NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has been named the recipient of the 2008 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award.
Ames won the award for developing a "High Speed Three-Dimensional Laser Scanner with Real Time Processing." The scanner is used in a Mold Impression Laser Tool (MLT), a hand-held instrument used to scan space shuttle tiles to detect and measure the amount of any damage.
The MILT unit wirelessly transmits flaw dimensions and location information to a laptop computer, enabling the operator to easily take measurements up to several meters away, unencumbered by cables. Several MILT instruments are currently in use at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where they provide accurate and reliable tile flaw information for the space shuttle maintenance crews.
In addition, MILT technology been adapted for use in other NASA programs, including the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), the Stardust Sample Return Capsule Program, and the Mars and Lunar Rover Programs.
"We are honored in receiving this award and wish to thank all of the people who have contributed to the success of this invention, and especially to it’s meaningful application to critical NASA applications, said Joe Lavelle, manager and lead engineer, 3D Vision Systems Laboratory at NASA Ames.
Ames' award was for one of two awards established to recognize innovative inventions: (1) the NASA Government Invention of the Year; and (2) the NASA Commercial Invention of the Year. Nominations are submitted by each NASA field center and evaluated by a panel of the Inventions and Contributions Board. The board determines which nominations qualify for each category, ranks the nominees, and makes recommendations to the NASA Office of the General Counsel for review and approval.
NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton Roads, Va., won the 2008 NASA Commercial Invention of the Year Award for developing “Composition of and Method for Making High Performance Resins for Infusion and Transfer Molding Processes.” This invention is used in a high temperature resin known as PETI-330 specifically designed for use in the fabrication of composites using low cost processes such as resin transfer molding, resin infusion, and vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM).