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NASA Spinoff Keeps Drivers “Ice Free”

In the late 1990s, NASA Ames Research Center in California invented an anti-icing fluid that kept ice from building up on airplane wings. The fluid, when applied to a dry surface, prevented the ice from even forming a surface bond; if applied before ice formed, it served as a deicer. The formula contains propylene glycol, which has a very low freezing point, and a thickener that helps it adhere to the surface. Ice gathers on top of the surface, and can be wiped off with little effort.

Posted in: UpFront

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Floating Probe Assembly for Measuring Temperature of Water

Temperatures are measured at several depths. A floating apparatus denoted a temperature probe aquatic suspension system (TPASS) has been developed for measuring the temperature of an ocean, lake, or other natural body of water at predetermined depths. These types of measurements are used in computer models to relate remotely sensed water-surface temperature to bulk- water temperature. Prior instruments built for the same purpose were found to give inaccurate readings because the apparatuses themselves significantly affected the temperatures of the water in their vicinities. The design of the TPASS is intended to satisfy a requirement to minimize the perturbation of the temperatures to be measured.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Proton Collimators for Fusion Reactors

High-energy protons would be channeled into useful beams. Proton collimators have been proposed for incorporation into inertial- electrostatic- confinement (IEC) fusion reactors. Such reactors have been envisioned as thrusters and sources of electric power for spacecraft and as sources of energetic protons in commercial ion-beam applications. An artist's concept for an IEC powered spaceship designed for round trip missions to Mars and Jupiter is shown in the figure.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Thermo-Electron Ballistic Coolers or Heaters

These devices may surpass currently available thermoelectric devices. Electronic heat-transfer devices of a proposed type would exploit some of the quantum-wire-like, pseudo-superconducting properties of single-wall carbon nanotubes or, optionally, room- temperature- superconducting polymers (RTSPs). The devices are denoted thermo-electron ballistic (TEB) coolers or heaters because one of the properties that they exploit is the totally or nearly ballistic (dissipation or scattering free) transport of electrons. This property is observed in RTSPs and carbon nanotubes that are free of material and geometric defects, except under conditions in which oscillatory electron motions become coupled with vibrations of the nanotubes. Another relevant property is the high number density of electrons passing through carbon nanotubes — sufficient to sustain electron current densities as large as 100 MA/cm2. The combination of ballistic motion and large current density should make it possible for TEB devices to operate at low applied potentials while pumping heat at rates several orders of magnitude greater than those of thermoelectric devices. It may also enable them to operate with efficiency close to the Carnot limit. In addition, the proposed TEB devices are expected to operate over a wider temperature range.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Improved High-Voltage Gas Isolator for Ion Thruster

A report describes an improved highvoltage isolator for preventing electrical discharge along the flow path of a propellant gas being fed from a supply at a spacecraft chassis electrical potential to an ion thruster at a potential as high as multiple kilovolts. The isolator must survive launch vibration and must remain electrically nonconductive for thousands of hours under conditions that, in the absence of proper design, would cause formation of electrically conductive sputtered metal, carbon, and/or decomposed hydrocarbons on its surfaces.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Antenna for Measuring Electric Fields Within the Inner Heliosphere

A document discusses concepts for the design of an antenna to be deployed from a spacecraft for measuring the ambient electric field associated with plasma waves at a location within 3 solar radii from the solar photosphere. The antenna must be long enough to extend beyond the photoelectron and plasma sheaths of the spacecraft (expected to be of the order of meters thick) and to enable measurements at frequencies from 20 Hz to 10 MHz without contamination by spacecraft electric-field noise. The antenna must, therefore, extend beyond the thermal protection system (TPS) of the main body of the spacecraft and must withstand solar heating to a temperature as high as 2,000 °C while not conducting excessive heat to the interior of the spacecraft.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Estimation Filter for Alignment of the Spitzer Space Telescope

A document presents a summary of an onboard estimation algorithm now being used to calibrate the alignment of the Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility). The algorithm, denoted the S2P calibration filter, recursively generates estimates of the alignment angles between a telescope reference frame and a star-tracker reference frame. At several discrete times during the day, the filter accepts, as input, attitude estimates from the star tracker and observations taken by the Pointing Control Reference Sensor (a sensor in the field of view of the telescope). The output of the filter is a calibrated quaternion that represents the best current mean-square estimate of the alignment angles between the telescope and the star tracker. The S2P calibration filter incorporates a Kalman filter that tracks six states — two for each of three orthogonal coordinate axes. Although, in principle, one state per axis is sufficient, the use of two states per axis makes it possible to model both short- and long-term behaviors. Specifically, the filter properly models transient learning, characteristic times and bounds of thermomechanical drift, and long-term steady-state statistics, whether calibration measurements are taken frequently or infrequently. These properties ensure that the S2P filter performance is optimal over a broad range of flight conditions, and can be confidently run autonomously over several years of in-flight operation without human intervention.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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