NASA announced the 2004 NASA Government and Commercial Inventions of the Year Award winners today.

The Government Award went to researchers for their work in developing a thermal barrier and Space Shuttle solid rocket motor joint design. The Commercial Award went to the developer of a state-of-the-art high-temperature resin with numerous government and commercial applications.

Dr. Bruce Steinetz and Patrick Dunlap of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, won the Government Award. Their innovation is a unique, flexible, braided carbon- fiber thermal barrier designed to withstand the extreme-temperature environments in solid rocket motors and other industrial equipment.

Dr. Ruth Pater of NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., won the Commercial Invention of the Year Award for development of a thermosetting (permanently solidifying when heated) high-temperature polyimide resin system. Called LARC(TM) RP46, the resin was developed as a more environmentally friendly alternative to currently used resins.

“Our technical evaluation placed on the government invention a present value to America of approximately one-quarter billion dollars. Its use on the Space Shuttle and Atlas V rocket programs represents mission-critical successes,” said NASA’s Chief Engineer Rex Geveden. He chairs the Inventions and Contributions Board that makes the annual award.

“These inventions represent technologies that will serve NASA, as we implement the Vision for Space Exploration, while also contributing to advances in commercial aerospace applications,” Geveden added.

The revolutionary new thermal barrier solves the vexing problem of blocking 5,500-degree Fahrenheit rocket-combustion gases from reaching temperature- sensitive O-rings, while still allowing 900 pound-per-square-inch gases to properly seat them. This has been a problem challenging rocket motor designers for decades.

The resin developed by Pater is relatively inexpensive, and it can be readily processed into a high-quality graphite-fiber-reinforced composite. The resin can be used in temperatures ranging from minus 150 degrees to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and hot spikes up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods.

The composite material can push the service temperature to the limits of organic materials. It also gives a competitive edge in applications requiring very high temperature, light weight, high strength, chemical and moisture resistance. The resin can also be used as an adhesive, molding, coating, foam or film.

The sales and use of the resin system have increased dramatically since the first commercial sales in 2001. Due to its increasing success, the technology won the Langley Research Center Paul F. Holloway Technology Transfer Award for 2004.

Commercial applications include automotive transportation, defense, sporting goods, electronics, oil drilling and civil engineering. Commercialization of the polyimide in these market sectors is being pursued through Unitech, LLC, Hampton, Va., under a non-exclusive license from NASA.

Emerging systems, such as the next generation reusable launch vehicle, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jet fighter, the Joint Strike Fighter, and many other defense and commercial systems, will contain components manufactured from LARC(TM) RP46.

For more information about the Government Invention of the Year Award and the Invention and Contributions Board, on the Internet, visit:

For more information about the Commercial Invention of the Year and LARC(TM) RP46, on the Internet, visit:

For media interviews with Steinetz and Dunlap, contact Sallie Keith, at Glenn public affairs, at: 216/433-5795. For interviews with Pater, contact Chris Rink, at Langley public affairs, at: 757/864-6786.