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State, NASA Goddard sign partnership to promote business growth

State officials announced a partnership with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Monday that aims to attract and grow companies that can help support space missions or adapt NASA technology for other commercial purposes.

A memorandum of understanding between the state and the Greenbelt installation will help the two share industry trends, technology licensing opportunities and work force demands, said Nona Cheeks, chief of Goddard's innovative technology partnerships office. As part of the partnership, Goddard plans to host a "Space Academy" program for businesses to connect with NASA and each other on projects, whether they are related to space or not, she said.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Goddard Director Chris Scoles announced and signed the agreement.

"This long-standing partnership between the state and Goddard — now formalized — is about creating family-supporting jobs and expanding opportunity for local businesses, building a stronger future for Maryland's innovation economy," said O'Malley, according to prepared statements.

The partnership is designed to duplicate successes of companies like Design America, a small College Park company that was hired to develop and manage the ground satellite communication system for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, a Mars-bound mission that launched Nov. 18. The company had helped build the technology for NASA in the 1990s and then licensed it from the agency in 2003 to provide it to NASA or other commercial satellite projects, said Tom Green, the company's CEO.

In other cases, NASA technology can be used to spur activity in other industries. Imaging components used in the Hubble Space Telescope were applied to improve mammography technology, for example, and officials are exploring application of technology from the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's planned successor, to medical device technology, Cheeks said.

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