Monthly Archives: November 2011

LAUNCH:Energy Super-Charged!

Sparks fly when innovative thinkers join together to address critical issues — like solving the world’s sustainability problems. LAUNCH gives us a unique opportunity to expand the Fellowship of Innovation with  ten new LAUNCH innovators, several dozen new LAUNCH Council Members, and new members of the LAUNCH team. What a privilege to recharge my creative batteries in this unique creative power source.

LAUNCH: Energy view of Vehicle Assembly Building

LAUNCH: Energy. Space Shuttle Endeavour waits for us over at the VAB.

It was only one week ago when NASA hosted LAUNCH: Energy at the Kennedy Space Center. Quick summary: ten innovators presented TED-like presentations to thought leaders in their various disciplines. Presentations are followed by high impact round table discussions with each innovator to probe, question, and evaluate the potential of each innovation.

LAUNCH: Energy is our third sustainability forum, following LAUNCH: Water and LAUNCH: Health. This was our first without a Space Shuttle launch to plan around. We’ve never hosted an event at the Kennedy Space Center during a holiday weekend. A government facility on a long weekend feels like a ghost town — eerily deserted. On the flip side, we had the place to ourselves. We FINally snagged the Mission Management Team meeting room, which was always our first choice. Planning events during Space Shuttle launches means prime real estate is already spoken for, and rightly so.

Press site

The press site looks so empty without a Space Shuttle launch.

We were fortunate to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building where post-retirement Space Shuttle Endeavour takes shelter. I have to admit, seeing her without her eyes, nose, and engines made me heartsick. How strange to stare in the face of history.

Space Shuttle Endeavour in her twilight years.

Space Shuttle Endeavour in her twilight years.

Many ask us: Why LAUNCH?

LAUNCH is our opportunity to problem-solve for an entire weekend with a group of innovative thinkers who care deeply about saving the world — social entrepreneurship at its best. As a bonus, we hopefully infect participants with our “Yes We Can” space virus that they, in turn, spread to their colleagues, friends and families.

Personally, LAUNCH is an intellectual treat. Brain candy!

LAUNCH is all about three things for NASA:

  1. sharing the sustainability story of how life off this planet mirrors Earth — we have no natural resources in space which forces us to generate, collect, store, conserve, recycle, and manage our resources wisely — just like Earth but more extreme;
  2. offering our problem-solving expertise and convening power of the NASA brand to host a crucial conversation with innovative problem solvers from around the world, and
  3. promoting the emergence of transformative technology to solve problems that we share as global citizens of this planet, which may also address issues of long-duration life in the extremes of space.
Inspirational setting for LAUNCH:Energy

Can you think of a more "problem-solving" setting?

Fellowship of Innovation

The ten innovators, who are now part of our innovation fellowship (and FAMILY) offer a variety of solutions to address energy sustainability challenges. The innovations include an economical fuel cell that can be recharged in a cooking fire, a thin flexible electrochromic film that can be applied to windows or surfaces to manage energy use, a low temperature heat activated fluid motion pump, a hydrokinetic turbine, a 96% efficient wood combustion cookstove process, a thermal energy battery for economical refrigeration in remote locations, a next generation fast-charging, long-lasting ultracapacitor battery, an integrated smart microgrid, a lightweight energy management system, and a solar-powered lantern/charger.

Solantern light, charging station, and solar charger.

Solantern light, charging station, and solar charger.

Social Entrepreneurship

At its essence, LAUNCH is an enterprise grounded in social entrepreneurship — the effort to target large-scale transformational outcomes to make life better for a segment of the underserved populations on our planet.

Side Note: Social entrepreneurship is near and dear to my heart and the topic of my PhD research. Thanks to two separate bus rides from Kennedy Space Center back to our hotel in Orlando, I refined my research proposal — which was due immediately following LAUNCH: Energy. Council members Carrie Freeman of Intel and James Parr, formerly of IDEO and founder of Imaginals, introduced me to new concepts and potential research paths. I came home and rewrote my proposal.

LAUNCH is the innovation soup we create by pulling together just the right ingredients and turning up the heat — like a long bus ride at the end of a long day.

Hatching new ideas on ride to and from Kennedy Space Center

Hatching new ideas on ride to and from Kennedy Space Center.


And now, the real work begins. The Accelerator process, the next phase, is the critical follow-through leg of the LAUNCH journey, where our LAUNCH team 1) walks the Innovators through recommendations and insights shared by the Council, 2) refines and crafts a forward strategy, and 3) helps make connections necessary to solidify future support for each innovation. This process can last from four-six months, depending on the wishes of the innovator and the maturity of the innovation.

Thanks to all the LAUNCH team for all the long hours in planning, preparation, and execution. Thanks to all the Council Members for giving so generously of your time. Thanks especially to all our LAUNCH Innovators for caring enough about the future of our human race to create transformative solutions. You guys ROCKet!!

To borrow from Innovator Frank Wang, “Let’s get super-charged. BOOM!”

LAUNCH Innovator Frank Wang, "Boom! Super-charged!!"

LAUNCH Innovator Frank Wang, "Boom! Super-charged!!"


LAUNCH:Energy Flickr photos by LAUNCH team member Dennis Bonilla.

LAUNCH:Energy photos by LAUNCH Council Member Michael Catalano.

Forum Concludes with LAUNCH of New Ideas to Generage, Store and Distribute Energy by LAUNCH Council and team member Rebecca Taylor

LAUNCH: Energy Forum — An Update from Mission Control  by Department of State team member Vy Manthripragada.

LAUNCH: Energy Forum — Fueling Ideas, Propelling Innovation by Department of State team member Vy Manthripragada.

LAUNCHing an Energized Future by LAUNCH team member Lena Delchad.

Collective Genius for a Better World by NASA’s Open Gov team member Ali Llewellyn.

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Filed under innovation, LAUNCH, NASA, social entrepreneurship, space, technology

LAUNCH: Energy

LAUNCH: Energy

This week, we celebrate ten disruptive innovations with groundbreaking ideas for provision and access to sustainable energy for both the developed and developing world populations. LAUNCH: Energy is a challenge of particular interest to NASA. Issues of sustainable energy are part of every human and robotic mission off of the planet. We have NO natural energy sources off the planet, so the creation, storage, conservation and replenishing of energy is one of our challenges in exploring the unknowns of space.


View the LAUNCH video.

LAUNCH is a unique initiative formed with founding partners are NASA, USAID, Department of State, and NIKE to identify solutions to the world’s most urgent sustainability challenges. For the sustainability forums, we identify innovations poised to create transformational change in critical sustainability issues, and connect innovators to thought leaders and advisors. After the forum, we work with the innovators to take recommendations compiled during the 2+ days at the Forum, and work with the innovators to sift through and implement the recommendations to help propel the innovations toward success.

Here are the innovators:

1. Gram Power: Yashraj Khaitan – A micro/mini-grid solution for underserved communities that utilizes modular battery storage technology, energy management intelligence, and a pre-payment model.

2. Hydrovolts: Burt Hamner – An affordable “Flipwing” turbine that enables reliable hydroelectricity generation from canals and other managed-flow water courses. @Hydrovolts

3. Turbococinas: Rene Nunez Suarez – A revolutionary clean and efficient wood combustion cookstove.

4. Point Source Power: Craig Jacobsen – An economical fuel cell for emerging markets that allows battery charging in cooking pits or fires.

5. The Solanterns Initiative: Nina Marsalek, Renewable Energy Ventures – An initiative dedicated to replacing 1 million of Kenya’s kerosene lanterns with solar powered lights. @Solanterns

6. Powerzoa: Jamie Simon – A smart system that allows enterprise-level energy managers to automate control of energy down to the appliance level, stopping power waste. @powerzoa

7. Promethean Power Systems: Sorin Grama – A rural refrigeration system for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. @PrometheanPower

8. NIFTE Pump: Mark Bryan, Thermofluidics – A pumping device that uses low-temperature heat to generate fluid motion with very few moving parts.

9. Flexible Electrochromic Film: Ashu Misra, ITN Energy Systems – A revolutionary flexible electrochromic film that allows active control of transmitted light and solar heating.

10. NanoTune Technologies: Frank Wang – An electrode innovation that produces ultracapacitors with five to seven times greater story capacity as conventional capacitors. @carbonmind

You can join us virtually at LAUNCH: Energy Forum on November 11-13 through U-stream link that will be posted on the LAUNCH website. You can also log on to MindMapr, which will have a twitter stream of the ongoing conversations between the LAUNCH Council and the ten innovators.

Crosspost on GovLoop.

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Filed under LAUNCH, NASA, technology