Special Coverage

Self-Healing Wire Insulation
Thermomechanical Methodology for Stabilizing Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) Response
Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams
High Field Superconducting Magnets
Active Response Gravity Offload and Method
Strat-X
Sonar Inspection Robot System
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Heterogeneous Spacecraft Networks

Heterogeneous Spacecraft Networks (HSNs) are network environments in which spacecraft from different missions and institutions can communicate with each other at a low cost and with low impact on overall system resources. The technology of heterogeneous wireless networks has yet to be extended to space networks, where multiple spacecraft operating with various platforms use wireless technology to communicate. This communication need is growing given the increasing number of small satellites or nanosats being launched. Enabling such communication is significant, because connecting spacecraft offers a multiplier effect, connecting limited-capability spacecraft from small countries and institutions with more established networks that offer the possibility of an abundance of useful information for all concerned. In a growing sector where commercial space is ascending, allowing facile data transfer between a wide variety of space hardware and commercial communication platforms will soon be a necessity.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications

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Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams

Applications include use in CubeSat communications, the spacecraft industry, and in small satellites. NASA has developed a new technology for space optical communications, including communications from the Earth to spacecraft in Earth orbit and in deep space, such as at the Moon and Mars. The innovation changes the architecture of space optical communications so that a new laser beam pointing technology is used to improve optical data transmissions from spacecraft. This technology will detect a signal laser beam and then return a modulated laser beam to the ground terminal or other transmitter station in a new way. This new design can replace current methods that either use a laser together with a pointing, acquisition, and tracking (PAT) procedure in the spacecraft, or a powerful ground-based laser with a retro-reflector in the spacecraft.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications

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Hybrid Loop Element Design for Enhanced High-Frequency Reflector/Reflectarray Performance

New design enables the shared aperture design approach. The purpose of this invention is to provide a novel, low-loss, dual-band reflectarray element design that is transparent and low-loss across one frequency band (Ka-band in the initial application), and provides the phasing and beam collimation capability across the other band (W-band in the initial application). The surface comprises a periodic lattice of “hybrid loop” reflectarray elements that is phased to collimate a beam in a manner similar to that of a phased array. The reflectarray surface can be designed with arbitrary feed source positioning, which alleviates focal plane line contention between the two bands and enables the shared aperture design approach.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications

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A Simplified Production of Organic Compounds Containing High Enantiomer Excesses

NASA has developed a novel approach for producing sugars and sugar acids enriched with one of the two enantiomers of individual compounds. This approach can also be adapted for other compounds, such as amino acids. All objects, including chemical compounds, have mirror images, some of which cannot be superimposed. In the case of chemical compounds, these non-superimposable mirror images are called enantiomers and are widely used in biological processes. NASA’s method produces high enantiomer excesses from simple and relatively inexpensive precursors (formaldehyde and simple salts) and hardware components without the need and expense of using (at some stage) biological sources. Unlike the commercial production of most rare enantiomers, this innovation employs conditions that are extremely common, non-biological, and relatively inexpensive to set up.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical

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Generation of High-Pressure Oxygen Via Electrochemical Pumping in a Multi-Stage Electrolysis Stack

Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed a method for producing pure high-pressure oxygen via an electrochemical pumping process through a solid oxide electrolysis (SOE) cell stack. Glenn’s device can either concentrate the oxygen in the ambient atmosphere or extract the oxygen via the chemical reduction of carbon dioxide, water, or any combination of these substances. This solid-state device does not use any moving parts or any extra separation processes to purify the delivered oxygen. Instead, Glenn’s technology relies on a multi-stage stack design and an SOE process that includes an oxygen-ion-conducting ceramic membrane to generate high-pressure oxygen within a compact, noiseless device. This process has great potential for use in medical, industrial, and recreational applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical

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Tension Distribution in Tendon-Driven Fingers

The technology can be used in telemedicine, surgical robotics, home medical service robotics, medical rehabilitation, and hospital service robotics. Researchers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot called Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple component technologies and systems encompassing nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies with the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries, including the medical industry. R2 technologies can aid in a variety of medical applications, ranging from telemedicine to handling the logistics of medical procedures. These activities can be done in autonomous mode or in teleoperation mode, where the robot is controlled by a technician or physician. This type of operation would be advantageous in situations where a biomedical hazard poses risks to humans, such as a contagious outbreak or a combat situation. For more routine daily use, R2 could function as an assistant to the hospital staff.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical

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Rapid Polymer Sequencer

Solid-state nanopore-based analysis of nucleic acid polymers is revolutionary. No other technique can determine information content in single molecules of genetic material at speeds of 1 subunit per microsecond. Since individual molecules are counted, the output is intrinsically quantitative. The nanopore approach is more generalized than any other method and may be used to analyze any polymer molecule, applying nanofabrication, nanoelectronic components, and high-speed signal acquisition. Geometry of the solid-state nanopore (less than 5 nm in length and 5 nm in diameter) will enable 1-5 nucleotide resolution measurements. This means that maximum resolution will be improved by 100-fold compared to biological ion-channel measurements. The solid-state nanopore sensor will permit sequencing DNA at a much faster rate, along with analyzing electronic properties of individual subunits of DNA or RNA, to obtain linear composition of each genetic polymer molecule.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical

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