NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, Santa Clara County
(AD-24, SD-13)

Eugene L. Tu, PhD, Center Director

Lisa Lockyer, Government Affairs | (650) 604-3009

Matt Buffington, Public Affairs | (650) 604-3448


NASA Ames Research Center (NASA Ames) was established in 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and named for the chair of NACA, Joseph S. Ames. With the formation of NASA in 1958, the Laboratory was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center. It is located at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, now the heart of Silicon Valley.

Originally, NASA Ames research focused on construction of increasingly sophisticated wind tunnels, research aircraft, and theoretical aerodynamics. Today NASA Ames is a leader in nanotechnology, information technology, fundamental space biology, biotechnology, thermal protection systems, and human factors research. NASA Ames serves as an active portal bringing together specialized NASA R&D along with a research cluster of affiliated high-tech companies, universities, and other federal laboratories — to advance both NASA’s mission and the American economy.


  • No. of Employees: 4,700
  • Annual Budget: $929 million (2016)
  • Annual Payroll: $209 million (2016)
  • Procurements to CA Businesses: $428 million (2016)
  • Contracts to Small Businesses: $190 million (2016)
  • Spin-off Companies: 137 (since 1996)


NASA Ames provides expertise to California through a highly talented cadre of scientists and engineers experienced in leveraging their unique capabilities with renowned research universities, social entrepreneurs, and top business executives. The Ames presence in Silicon Valley offers California easy access to NASA technologies, facilities, and expertise. NASA Ames and its partners provide California with the opportunity to quickly gain access to a wide range of potential solutions to challenging regional concerns.

NASA Ames generates quantifiable financial benefits in California as a result of its activities. Operating activities at NASA Ames provide our state with $1.65 billion in annual economic benefits and support approximately 9,400 permanent jobs.

Many NASA-developed technologies and discoveries have practical applications and significant future commercial value through the creation of new industries, products, services, and jobs (e.g., small inexpensive satellites). NASA Ames is deeply committed to collaborations, both public and private. The NASA Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs provided more than $40 million in Phase I and Phase II awards to California firms, resulting in an estimated economic impact of more than $83 million and 378 jobs in 2015.


NASA Ames’ service to both the state and region includes:

  1. Being a trusted source of subject matter experts.
  2. Unique aerospace and earth science technologies.
  3. Advanced modeling and simulation capabilities.
  4. Testing facilities and intellectual property, which support collaborations that lead to regional economic development.
  5. Core competencies in air traffic management, entry systems, advanced computing and IT systems, intelligent/adaptive systems, cost-effective space missions, aero-sciences, astrobiology and life sciences, and space and earth sciences.

NASA Ames develops groundbreaking technologies for NASA missions, while seeking to promote collaboration with U.S. industry. NASA Ames has partnered with the California Department of Water Resources, the California Department of Parks, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

Such collaborations offer breakthroughs each year for the benefit of the American public. NASA Ames continues to expand partnerships that can leverage taxpayer-funded NASA research and technology for the benefit of the State of California and the country.


The Mars 2020 Rover is one of the mostly highly anticipated robotic missions in NASA’s history. Specialized ultraviolet lasers developed by Photon Systems of Covina, California, under the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, will help the Mars Rover trace miniscule amounts of chemicals such as amino acids — the building blocks of life.

Back here on Earth, Photon Systems is working with both Pfizer and DuPont to repurpose this technology for quality control checks of manufacturing equipment, and to look for trace amounts of contaminants in manufactured pills and food products. Commercial revenue stemming from this SBIR-funded technology has exceeded $8 million.


While most people equate NASA with space exploration, the agency also helps set standards across the general aviation industry and influences how Americans fly every day. Empirical Systems Aerospace, Inc. of San Luis Obispo, California, received SBIR awards to increase efficiency in commercial aircrafts, resulting in lower fuel costs and fewer harmful emissions. The work has led to follow-on NASA contracts, subcontracts with the Department of Defense, and increased collaboration with many of the nation’s top companies.


“At the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, NASA helps launch innovation.”
— Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto)



“NASA Ames Research Center is a tremendous source of innovation in the area.”
— Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties)


Alongside academic powerhouses such as the University of California campuses, Stanford, and Caltech, Californians can take pride in our unrivaled collection of federal laboratories and research centers. CCST helps facilitate links across the capabilities and talents of these labs and centers through its Federal Laboratory Affiliates program — convening their expertise to deliver impartial science advice in response to the Governor, the Legislature, and other state entities. Learn more about the federal labs and science centers benefiting California at

Find the California Council on Science and Technology on Facebook at, on Twitter @CCSTorg, and on LinkedIn. Learn more about CCST at

Updated: 2018.02.13