Space Products & Innovation
Transportation, Logistics, and Manufacturing
Beyond corporate and retail services, space products and services also facilitate global transportation, logistics, industrial manufacturing, and materials testing. While a single GPS device enables personal navigation, multiple network-linked GPS devices enable the management of complex logistics networks, such as time- and location-sensitive tracking of shipments.
Space technology also has a role to play in manufacturing. Technology originally developed to measure oxygen atoms outside space vehicles is now being used by glass manufacturers to produce energy-efficient windows. Oxygen is highly corrosive, so levels of this atom around the space station need to be carefully monitored.
Building on research that started at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Boeing incorporated flight path optimization technology into its Direct Routes product. This service, made commercially available in 2011, provides real-time advisories to aircraft for suggested shortcuts that have been pre-checked for traffic conflicts, wind conditions, and other factors.
Air travel also benefits from space technology. As of March 2011, aircraft can use the satellite-based European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS), which improves the accuracy of GPS signals in Europe, to aid in the critical task of vertically guiding aircraft during landing approaches.
Many U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, New York City, and Washington, D.C., have recently become home to citywide bike-sharing programs. These programs promote exercise and help to reduce automobile traffic, but one of the challenges is ensuring that bikes are not lost or stolen.
Researchers at Microsoft Research Asia used GPS data from more than 33,000 Beijing taxicabs over two years, amassing enough data to analyze every road in the city. This data not only showed areas where traffic slowed down, but also showed where journeys started and finished, and how a commuter traveled in between.
In September 2011, the Nashville, Tennessee, Area Metropolitan Planning Organization selected firms that will use GPS monitors as part of a unique study of the connections between transportation and health. The study will begin with a survey of the daily travel and commuting patterns for 6,000 residents.
GPS tracking has provided researchers and city planners with an important source of information for improving transportation systems. Studies using GPS tracking can help planners learn about where people are going, what methods of transportation they are taking, and how funds can best be spent to improve the system.
The technology used to produce the telescope mirrors for ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory is being extended to the production of smaller, faster, and cheaper computer microchips. An Italian company, Media Lario Technologies, has developed technology that uses extreme ultraviolet rays to create semiconductor circuits that operate 100 times faster.