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Computing Spacecraft-Pointing Vectors for Limb Tracking

LMBTRK is a computer program that is used together with two software libraries known as ERHAND and HYBRRD to generate spacecraft-pointing vectors for limb-tracking maneuvers needed for experiments on propagation of radio signals through planetary atmospheres. LMBTRK determines, as a function of time, the direction in which one must point a ray (representing a radio beam) emitted by a spacecraft in order to make the ray pass through a planetary atmosphere on its way to a receiving station at a known location. LMBTRK was written for Sun computers running the Solaris operating system and has been running on a cluster of such computers used in the Radio Science System of the Cassini Spacecraft mission.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Better Finite-Element Analysis of Composite Shell Structures

A computer program implements a finite-element-based method of predicting the deformations of thin aerospace structures made of isotropic materials or anisotropic fiber-reinforced composite materials. The technique and corresponding software are applicable to thin shell structures in general and are particularly useful for analysis of thin beamlike members having open cross-sections (e.g. I-beams and C-channels) in which significant warping can occur.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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MMIC Amplifier Produces Gain of 10 dB at 235 GHz

This is the fastest MMIC amplifier reported to date. The first solid-state amplifier capable of producing gain at a frequency >215 GHz has been demonstrated. This amplifier is an intermediate product of a continuing effort to develop amplifiers having the frequency and gain characteristics needed for a forthcoming generation of remote-sensing instruments for detecting water vapor and possibly other atmospheric constituents. There are also other potential uses for such amplifiers in wide-band communications, automotive radar, and millimeter- wave imaging for inspecting contents of opaque containers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Integrated Radial Probe Transition From MMIC to Waveguide

Packaging based on wire bonding would be supplanted by monolithic integration. A radial probe transition between a monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) and a waveguide has been designed for operation at frequency of 340 GHz and to be fabricated as part of a monolithic unit that includes the MMIC. Integrated radial probe transitions like this one are expected to be essential components of future MMIC amplifiers operating at frequencies above 200 GHz. While MMIC amplifiers for this frequency range have not yet been widely used because they have only recently been developed, there are numerous potential applications for them — especially in scientific instruments, test equipment, radar, and millimeter- wave imaging systems for detecting hidden weapons.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Polarization Recycling for Lighting LCD's More Efficiently

Unpolarized light would be utilized fully, without enlargement of the illuminated area. Two polarization-recycling techniques have been proposed to increase the efficiency of illumination of liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels. The motivation for this proposal lies in the inherent inefficiency of an LCD panel: For proper operation, illumination with polarized light is necessary, but a typical lamp generates unpolarized light. If one simply passes the lamp light through a polarizer on the way to the LCD panel, then one wastes the half of the light that is in the undesired polarization. To increase the efficiency of illumination, one would have to recycle the otherwise wasted light, converting the undesired polarization to the desired one; this is what is meant by "polarization recycling."

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Flexure Rings for Centering Lenses

The rings accommodate fabrication tolerances and thermal-expansion mismatches. Specially shaped mounting rings keep lenses precisely centered, regardless of temperature, in the lens housings of cameras and other optical systems. These rings feature (1) well-defined contact spots for alignment, plus (2) relieved surfaces that form flexures to accommodate small manufacturing tolerances and differences among the thermal expansions of lenses, lens housings, and the rings themselves. These rings are made by numerically controlled machining of recently developed clean, strong, machinable plastics.

Posted in: Mechanics, Briefs, TSP

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Software Improves Management of Dynamic Memory

This software increases efficiency in the allocation and use of storage space. The Dynamic Memory Management System (DMMS) is a computer program that was developed in response to some major shortcomings of dynamic-memory- management subsystems of typical operating systems. It is designed for use with the VxWorks operating system, but is easily ported to other operating systems.

Posted in: Software, Briefs

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