need, as well as recommendations as to which LEDs emit a more crisp, coherent light.
“The Boeing Company really came through for David. Many people are unaware of information that is public domain, and Ron was able to quickly access and break down the relevant information from the CERES experiment for David,” said DeAnza Valencia, SATOP New Mexico director.
“The data and diagrams provided by The Boeing Company were just what I needed. Had I attempted to solve this internally, it would have been at a far greater cost and longer time schedule,” said Schweitzer. “SATOP bridges worldly needs with the high-tech world of aerospace.”