BAY AREA HOUSTON, TX - Two NASA - Johnson Space Center engineers have volunteered their time and expertise to assist Mission Technologies, Inc., a small business in San Antonio, improve a compact reconnaissance and surveillance system so that it would meet U.S. Department of Defense requirements.
Mission Technologies, Inc., developed the unmanned aerial vehicle system, that is small enough to transport in a war fighter’s backpack and sophisticated enough to transmit real-time reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance data to field commanders and ground personnel. When the U.S. Department of Defense became interested in the product, Mission Technologies, Inc. had to decrease the launcher’s overall size and weight.
Mission Technologies, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Beverly Cox called U.S. Representative Henry Bonilla’s office to discuss the value of the contract to the San Antonio area economy and requested assistance. Cox was provided with contact information for the federally funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), the business retention and expansion arm of the Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation.
''The partnership created between the outstanding engineers at NASA and Mission Technologies has solved a problem that will benefit the safety and security of all Americans,'' said Congressman Henry Bonilla. ''I am proud of NASA's Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program. With hard-work and great partnership, NASA is creating jobs for Americans while solving real-life issues for our nation.''
The strong partnership between Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation and NASA Johnson Space Center provided access and enthusiasm for the project to move forward quickly.
“This success story is a perfect example of how public/private partnerships impact the growth of small businesses,” said SATOP Executive Director Bob Mitchell. “The economic impact that SATOP brings to the Texas economy is tremendous.”
The SATOP project engineer matched NASA - JSC engineers John Muratore and Bernie Rosenbaum with the project. They were given the challenge of reducing the product’s overall weight. Further mechanical engineering improvements were incorporated to enhance the product’s manageability during field operations.
The two NASA engineers knew the aircraft had to be easily transportable and meet the flying speed requirements. They analyzed the launcher and deduced that the two designs the company had developed were too large, too heavy and put too much stress on the aircraft. It was determined that the aircraft performed better than the NASA engineers had anticipated and did not require a higher speed for takeoff. Hence, they set out to improve interfaces and reduce the weight and size of the launcher.
Rosenbaum, who spent many years solving mechanical problems on the Space Shuttle, took a personal interest in the project. He took the launcher home and developed a prototype that reduced the weight of the launcher from 35 to 10 pounds, thereby allowing Mission Technologies to meet the requirements set out by the Department of Defense.
Cox said the space age technology assistance was exactly what her company needed to meet the critical prerequisites of the Army scouts, Air Force force protection and homeland defense. She said innovative engineers with spacecraft expertise, were not readily available to the commercial sector. For Mission Technologies, the SATOP assistance provided tremendous savings of cost and time. The upgraded product was completed in the fourth quarter of 2002 and Mission Technologies delivered three systems, which included the new launcher.
The small company could be in full rate production by the end of 2003 with sales potential to export approved military organizations worldwide. With only 20 employees, the small business has been catapulted into a medium-sized company, with a contract to manufacture the portable reconnaissance systems for the U.S.