Mission Possible: NASA Glenn is a job generator for Northeast Ohio

CLEVELAND — Propulsion is in NASA Glenn Research Center’s DNA. From airplane jet engines to rocket fuel to ion thrusters that will help us return and stay on the Moon. While doing all this, they’re powering our regional aerospace industries. That caught the attention of NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy and Senator Sherrod Brown who visited Glenn twice this year to talk business.

“We work on hard technologies because it’s our job to develop the technology of the future that then has an economic impact in our aviation and increasingly in our space industry,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said.

“We know that these companies exist to serve us as a nation, but these companies exist because we have NASA Glenn here,” added Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

Local companies like Zin Technologies have partnered with NASA Glenn for decades, while startups like Petra Power have come on more recently. The young company is using 3 different technologies developed at Glenn to produce their solid oxide fuel cells.

“Solid oxide fuel cells are a technology that converts fuel directly to electricity without the need for burning it,” explained Petra Power Founder and CEO Aaron Goodman. “So, they’re far more efficient and far cleaner than the combustion engines that we aim to replace.”

Unlike batteries that store energy, Petra’s fuel cells create energy and, in the future, could support small power grids, trucks, aircraft and ships.

“NASA Glenn is very upfront and forward about what they have in their portfolio and what it can do and then very accommodating and getting that technology in the hands of business leaders who are trying to commercialize it,” said Goodman.

Out of all federal agencies, NASA has “cracked the code” on how best to work with and support local industry according to Melroy.

“We need to partner with industries so that the technologies we develop can rapidly benefit the American people,” stated Melroy. “And then we get to work on the next hard problem. And that way the expertise and the knowledge gets incorporated into the community, and that’s where we can make our biggest impact.”

Leading to job creation here on the ground.

“It’s exciting because we are a state that’s going to move forward because of this,” said Brown.

NASA Glenn’s total economic impact on Ohio was $1.9 billion in 2021 according to a study by Cleveland State University.

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