Thoughts on the NACA Model for Technology Transfer

I published this week an op-ed in Space News entitled “The NACA Model for Technology Transfer.” In this piece I laid out the manner in which the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) approached the issue of deciding, developing, and disseminating the results of research and development (R&D) projects. If you are interested in this subject I would refer you to the piece on the Space News website, which I have linked to above.

At various times politicians and others have suggested that the NACA model of R&D should become the new standard for NASA in the twenty-first century. In 1995 then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (Republican-Georgia) famously declared that although he favored science and technology investment he believed that NASA should have been dismantled after Apollo and returned to its NACA roots. Mr. Gingrich was not alone in this observation, and I asked two central questions about this possible course at the end of my op-ed: “Is this the model NASA should pursue going forward when it comes to research and development of space technologies? Assuming some changes in NASA’s approach are appropriate, how might the NACA model of technology transfer be altered for a new age in the 21st century?”

I immediately heard from friends about meeting them to consider answers to those questions over a drink. That would be a worthwhile exercise, no doubt, but I’m curious if others have thoughts about those questions and how NASA might most effectively accomplish its mission moving forward at this critical juncture in its history. Is the NACA model the way to go, or are other approaches more effective?

Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, and Howard Hughes were among the attendees at Langley's 1934 Aircraft Manufacturers' Conference. Conference guests assembled underneath a Boeing P-26A Peashooter in the Full-Scale Tunnel for this photo. (NASA photo L-9850)

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4 Responses to Thoughts on the NACA Model for Technology Transfer

  1. shirshor says:


    The model you suggest is largely what remains in place for NASA’s aeronautics research. In ARMD (Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate), the measure of success of our research whether the technology is or can be transferred to industry. ARMD’s portfolio is determined based upon industry’s and other governmental agency’s needs – if it doesn’t pertain to the needs of the aviation community, and/or if industry has no interest in the technology, then we don’t pursue it. The research and technology development is not self serving. As such ARMD frequently solicits needs for industry (through RFI’s and other mechanisms) and many times our work is cost-shared with industry.

    Having said that, your thought as to whether this could be a model for space technology development has occurred to me. The value proposition and major driver for development and settlement of space and celestial bodies is, in my mind, commerce. Exploration and scientific knowledge, or even national prestige, will not alone provide the stimulus. But the prospect for commerce and the investment and development that accompanies it would I think provide a sustainable motivation for space development. If NASA were to pursue and develop technologies that could be handed off to the space industry, reducing risk and empowering our national economy, just like we do in ARMD, I have no question the settlement of space would be accelerated AND the political support for NASA would be enhanced.

    • launiusr says:

      Thanks for your thoughts on this. I recognize that NASA’s aeronautical research program follows this earlier R&D approach. My questions about its applicability to the space arena I think are useful to consider as we move forward. Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: Naca results | Jamesandjennif

  3. Pingback: Redirect: “The NACA Model for Technology Transfer” | Roger Launius's Blog

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