Space Products & Innovation
Every year, the Space Foundation recognizes space technologies applied to products and services in interesting and useful ways. Many products and services are nominated, but only two are inducted into the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame annually.
One standout story in 2014 exemplifies public interest, funding, and dedication to space exploration. The story involves an old NASA spacecraft, a group of volunteers, successful donation requests through crowdfunding, and ultimately, the reanimation and operation of a spacecraft once thought lost and useless.
The technology that keeps tractors within field boundaries is changing, using satellite technology to aid farmers in steering farm equipment within centimeters of its intended location. AREA4D is using satellite data from the European GNSS Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) and combining it with localized reference radio stations to build a better, faster, and cheaper PNT network.
Some garment makers, such as Björn Borg, are attempting to address a very real need for heat resistance in underclothes. Working with materials used to protect astronauts, garment manufacturers are heeding the wishes of Swedish steelworkers, a demographic working in very heated conditions, and coming up with cool solutions.
Counting white bears on a white background is a challenge when the polar bears are only yards away from an observer on the ground. Imagine how challenging it must be to see the bears in imagery from satellites. White specks on a sheet of ice are very difficult to detect from hundreds of miles away.
Imagery and communications satellites were both used in search and rescue efforts for the Malaysian Airlines MH370 passenger airplane. Imagery of the search areas was provided on sites such as Tomnod in hopes that crowdsourcing imagery analysis would help in locating evidence of where the airplane might have disappeared.
Imagery intelligence is becoming more available to the public, as services such as Allsource Analysis gained attention in the news. In October 2014, the Longmont, Colorado, company wrote a comprehensive summary in which it identified a new kind of North Korean submarine in port during its monitoring of North Korean political prisoner camps.
Trains are using satellite technology—such as position, navigation, and timing (PNT) receivers and communications—to provide a train’s precise position to the people who manage European railway systems. While a train’s movements and schedule might be generally well-known, the PNT reporting will allow for a train’s precise position to be reported to a rail traffic control center, using a combination of 3G/4G data and satellite-based broadband services.
Some products tie together multiple space-based technologies, combining them for use in the aviation industry. Hardware and software products, such as 3D-Pilot developed by avionTek, are designed to give pilots situational awareness while flying and landing in low visibility conditions and bad weather.