This week, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released 56 of its patents to public domain for unrestricted commercial use. Because of this anyone who wants can now use the patents without licensing agreements with the space agency.

“By making these technologies available in the public domain, we are helping foster a new era of entrepreneurship that will again place America at the forefront of high-tech manufacturing and economic competitiveness,” NASA’s Daniel Lockney said in a statement.

Although this may seem odd, NASA isn’t the only agency to release patents to the public domain. In 2014 Tesla Motors Inc., the electric car company founded by Elon Musk, opened up all of its patents.

“We think the market is plenty big enough for everyone,” Musk said. “If we can do things that don’t hurt us and help the U.S. industry, we should do that.”

Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that Elon Musks space agency SpaceX is partnered with NASA. Regardless, this news seems to be part of a bigger push by large technology agencies to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to commercialize previously patented technologies.

The 56 patents that were released by NASA include a long list of technical areas including a large amount of optics and photonics. This includes patents regarding solar energy, fiber-optics, and waveform-processing.

If you are interested in these patents you can check out NASA’s searchable database here.

It will be interesting to see how these newly released patents are utilized. What do you think?