How A+QMC Became a NASA Spin-Off Company
"During a routine ground testing of a shuttle engine at Stennis Space Center, the measuring device for liquid oxygen failed and resulted in a fire that burned the test stand beyond repair. Anthony Kelley, an engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center, says the event prompted NASA to consider alternative approaches for measuring LOX fuel. “We started thinking about safe ways to accurately measure LOX flow without inducing serious failure,” he says.
At the time, there were no meters that met NASA’s stringent requirements for rocket engine LOX flow. The flow meter needed to perform with high accuracy in extreme temperatures and pressures and in various states—while ensuring no catastrophic failures.
To address the challenge, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center collaborated with a company called Quality Monitoring and Control (QMC) of Humble, Texas, through a 2001 Space Act Agreement. Together, the team brainstormed concepts and came up with a unique mathematical formula that was employed to make the new technology. Called a balanced flow meter (BFM), the invention was successfully applied in two of NASA’s rocket engine programs.
“The meters have operated accurately during highly dynamic flow conditions, which most metering technologies cannot do,” says Kelley. “The ability to meter and control propellants to very high levels of precision was proven.”
NASA’s technology transfer office saw the potential of the BFM for applications outside of NASA, it funded a test program to evaluate its performance. “In most applications, the BFM produces typical flow measurement accuracies around 0.2 percent in very harsh environments and with no moving parts,” says Kelley.
To commercialize the technology, QMC founded A+ FlowTek (now APlus-QMC LLC), also of Humble, Texas. A+ FlowTek licensed the BFM from NASA, and by 2004, the company made its first commercial sale. In 2007, the technology was designated the Marshall Space Flight Center Invention of the Year. In 2010, it won the prestigious Federal Laboratory Consortium National Excellence in Technology Transfer award across all Federal agencies."
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