The Office of the General Counsel is pleased to announce the winners of the Invention of the Year (IOY) Awards for 2017. NASA develops and funds the development of many valuable innovations. The annual IOY program recognizes those inventions that have significantly contributed to NASA programs, or that exemplify NASA’s mission to transfer cutting edge technology to U.S. industry.
The NASA Government Invention of the Year Award is awarded to the invention Inflatable Spacecraft Vessel, from the Johnson Space Center. The Inflatable Spacecraft Vessel is a pressurized module that is lightweight, collapsible and compact prior to launch and is capable of being subsequently enlarged to provide additional volume, such as for human habitation, laboratory work, stowage, containment and/or spaceflight. Inflatable spacecraft vessels have a lower launch/ascent volume ratio and a lower mass over volume (M/V) ratio when compared to traditional metallic vessels. This can result in a big mass savings due to the need for fewer hatches, interfaces and components than multiple smaller traditional metallic modules that are assembled in space. Additionally, Inflatable Spacecraft Vessels have the potential to increase the efficiency of cargo shipments, possibly reducing the number of launches needed for resupply and thus the overall mission. The technology has been licensed by Bigelow Aerospace to further advance commercial space applications. Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), the first ISS Crewed Expandable Module and an embodiment of the invention Inflatable Spacecraft Vessel, was successfully attached to the International Space Station in 2016.
A runner-up award was given to Battery Internal Short Circuit Device, from Johnson Space Center. This invention was developed to better understand failure modes, particularly overheating, in lithium-ion batteries. The device introduces latent flaws into test batteries to produce an internal short circuit, which can help battery manufacturers determine which battery design will best minimize the spread of a thermal runaway-induced fire in the battery. This permits the assessment of the safety of cell and battery designs for aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronic applications, and will enable safer cell designs.
Honorable Mentions were given to the following inventions: