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Industry Spotlight: NASA Langley Research Center

NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton Roads, Virginia is helping transform the future of aerospace both deep in space and closer to home.

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With increased media attention placed on upcoming missions to the moon (in 2024) and Mars (in the 2030s) the public once again is starting to get excited about space-based science and exploration.

NASA Langley Research Center, located in Hampton Roads, Virginia, is one of ten NASA field centers that continues to forge new frontiers in aviation and space research. The center is playing a key role by researching and developing new composites and advanced materials that are suitable for deep space exploration and the upcoming lunar/mars missions.

Specifically, NASA Langley is presently supporting the use of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) in space applications by developing CFRP that can be used to build lightweight launch vehicles and spacecraft to help reduce the cost of delivering humans and satellites to orbit. In addition, space is a unique environment the includes vacuum and high radiation. Langley continues to investigate new CFRPs with the right combination of properties that will help protect astronauts for the long term in this environment.

NASA

In terms of aerospace innovations closer to home, NASA Langley designers and engineers today are leading initiatives in aviation safety, quiet aircraft technology, small aircraft transportation and aerospace vehicles system technology. The Research Center recently completed an effort called the Advanced Composites Project which focused on technologies that help reduce the development, certification and implementation time for advanced CFRP into commercial aircraft.

Conventional processes to develop composites, like injection and compression molding have traditionally been used for applications that require low mechanical performance relative to aerospace applications. These processes can be produced rapidly and cost effectively for industries, like the automotive industry, that have less demanding performance requirements and can use composites with short, randomly oriented fibers (including glass). NASA Langley is now investigating how to speed up the manufacturing methods used by the aerospace industry to build composites with discontinuous, but highly aligned carbon fibers. This in turn will help increase aircraft production rates to meet future market demand and in the process help increase US competitiveness as it relates to aviation manufacturing. 

05082014-146The NASA Langley Research Center has identified the following key areas for future growth including supporting future advances in manufacturing, the creation of computational tools to help meet different performance goals, and the need to repurpose materials to save on costs. 

NASA innovators produce more than a thousand new technologies every year, including some with revolutionary potential and a lot of this research technology is being placed on the public domain by NASA for commercialization purposes. In keeping with the 1958 Space Act’s directive to share the benefits of aeronautics and space research with the public, NASA’s Technology Transfer Program assesses each technology’s commercial potential and does its best to move these innovations toward commercialization. That includes patenting particularly promising innovations, managing a technology portfolio containing thousands of inventions and software programs, marketing technologies to industry, and overseeing licenses and other distribution agreements. 

 

Benefits to the local business community

NASA’s presence in Hampton Roads has helped establish a growing cluster of companies focused on advanced materials and composites and its so far has had an impact of more than $111 million dollars for small businesses that have been able to access NASA innovations now in the public domain.

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When leaving NASA Langley Research Center to enter the private sector, a high percentage of NASA scientists and engineers end up staying in Hampton Roads region to enjoy the amazing quality of life and business opportunities that can be found there. This means composite companies can easily find highly trained workers to work on their next generation materials in Hampton Roads. 

The Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (the Alliance) acts a facilitator for companies seeking to evaluate Hampton Roads as a location for the expansion of their businesses. These services are offered confidentially and free-of-charge. As such, the Alliance can support advanced materials and composite companies seeking to establish a presence in the region by:

  • Finding available real estate that meets project needs of advanced materials and composite companies,
  • connecting them to educational institutions and workforce development professionals to discuss access to labor and fulfill the company’s workforce needs,
  • creating networking opportunities among businesses operating in the composites industry to hear first-hand about the local operating environment,
  • introducing them to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), as well as city and county jurisdictions represented by the Alliance to discuss state and local incentive programs,
  • providing market intelligence support through our Business Intelligence team on staff to answer questions about the operating environment and doing business in Hampton Roads, and
  • acting as a one-stop-shop to save time for advanced materials and composite companies in the site selection process.

The Alliance acts a facilitator for companies seeking to evaluate Hampton Roads as a location for the expansion of their businesses.  We can find available real estate that meets for their needs, connect them to educational institutions and workforce development professionals to discuss access to labor and introduce them to businesses operating in the composites industry to hear first-hand about the local operating environment.  We make introductions to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership as well as the jurisdictions represented by the Alliance to discuss state and local incentive programs.  We have a robust business intelligence team on staff to answer any questions you may have about operating your business in Hampton Roads.  These services are offered confidentially and free-of-charge. Our goal is to act as a one-stop-shop to save time in the site selection process.

For additional information about NASA Langley Research Center and or business support that the Alliance can offer composite/advanced material companies looking at Hampton Roads please contact Jonathan Holman, Business Intelligence Director for the Hampton Roads Ecommic Development Alliance at  jholman@hreda.com.

 
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