CI&E News

What Is Space Technology Transfer?

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Space technology transfer is the commercialization of space technologies for use on Earth.

Government agencies continuously develop new technologies to explore space, keep astronauts healthy in demanding zero gravity conditions, improve air transportation, and better understand our environment. Often, these innovations have potential applications and creative uses on Earth as commercial products and services.

NASA-Yellowstone FungiSpace technology transfer is big business not only for aerospace but for virtually every industry, including agriculture, medicine, energy, infrastructure, national security, public safety, banking, telecommunications, cybersecurity, transportation, manufacturing, consumer goods, and many more. In today’s global space ecosystem, return on space investment is measured not just in discoveries among the stars but in products and services that improve life on Earth.

NASA Spinoff highlights more than 2,000 space technologies that now benefit life on Earth in the form of commercial products, from energy storage batteries to temperature-regulating clothing. The Space Technology Hall of Fame® recognizes life-changing products that emerged from global space programs. Among the most well-known are Temper-Pedic mattresses, scratch-resistant lenses, cordless power tools, and programmable implantable medication systems (PIMS).

While thousands of products and services have been brought to market through space technology transfer, there is still an immense opportunity to fill the innovation gap. The world needs the vision and talent of entrepreneurs to craft, refine and apply space technologies to solve challenges on Earth.

More than 1,200 patents at NASA alone are available for commercialization. NASA’s Technology Transfer Program maintains a portfolio of patents with commercial potential and makes them available through a patent licensing program. Standard commercial, evaluation and startup licenses are available, on exclusive, partially exclusive or non-exclusive terms negotiated with NASA during the application process.

Among the NASA patents currently available:

  • Robonaut 2, a highly dextrous humanoid robot with nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies that could revolutionize multiple industries
  • A system that detects high stress in interviews and text
  • An invention that uses laser beams for optical data transmission from satellites
  • A technology that uses combinations of plants and fungi to remediate contaminated soils
  • A stronger plug for friction pull plug welding
  • A new process for fabricating superconducting circuitry on both sides of an ultra-thin silicone wafer
  • A capability for meeting big data demands for Climate Analytics-as-a-service (CAaaS)
  • A novel multi-junction PV solar cell that enables higher efficiencies

Tumor DNASpace agencies around the world have similar programs. The European Space Agency’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) has transferred more than 200 space technologies to non-space sectors. Resulting products range from life-saving healthcare innovations and mine tunnel crack detection systems to cooling suits for racecar drivers.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) also operates a robust program to introduce aerospace technology to other industries.

Even so, many exciting possibilities remain untapped. Patents remain in vaults. Why? Certainly, it is not a lack of investment. Commercial space activity hit $362 billion in 2021, far outpacing government space program spending and revenues.

Rather, there is a lack of awareness about space technology transfer and a knowledge gap regarding the process. There are barriers to entry for too many interested space economy participants. Entrepreneurs and business leaders need access to robust programming and resources that guide them into the global space ecosystem or help them grow once there.

Space Foundation’s Space Commerce Institute exists to help entrepreneurs and businesses overcome these obstacles through education, training, mentorship and consulting. Participants can learn from space leaders and experts how to navigate the evolving space industry from concept to creation.

The business advantages of commercializing space patents are extraordinary. Space technology typically requires years of costly development and global collaboration. It is among the most advanced in the world—innovated by the greatest scientific minds and rigorously tested. Much of the hard work is already done. This gives the businesses that pick up the patents a competitive edge, as they can get to market faster and with far less outlay for R&D.

With entrepreneurs and businesses commercializing space technology, we can realize the full potential of space innovation for the betterment of humanity.

If you’re interested in space technology transfer, Space Commerce Institute can help.

SCI ConsultSpace Commerce Institute can help hasten go-to-market plans to scale the commercialization of new space technologies. Our consultant roster includes experts in NASA space technology transfer. They are available on a project-based or ad hoc basis.

Explore Space Commerce Institute programming here.