Press Release

Space Age Ideas Bring Honors to JSC Inventors

By SpaceRef Editor
May 27, 2003
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Eleven NASA/Johnson Space Center employees will be honored at this year-s annual Inventors- Luncheon at JSC. The event is scheduled for June 4 at 11:30 a.m. Two of those being honored are astronauts.

One of the astronauts- inventions involves the tiny world of biological cell growth. The other focuses on a new kind of rocket propulsion that could improve human capabilities in the exploration of the vastness of space.

The event honors patent achievements for 2002. Awards and engraved plaques will be presented to each of the 11 by Jefferson D. Howell Jr., JSC director and a retired Marine Corps general. The center-s Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office organizes the luncheon.

The award winners:

G. Dickey Arndt and Patrick W. Fink developed a way to treat atherosclerosis by dilating a partially closed artery while preserving its sensitive endothelial layer using microwave energy.

Arndt and Phong H. Ngo patented a low-power, wide-bandwidth microwave system shown to be capable of finding small plastic antipersonnel land mines as well as deeply buried plastic pipes.

Franklin Chang-Diaz, a veteran of seven spaceflights, will be honored for a Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket Engine. The engine includes a controllable output plasma generator, a controllable heater for selectively raising a temperature of the plasma connected to an outlet of the plasma generator, and a nozzle connected to an outlet of the heater through which heated plasma is discharged to provide thrust. The engine could become the first major advance in space propulsion technology in 40 years.

Michael K. Ewert will be honored for two patents relating to thermal storage and control techniques for a solar-powered vapor compression refrigeration system. The system allows the compressor operation to be adjusted to convert almost all available solar power into stored thermal energy.

James L. Lewis will be honored for his involvement in developing a docking system which uses real-time load-sensing and electromagnets for docking soft capture. The docking system incorporates an active load-sensing system to automatically adjust the soft capture ring, eliminating the significant force and energy to realign the capture ring, and uses electromagnets instead of trip latches to achieve soft capture. The system allows spacecraft more flexibility during mating to dock more easily and safely while using less propellant.

Dennis R. Morrison developed a way to prepare microcapsules (hollow microballoons) containing an aqueous solution of a protein, drug or other bioactive substance inside a semi-permeable membrane. Applications include delivery of genetically engineered biomolecules into tissues and development of microcapsules containing drugs that are activated inside the body.

Duane L. Pierson patented a way and a device that eventually might be used to find plastic mines or subterranean pipes. The method detects anomalies in microwave penetrable material.

Robert L. Shuler received two patents for a method and apparatus for reducing vulnerability of latches to single-event upsets. He used two networks essentially using precisely timed cooperation with one another to ensure more reliable latch performance. Small-size digital logic libraries can be created with this technology that are compatible with low-end design tools. This invention makes the development of radiation-tolerant circuits accessible to small companies and university departments for use in designing new and capable space systems and experiments.

David Wolf and Thomas J. Goodwin are being cited for a method of stimulating growth of biological cells and tissue using electromagnetic fields. Astronaut and physician Wolf has worked extensively in space with the Bioreactor, which grows cell cultures in three dimensions.

SpaceRef staff editor.