The Applied Physics Laboratory has entered into an agreement with the BFGoodrich Company to license space technology originally developed for government sponsors. This agreement will enable Goodrich to take steps toward making APL-developed technology available for the first time to the commercial marketplace.
As a first project, APL will license its Micro Digital Solar Attitude Detector Chip technology to Goodrich's Space and Electro Optics Systems division, located in Danbury, Conn. The technology is a miniaturized version of a solar attitude detector used by many navigation and control subsystems to determine a satellite's location relative to the sun. APL inventors Kim Strohbehn and Mark Martin have miniaturized the entire detector system to fit onto a microchip, a significant achievement according to APL Space Department Head Stamatios Krimigis.
"The ability to put this 'instrument' onto a chip makes it possible to use this orbital position locator in microsatellites," Krimigis says. "And, given the chip's optical characteristics, this tiny instrument can monitor solar panel, boom, antenna and optical device deployment, thus significantly broadening its range of commercial space applications."
Ron Hodges, president of the Goodrich SEOS division, indicated the technology would be assessed to determine its usefulness in the company's efforts to develop products such as a high-performance sun sensor, laser optic warning device or a mininavigator.
"This is another example of making wise use of government-sponsored technology," says Joseph J. Suter, Technology Programs director in APL's Office of Technology Transfer, referring to recent Laboratory initiatives to share its wide range of technology developments and expertise, from software to ultrastable oscillators, with private enterprise through licensing agreements and the formation of spin-off companies.
Both organizations anticipate that success on this first project will lead to additional collaboration in support of commercial and government markets. According to Krimigis, the Goodrich agreement furthers the Space Department's public service mission by seeding Lab-developed technologies into the commercial market, providing benefits to industry and, in many cases, the government. In addition, he says, APL can leverage resulting state-of-the-art commercial applications to help government sponsors solve their problems.