From the memory foam in your mattress to the advanced alloys in your tennis racquet, NASA is behind some of the biggest technological advances of our time. Now, the space agency is giving other inventors the chance to build on those by letting them use its patents — for free.

NASA's Technology Transfer Program says it's opening up its patent portfolio and waiving the costs associated with using the patents for at least the first three years of a company's product development. Once a startup has brought the product to market, NASA will start collecting a "standard net royalty fee," but otherwise inventors will be able to use the patents however they like.

Combining NASA technologies, or building on them in new ways, could lead to further advances in materials science, communications, manufacturing, heath and medicine or robotics, to name a few. NASA maintains a searchable database of all the eligible patents for licensing under its startup initiative. They cover everything from an airplane that can fly in low-density atmospheres like Mars to super-accurate lasers that can transfer data through space at the speed of light to lie-detection technology.

Although we think of NASA as mainly a science and exploration agency, it's easy to forget that it designs some pretty interesting stuff in service of that mission.