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NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology


National Space Technology Applications Program Office

Commercial Applications

For more information, please see the stand-alone commercial website.

Power Lines

Department of Energy Smart Grid

Like much of the nation’s legacy infrastructure, the complex electrical grid was built incrementally over many years. Improving its robustness, flexibility, and efficiency is a huge systems engineering challenge.

JPL teamed with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Department of Energy, UCLA, and USC to provide research and engineering for advanced monitoring, management, and security of electrical power in the region.

CMOS Sensor

From Space to Cell Phones

In the 1990s, a JPL team led by Eric Fossum began researching ways to improve complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors to drastically reduce the size of cameras on spacecraft, yet maintain scientific image quality, and work using less power than charge-coupled device chipsets. The result was the active-pixel sensor (prototype pictured), integrating active amplifiers inside each pixel that boost the electrical output generated by the collected photons. Since a CMOS sensor is made on standard production lines, it can tap into economies of scale and costs much less than CCDs. One CMOS chip can incorporate various electronic controls that normally require multiple chips, and by consolidating functions, it requires one-hundredth the power of a CCDbased system. Dr. Fossum and other members of the team formed a company, Photobit, and exclusively licensed the technology, becoming the first company to commercialize CMOS image sensors. The CMOS active-pixel sensor is now used in almost all cell-phone cameras, webcams, many digital still cameras, and in medical imaging and a host of other applications.

Commercial GPS

Advanced Commercial GPS

Precise orbit determination enables highly refined science measurements, and our high-performance Global Positioning System receiver is state of the art. For example, after processing Jason’s data, we can reconstruct the satellite’s orbits continuously with one-sigma radial accuracy better than 2.5 cm. Above, a choke-ring GPS antenna measures orbit knowledge to a 255-millionth of Earth’s radius.

BroadReach Engineering, Inc., has fully adopted JPL’s core Blackjack receiver design into its product line of flight GPS receivers and continues to rely on JPL software and system support.

Energy and Natural Resource Management

JPL and Chevron execs shaking hands

JPL and Chevron Corporation signed an agreement to develop technologies that would allow more efficient and safer exploration of natural resources. Mutual areas of interest include instruments, robotics, microdevices, harsh-environment electronics, power sources, communications, and radar. Energy companies have highly stylized technology needs that are well positioned and synergistic with JPL’s capabilities.

JPL has a mutual interest in further developing technologies related to chemical surface modifications, fugitive hydrocarbon emissions, carbon dioxide sequestration, climate change, and energy development related to Earth science and planetary missions. Working with energy companies stimulates JPL’s unique science and innovation capabilities to enhance the Laboratory’s contribution to solving problems of national significance.

JPL and Statoil execs shaking hands

JPL and Statoil, the Norwegian-based oil and gas company, have formed an alliance to assist in the development and subsequent transfer of technologies to Statoil and America's oil and gas activities. The focus will be on enabling safe and efficient development and production of U.S. and world fossil fuel reserves.

Technologies developed by JPL for the harsh and difficult environments of space will be applied to the demanding environments of oil and gas production. The agreement also provides an opportunity for JPL to benefit from synergistic technology currently being developed in the oil and gas sector that might be used for space exploration.

Statoil has large holdings in the U.S., in such challenging environments as offshore and tight shale formations. It is number 39 on the Forbes 500 list of the world's largest companies.

"This agreement is the latest example of how NASA and JPL technologies can benefit us here on Earth. It's also an example of how collaborations with other industries can be beneficial to space exploration," said JPL Director Charles Elachi.

Sick Bay

21st Century Sick Bay

Medical care has become one of the fastest-developing frontiers of today’s world. Advanced imaging, tailored diagnostics, precision surgeries, and molecular therapies are now common practice.

JPL is a leader in many applicable technologies, particularly machine vision, robot autonomy, and miniaturization. We develop both sensing systems — including vision hardware — and software that enable machines to think, make decisions, and act. Our Microdevices Laboratory is at the forefront of lab-on-a-chip microfluidic systems development for detection and analysis of organic molecules.