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

This Month in NASA History

This year, as NASA celebrates its 50th anniversary, we’ll be highlighting technology innovations and important moments in NASA history, leading to our special 50th Anniversary Issue in October.

Posted in: UpFront

Bill Thigpen, Engineering Branch Chief of NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division

Ames Research Center

As Engineering Branch Chief for NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division, Bill Thigpen led the team that built and deployed the 10,240-processor Columbia supercomputer in just 120 days. Listed as one of the world’s fastest and most powerful supercomputers, Columbia is just part of the computing resources currently being managed by Mr. Thigpen.

Posted in: Who's Who

Hand-Held Ultrasonic Instrument for Reading Matrix Symbols

All necessary functions would be performed within a compact package.

A hand-held instrument that would include an ultrasonic camera has been proposed as an efficient means of reading matrix symbols. The proposed instrument could be operated without mechanical raster scanning. All electronic functions from excitation of ultrasonic pulses through final digital processing for decoding matrix symbols would be performed by dedicated circuitry within the single, compact instrument housing.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Cryptography, Optics, Displays, Identification

Visual Data Analysis for Satellites

The Visual Data Analysis Package is a collection of programs and scripts that facilitate visual analysis of data available from NASA and NOAA satellites, as well as dropsonde, buoy, and conventional in-situ observations. The package features utilities for data extraction, data quality control, statistical analysis, and data visualization.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Statistical analysis, Imaging and visualization, Data management, Satellites

Two-Camera Acquisition and Tracking of a Flying Target

An unanticipated moving target can be automatically spotted and tracked.

A method and apparatus have been developed to solve the problem of automated acquisition and tracking, from a location on the ground, of a luminous moving target in the sky. The method involves the use of two electronic cameras: (1) a stationary camera having a wide field of view, positioned and oriented to image the entire sky; and (2) a camera that has a much narrower field of view (a few degrees wide) and is mounted on a two-axis gimbal. The wide-field-of-view stationary camera is used to initially identify the target against the background sky. So that the approximate position of the target can be determined, pixel locations on the image-detector plane in the stationary camera are calibrated with respect to azimuth and elevation. The approximate target position is used to initially aim the gimballed narrow-field-of-view camera in the approximate direction of the target. Next, the narrow-field-of view camera locks onto the target image, and thereafter the gimbals are actuated as needed to maintain lock and thereby track the target with precision greater than that attainable by use of the stationary camera.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Calibration, Imaging and visualization

Customizable Digital Receivers for Radar

These receivers are unusually compact and versatile.

Compact, highly customizable digital receivers are being developed for the system described in “Radar Interferometer for Topographic Mapping of Glaciers and Ice Sheets” (NPO-43962), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 7 (August 2007), page 72. In the original intended application, there is a requirement for 16 such receivers, each dedicated to, and mounted directly on, one antenna element in a 16-element array. The receivers are required to operate in unison, sampling radar returns received by the antenna elements in a digital beam-forming (DBF) mode. The design of these receivers could also be adapted to commercial radar systems. At the time of reporting the information for this article, there were no commercially available digital receivers capable of satisfying all of the operational requirements and compact enough to be mounted directly on the antenna elements.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Cartography, Radar, Weather and climate

A Data Type for Efficient Representation of Other Data Types

Some obstacles to programming of parallel computers are removed.

A self-organizing, monomorphic data type denoted a sequence has been conceived to address certain concerns (summarized below) that arise in programming parallel computers. [“Sequence” as used here should not be confused with “sequence” as the word is commonly understood or with “sequence” as used elsewhere to denote another, polymorphic data type that is also relevant to computer programming.] A sequence in the present sense can be regarded abstractly as a vector, set, bag, queue, or other construct. A sequence is defined in terms of the behavior of the operators that can be applied to it without any foreknowledge of the underpinnings of its representation or particular implementation.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Architecture, Data management

Lower-Dark-Current, Higher-Blue-Response CMOS Imagers

Semiconductor junctions are relocated away from Si/SiO2 interfaces.

Several improved designs for complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) integrated- circuit image detectors have been developed, primarily to reduce dark currents (leakage currents) and secondarily to increase responses to blue light and increase signal- handling capacities, relative to those of prior CMOS imagers. The main conclusion that can be drawn from a study of the causes of dark currents in prior CMOS imagers is that dark currents could be reduced by relocating p/n junctions away from Si/SiO2 interfaces. In addition to reflecting this conclusion, the improved designs include several other features to counteract dark-current mechanisms and enhance performance.

Posted in: Briefs, Semiconductors & ICs, Imaging and visualization, Integrated circuits, Semiconductor devices, Performance upgrades

Broadband Microstrip-to-Coplanar Strip Double-Y Balun

This balun is compact, broadband, and can be fabricated easily.

A new version of the double-Y balun, transitioning from an unbalanced microstrip to a balanced coplanar strip (CPS) line, has been designed to feed a complementary spiral antenna with an input impedance of 100 Ω. Various versions of the double-Y balun have been investigated in previous literature for use with balanced mixers and pulsed antennas. Of the previous versions, the double-Y balun transitioning from a coplanar waveguide (CPW) to CPS was found to exhibit the widest bandwidth of operation while having little metal content (attractive for use in ground-penetrating radar applications). However, the double-Y balun transitioning from a CPW to CPS requires coplanar waveguide bridges at the junction; the inductive behavior of the bridges, in addition to CPW parasitic resonances, degrades the passband performance of the balun.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Electronic equipment

A Topographical Lidar System for Terrain-Relative Navigation

Demand for memory is reduced by digitizing over a limited altitude range.

An imaging lidar system is being developed for use in navigation, relative to the local terrain. This technology will potentially be used for future spacecraft landing on the Moon. Systems like this one could also be used on Earth for diverse purposes, including mapping terrain, navigating aircraft with respect to terrain and military applications. The system has been field-tested aboard a helicopter in the Mojave Desert.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Cartography, Lidar, Navigation and guidance systems, Terrain, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft

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