NASA announced today that it was releasing dozens of patents into the public domain. The agency hopes that it will be a boost to the American economy if numerous cutting edge technologies are made freely available for commercial use. It is also believed that releasing these patents will make commercial space companies more familiar with NASA's capabilities, and encourage future collaboration.
These technologies are being released into the public domain as part of NASA's Technology Transfer Program. Daniel Lockney, the head of the Technology Transfer Program, explains the purpose of this action by stating, "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. By releasing this collection into the public domain, we are encouraging entrepreneurs to explore new ways to commercialize NASA technologies."
In addition to making these inventions available in the public domain, the Technology Transfer Program also makes many more technologies available to businesses through licensing. However, the agency hopes that releasing certain technologies into the public domain will eliminate the time and expense that companies would have had to spend licensing the patents.
NASA officials carefully considered which inventions were to be released into the public domain. According to the press release, "decision-makers looked for technologies that offer the potential for high unit values but are less likely to be licensed by outside companies because of low demand for resulting products (e.g. spacecraft), or the technology still requires significant development before it is marketable."
Ultimately 56 technologies were selected to enter the public domain. They cover a wide range of technologies connected to spaceflight including, "advanced manufacturing processes, sensors, propulsion methods, rocket nozzles, thrusters, aircraft wing designs and improved rocket safety and performance concepts." Also included are, "technologies designed to mitigate the dangerous gasses created as humans live and work in space," and "methods for controlling airflow around vehicles in hypersonic flight."
A searchable database of all NASA inventions in the public domain can be found here.