Faced with the daunting task of reducing hazardous rocket-fuel waste, a team of inventive scientists and engineers from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), FL, found a way to really clean up, while at the same time produce a commercially successful and safe byproduct.
The team developed a process to convert the hazardous waste to a helpful fertilizer and was honored with NASA's Commercial Invention of the Year Award.
The invention was developed by NASA's Dr. Clyde Parrish, Dr. Dale Lueck, Andrew Kelly and Dynacs Engineering's Paul Gamble. Together, they developed the new process in response to an Agency request to reduce the hazardous waste stream captured in a scrubber when a toxic oxidizer is transferred back and forth from storage tanks into the space shuttle's Orbital Maneuvering Subsystem (OMS) and Reaction Control System (RCS) pods. The shuttle's OMS is used for the major orbital and deorbit maneuvers and the RCS is used for orbiter attitude control.
The process was tested and is being implemented at Kennedy, where it is being used on orange groves located on the center's grounds.
"We have a number of talented scientists and engineers on our team and we're proud of them. I believe this is just the first of many such awards for the Kennedy Space Center," said Kennedy Director Roy Bridges. It is the first time Kennedy has won the award, given annually by NASA Headquarters to recognize a significant technology spinoff developed at one of the Agency's centers.
The inventors will be honored at a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in April where the team will receive a check and a certificate from the NASA Administrator. The technology will be submitted as NASA's nominee for the Intellectual Property Owners Inc. Invention of the Year award, which is held in cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
"This was very much a team effort," said Gamble, the current lead for the project at Dynacs Engineering. Dynacs is the engineering development contractor at Kennedy. "We're all very proud to have been a part of it. When we're able to commercialize a technology we've developed at KSC, it benefits everyone. It's another example of how the space program makes all our lives better," said Gamble.
Parrish suggested the original idea for the technology and led development of the process, which started while he worked at Dynacs. Parrish had worked on a Navy project team 25 years before that found an oxidizer used in battlefield illumination flares could be used as a fertilizer. Parrish has numerous patents and awards to his credit.
"When we were approached with the technical challenge to reduce hazardous waste, I remembered the flare oxidizer project. I thought the scrubber chemistry could be modified to produce a fertilizer," Parrish said.
The invention has been licensed to Phoenix Systems International Inc. of McDonald, Ohio, an engineering firm that develops technologies applied to utility and industrial fossil fuel. The U.S. Air Force also has expressed interest in the technology for launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.
The award represents another success for Kennedy's Technology Programs and Commercialization Office. The office works with KSC scientists and engineers to report new technologies and commercialize them when possible.
"Our office has been striving to create an awareness of all facets of new technology reporting, including the awards program. As a part of this effort, we're seeking to provide more recognition for our inventors and their inventions," said Pam Bookman, a commercialization manager for the office. "Our people have always produced new technologies to cope with the operational challenges we face, but they're realizing more often now that those technologies can often be commercialized."
Cite This Page: