When the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced in October, 2009 new requirements for the air transport of containers carrying potentially volatile oxygen cylinders, Texas Calibration’s Bob Logan knew his company had the opportunity to provide a safe solution.

Airline oxygen cylinders provide emergency oxygen to the crew in the event of a loss in cabin pressure. After a defined period of time, the cylinders are shipped to a facility for inspection and recertification. The new DOT regulations require the shipping containers be highly heat resistant because, in the event of a fire onboard an aircraft, oxygen cylinders can potentially rupture and cause an explosion.

While Logan had a general idea of how a new container could be constructed, he needed help in assuring it would be adequately heat resistant. That’s when he decided to contact the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) to help solve the technical challenge he was facing.

In Texas, SATOP is administered by the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and is funded by NASA and the State of Texas to provide free technical assistance to small U.S. businesses. Logan filled out the online Request for Technical Assistance and was contacted by SATOP Program Manager Nick Gardner. Gardner paired Logan’s Texas Calibration company with materials engineering expert Paul Ledoux at SPACEHAB, a commercial aerospace company and SATOP Alliance Partner.

Using space age materials and concepts, Ledoux helped Logan select suitable heat resistant components for the container’s design that meet or exceed the DOT’s mandates in flame penetration, impact and thermal resistance.

After SPACEHAB provided Ledoux’s recommendations to Texas Calibration and the SATOP request was satisfactorily closed, Logan asked if SPACEHAB would be interested in entering into a business relationship in order to manufacture the container. SPACEHAB accepted, and the AirWard Corporation of Houston, Texas was founded. They now produce the safer, more robust oxygen cylinder transport container and are currently selling it to the airline industry.

Gardner was pleased to hear of the new joint venture. “SATOP is simply a technology transfer program,” he explained. “However, participation in the program can sometimes provide a networking opportunity that leads to a new business relationship. When that happens, it’s a win-win for everyone!” www.airward.net