The Apollo Series - A NASA Spinoff
In the front of every Ministry of Supply store is a life-sized, museum-grade replica of an Apollo Space Suit - a nod to the underlying technology in one of our flagship product series, the Apollo.
The Apollo tells the story of how NASA-grade technologies can make their way down to earth, and in the case of the Apollo 125,000+ shirts.
Here, we’ll explain how NASA continues to stimulate technological growth across multiple industries.
FUND: Deep Technology Research
At it’s peak during the height of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union, NASA’s budget was 4% of the US budget - a staggering amount (it now is roughly 0.5%). However, we have much more to show for it than a few hundred pounds of moon rock - as it kickstarted and primed a growing aerospace industry and numerous other “spinoff” technologies that have become a part of our everyday lives through products.
NASA pursues multiple missions - earth research, aeronautical improvement, interplanetary research as well as human spaceflight - and the funding for the development goes to the Field Centers (well known ones include Johnson, Kennedy, Goddard), but also numerous Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grants between start-ups and universities.
APPLY: To Space Missions
In the case of PCMs one of these NASA SBIR grants was awarded to develop better means of cooling space suit gloves. Whereas previously complex liquid cooled systems were used, the introduction of Phase-Change Materials - which have the ability to act like are thermal battery - provided a much simpler and reliable alternative.
COMMERCIALIZE: Bring it Down to Earth
A mission of NASA is to make sure that these new technologies benefit the American economy and humanity, and through their licensing program they make these technologies available to American businesses to commercialize into everyday products.
At MoS we now partner with Outlast Technologies - a company that specializes in the application of NASA PCMs - to extrude this material into a yarn that we can then knit into our signature Apollo Fabric. The result is a shirt that is tuned to optimal body temperature and can absorb and release heat automatically to keep you in the perfect range.
Examples of Spinoffs
This process of Fund, Apply and Commercialize has happened numerous times over the course of NASA’s 60-year history. The impact of NASA was calculated to be nearly - $181B to the US Economy, yielding a 33% return on investment during one study.
Recent Spinoff Technologies include:
LASIK: The eye-tracking system used to guide the laser during corrective eye operations is derived from the LADAR laser guidance system used for spacecraft docking.
Memory Foam: The material behind many bed-in-a-box brands was pioneered by NASA to reduce the impact on passengers during crashes, and is now common place in sports equipment, footwear and bedding.
Speedo’s LZR Suit: This material construction due to wind analysis at NASA Langley led to 13 records at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The Next Generation: NASA OPSPARC
The above are just a handful of the products that have spun out of NASA Technologies, and we’re really excited to see what the future holds for NASA’s latest technologies. Because of this, we’re supporting NASA’s OPSPARC Program (Optimus Prime Spinoff Promotion And Research Challenge), a STEM-education program that educates students in Elementary, Middle and High School to learn about NASA technologies and propose Spinoff products and companies in a competition. The OPSPARC Program is now in it’s 10th year, with major support from Hasbro, and now MoS, we hope to see the spinoff in this year’s cohort.