Special Coverage

Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

Novel Threading Enables New Approach to Golf Clubs

Fastener threading technology used on shuttle engines reduces vibration in golf clubs.

Spinoff is NASA's annual publication featuring successfully commercialized NASA technology. This commercialization has contributed to the development of products and services in the fields of health and medicine, consumer goods, transportation, public safety, computer technology, and environmental resources.

Posted in: Articles, Manufacturing & Prototyping
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Representation and Analysis of System Behavior Using Monotonic Signals

NASA has developed a new method for analyzing complex system behavior that also may be viewed as a type of data visualization and decision support tool. Large complex control systems may have thousands or even millions of sensors, each providing some type of signal that ultimately integrates into a larger organization. For each signal, behavior is represented by a sequence of pairs, with each pair containing a change value (monotonic) and a time interval length over which each of these changes occurs. Signal amplitudes and first derivatives serve as markers for these time intervals. This approach permits a finer scale characterization of the signal(s). The novelty of this approach is in using human visual interpretation in combination with computer signal analysis to monitor the behavior of complex systems in an enhanced manner.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Product of the Month: May 2017

Spectrum Instrumentation Corp., Hackensack, NJ, introduced the DN6.44x, a range of 12 highspeed, 14- and 16-bit LXI-based digitizers with up to 24 fully synchronized channels. The 16-bit ADC models offer sampling rates of either 130 MS/s or 250 MS/s, and the 14-bit units feature sampling rates of 500 MS/s. The units are suitable for applications where arrays of receivers, sensors, detectors, rectifiers, antennas, and other electronic devices are to be used and tested. Each channel is equipped with its own front-end amplifier that features six input ranges (from ±200 mV to ±10 V full scale), switchable input impedance (50 Ω and 1 MΩ), and programmable positive input offset for unipolar signals. Analog bandwidth is as high as 250 MHz (for 500 MS/s models), enabling the units to capture electronic signals in the DC to 200-MHz frequency range. The instruments are equipped with onboard acquisition memory of 512 MSamples per channel, and feature an industrial chassis with integrated cooling, a replaceable dust filter, and low-noise power supplies.

Posted in: Products, Electronics & Computers
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GPS Satellite Geometry Analysis Tool (GPSGEM)

The purpose of the GPS Satellite Geometry Analysis Tool (GPSGEM) is to evaluate GPS satellite geometry for a given Earth-fixed location or for a provided trajectory. The tool will generate a listing of all satellites in view, the best satellite combination defined by the most optimum Geometric Dilution of Precision (GDOP), the GDOP profile expected if all satellites are available, and the worst-case GDOP profile when one or two satellites are removed from the available constellation. The tool will provide the navigation controller with insight into the expected performance of the GPS constellation, and allow an assessment of the implications to onboard navigation performance for the ascent, orbit, abort, and entry phases of flight.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications
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Propellant Distributor for a Thruster

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed several new technological innovations to improve the capability of Hall-effect thrusters, which are used primarily on Earth-orbiting satellites and can also be used for deep-space robotic vehicles. Hall thrusters are susceptible to discharge channel erosion from high-energy ion impingement, which can reduce operational thruster lifetimes. Glenn researchers have developed several approaches to mitigate this problem. One is a magnetic circuit design that minimizes discharge chamber ion impingement. Another successful improvement developed by Glenn is a means of replacing eroded discharge channel material via a channel wall replacement mechanism. A third innovation is a propellant distributor that provides both a high degree of flow uniformity, and shielding from back-sputtered contamination and other potential contaminants. All of these advances work toward increasing the operational lifetime and efficiency of Hall thrusters.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion
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Nanotubular Toughening Inclusions

This technology is used for making stable resin dispersions and composite plastic films, and for standard polymer melt processing.

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed an extensive technology portfolio on novel methods for effective dispersion of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in polymers. The technology portfolio extends from making stable dispersions of CNTs in polymer resins to processes for making composite CNT/polymer films and articles. The technologies apply to a range of polymer types, enable low or high CNT loadings as needed, and can be used with a variety of standard polymer processing methods, including melt processing. Currently, the technology is being used commercially for electrically conductive polymer films for components in electronic printers and copiers.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Floating Ultrasonic Transducer Inspection System and Method for Nondestructive Evaluation

The design allows a probe to easily move over surfaces being inspected without using a liquid couplant.

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a Floating Ultrasonic System for improved nondestructive testing. Most ultrasonic scanners require an external liquid coupling agent (e.g., water, gel, oil) to make a good contact between the probe and the surface being scanned; however, some surfaces are sensitive to moisture and/or contamination created by these agents. NASA created the Floating Ultrasonic System to address this issue. NASA's technology is based on a momentary touching scheme where a vibrating probe comes in contact with the structure for fractions of a second while performing measurements, giving the probe the appearance of floating across a surface. The design allows for the easy movement of the probe over surfaces being inspected without the use of a liquid couplant between the probe and the surface. Initial test results have also shown NASA's system to have performance comparable to that of liquid-couplant-based ultrasonic scanners.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors
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Development of Sodium Lidar for Spaceborne Missions

The metal layers at mesospheric altitudes are excellent tracers of neutral atmosphere dynamics, and have been used since the 1960s to study the chemistry and dynamics of the mesosphere. Ablation from meteors is believed to be the chief source of metals such as Na, Mg, K, Fe, and Ca in the middle atmosphere. Due to its relative abundance, large backscatter cross-section, and visible atomic transition, sodium (Na) has been used extensively for lidar studies of the mesosphere.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics
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Additive-Manufactured, Very Lightweight, Diamond Turned Aspheric Mirror

Industrial-grade, lightweight mirrors used in military and aeronautics have tight specifications brought on by demanding performance parameters. For example, a mirror that is used in an orbiting telescope would have to be extremely lightweight, stiff, and be configured to operate in extreme temperatures. These parameters traditionally work against each other. A material that is stiff is typically heavy, and a mirror that is lightweight and machinable may greatly distort when exposed to extreme heat or cold. Furthermore, materials that fit some of these parameters may not be easily machined to create a mirror, an art that requires high-precision tooling.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics
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3D Imaging Reveals Sub-surface Battery Flaws

Ed Barnard

Traditional imaging technologies have been used to investigate overall solar efficiency, but many of the methods only offer surface views. A new – and “exciting” – ultra-fast laser technique developed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provides a deeper look and maps a solar cell in three dimensions.

Posted in: Articles, Imaging, Photonics
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