The ability to actively control permeability in fabrics has many applications including in parachutes, clothing, shelters, sails, and filtration products. The airflow control can be integrated into the canopies in a variety of ways. NASA can use the system for a variety of applications including sub-orbital, re-entry into earth's atmosphere, or flights within other planet's atmosphere. The Sounding Rockets Program Office (SRPO), located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, provides suborbital launch vehicles, payload development, and field operations support to NASA and other government agencies. With improved landing accuracy, without increasing payload weight, launches could be performed for less money and with improved landing locations. For re-entry, NASA, as well as multiple commercial space launch systems, are looking for improved landing accuracy. Many of the systems are using complex rocket systems, but a simple ram air canopy with improved landing accuracy could reduce the complexity of the landings and make the overall system less expensive. One of NASA Strategic Plan objectives is providing emergency abort capability and ensuring safe re-entry and landing. This ram air canopy design cuts across multiple strategic objects to enable safer flights, improves maturing transformative solutions, and enables improved emergency systems.
The technology also has commercial potential in sports ram air canopies for increased steering capability, improved glide, higher safety margins, as well as potential to provide increased capabilities for hot air ballooning, gliders, and sailing. For the military, parachutes are a vital technology for moving Warfighters, ammunition, and other supplies to the battlefield. Personnel parachutes provide life support for paratroopers and are part of the ejection seat of aircraft for the pilot. Cargo parachutes are used to drop military equipment and supplies from aircraft. Many aircraft also use deceleration parachutes to slow down. For disaster relief, a parachute may also be used for delivering medicines, goods and other supplies to isolated victims. This actively controlled airflow fabric has several benefits that improve control in parachutes. The system incorporates an innovative control system using shape memory alloy that is likely to lead to a simple, effective fabric for airflow control with minimal weight gain and low volume changes. This actively controlled airflow provides will directional control and glide control (increased lift).