U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: May 11, 2001
Gear from Natick headed for Mount Everest
NATICK, Mass. -- Equipment and food from the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) is accompanying the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition Team that departed for Mount Everest March 11.
Through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between Natick Soldier Center and International Mountain Guides, two small modular general purpose tents, two modular command post tents and four photovoltaic panels were flown to Kathmandu, Nepal, for the expedition that will continue to examine what happened to mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine.
Cases of Meals Ready-to-Eat and Performance Enhancing Ration Components, such as the HooAH! nutritious booster bars and ERGO energy drinks, were provided by the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Program for climbers to assess during the expedition.
Mallory and Irvine disappeared June 8, 1924, on the Northeast Ridge, and nobody knows for sure if they were the first team to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain. Eric Simonson, expedition leader and owner of International Mountain Guides, along with four team members has joined two veteran Himalayan climbers, two team historians and team physician for the trip.
"The expedition provides a commercial avenue for testing the performance of Natick Soldier Center items in an extreme environment where a high level of human performance is critical," said Jean Hampel, project engineer at Natick's 21st Century Fabric Structures Group. "We want to get performance feedback-what worked, what didn't, what broke and any design suggestions."
The modular general purpose tents weigh nearly 470 pounds with poles, stakes and cases and are moved by truck. They are used for base camp operations where a larger, heavier tent is desirable to store bulk supplies.
"When (Simonson) found out about these tents, he said it was the answer to his need for heavy-duty tents," Hampel said.
Two command post tents were designated for the advanced base camp. Yaks can carry the tents separated into 50-pound segments.
One vestibule is being used for connecting two tents, and the second serves as an entryway. Both have floors. Flexible photovoltaic panels measuring 10 feet long by 1 foot wide fasten atop the vestibules or command post tents and produce 40 watts of power under full sunlight. They supply power for fluorescent lights inside the tent and charge batteries.
"The photovoltaic panels are part of a new research project. We took a chance in sending them off because it's the perfect solar environment," Hampel said. "What is tough is figuring out how to strap them down so the wind doesn't blow them off."
Food at the base camp is bought locally, but Simonson will use military-supplied rations when the team leaves for the summit.
The expedition allows the Combat Feeding Program to learn more about high altitude feeding, said Janice Rosado, a food technologist at the Joint Director's Office. At one point, the organization considered creating a high-altitude ration, and given enough research, that may still happen.
"When you get to those elevations, only certain foods become acceptable," Rosado said. "The participants are also in top physical condition operating under great stress, which allows us to get useful comments about performance enhancing rations."
Simonson visited the Soldier Systems Center in June, touring the facilities and presenting a slide show about his 1999 Mount Everest expedition that led to his current adventure. Hampel saw an opportunity for Natick to partner with Simonson's company because of the similarities between mountaineering and the military mission.
"In both you are taking a group of people who are self-supported to a remote location and trying to bring them back safely," she said.
The 2001 team is retracing Mallory and Irvine's footsteps on Everest. Along the route, climbers will attempt to locate and document artifacts of the early attempts-such as tents, oxygen cylinders, diaries and cameras-in order to reconstruct the events of the early climbs.
The team is investigating the 1924 camps and snow terraces where Mallory's body was discovered. Using metal detectors and subsurface imaging techniques, they will search for additional clues to the missing climbers and their cameras.
Internet coverage of the expedition's progress is found at www.mountainguides.com.
Government and Industry Parterning
CRDAs are legal methods permitting federal and non-federal agencies to begin a partnership to conduct specified research and development activities consistent with the laboratory's mission.
With the latest Mount Everest expedition, International Mountain Guides is using leading-edge food and equipment desirable for their climb while the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) is gaining valuable product evaluation information.
"We're gaining test results on our items and systems in an extreme environment," said Robert Rosenkrans, technology transfer manager at Natick. "It would cost thousands of dollars to do that on our own."
On the other hand, the CRDA allows International Mountain Guides to take advantage of technology and expertise developed by the federal government. The Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 initiated the idea of the CRDA as a vehicle where federal technology, and research and development could be acquired by the private sector for its own use.
"Congress wants to see the U.S. economy benefit from the many dollars spent on government research and development," Rosenkrans said.
A CRDA is a contractual agreement between partners but not a procurement contract. Both parties can share their products, facilities, equipment and expertise, but no federal dollars are allowed to be spent on a CRDA. Non-federal partners can spend money on the agreement and may do so if they anticipate increased commercial benefit.
The federal laboratory and its inventors are permitted to receive a percentage of the royalties generated as a result of commercialization. Private sector has the opportunity to obtain property rights to commercialize government inventions.
Natick has 40 active CRDAs with companies such as L.L. Bean, W.L. Gore, DuPont, Frito-Lay and Sara Lee. Many CRDAs involve food and clothing, but they extend to all product and research areas at Natick. Some military-fielded products developed under CRDAs that have been commercialized include nutritious energy bars and shelf-stable sandwiches.
Like the CRDA with International Mountain Guides, Rosenkrans said the most common way CRDAs are initiated is through government employees networking with companies where a partnership would be mutually beneficial.
Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.