Scheduled for Friday, the final launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis will mark the end of an era for NASA, the United States, and manned spaceflight. But that’s not all.

The final Shuttle flight means that, at least for now, UTC Power’s long contribution to manned spaceflight also is coming to an end. The South Windsor company that designed and built the Shuttle’s fuel cells will no longer be maintaining the devices that power everything on the spacecraft. But the technology derived from spaceflight is now powering more down-to-earth applications like grocery stores and city buses.

UTC Power began operations in Connecticut in 1958 when the Advanced Power Systems Group at Pratt & Whitney decided to research new power generation methods. A bottom-up effort by engineers there convinced senior management at the time that a burgeoning spaceflight industry needed fuel cell technology.

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