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Cortland company connects with NASA experts

NASA on The Commons
via Flickr
Physicist Dr. Robert H. Goddard helped lay the groundwork for modern rocket science. This is Dr. Goddard at a blackboard in 1924 at Clark University.

Cortland Cable Company designs cables for “dynamic applications,” according to engineer Doug Bentley. These aren’t the cables that hook up your TV. Bentley is talking about cables that tow ships or control remote vehicles that scour the ocean floor.  So, as Bentley says, these cables have to survive a lot of flexing and stress.

Several years ago, when the company was just starting out, they came across a problem. They had to figure out how information from one end of the cable would be sent to the other. It’s easy to do with a basic cable running from a wall to a TV. When cables are several miles long and get twisted around under water, it’s much harder. Especially when those cables are thicker and have several layers.

Enter the rocket scientists at NASA.  There’s a little-known program that helps small businesses take advantage of the technical expertise developed in the US space program.  It’s called the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP).

Cortland Cable tapped the program through its relationship with the CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity.  Engineering formulas provided by a NASA contractor helped solve the cable problem. 

Interested in consulting with your own rocket scientist? According to SATOP’s website, this program is open to most small businesses. You have to apply, but if you’re approved, you can get up to 40 hours of technical consultation for free.


Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.