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Generating Mosaics of Astronomical Images

“Montage” is the name of a service of the National Virtual Observatory (NVO), and of software being developed to implement the service via the World Wide Web. Montage generates science-grade custom mosaics of astronomical images on demand from input files that comply with the Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) standard and contain image data registered on projections that comply with the World Coordinate System (WCS) standards. “Science-grade” in this context signifies that terrestrial and instrumental features are removed from images in a way that can be described quantitatively. “Custom” refers to user-specified parameters of projection, coordinates, size, rotation, and spatial sampling. The greatest value of Montage is expected to lie in its ability to analyze images at multiple wavelengths, delivering them on a common projection, coordinate system, and spatial sampling, and thereby enabling further analysis as though they were part of a single, multi-wavelength image. Montage will be deployed as a computation-intensive service through existing astronomy portals and other Web sites. It will be integrated into the emerging NVO architecture and will be executed on the Tera- Grid. The Montage software will also be portable and publicly available.

Posted in: Software, Briefs

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Simulating Descent and Landing of a Spacecraft

The Dynamics Simulator for Entry, Descent, and Surface landing (DSENDS) software performs high-fidelity simulation of the Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) of a spacecraft into the atmosphere and onto the surface of a planet or a smaller body. DSENDS is an extension of the DShell and DARTS programs (described in prior NASA Tech Briefs articles), which afford capabilities for mathematical modeling of the dynamics of a spacecraft as a whole and of its instruments, actuators, and other subsystems. DSENDS enables the modeling (including real-time simulation) of flight-train elements and all spacecraft responses during various phases of EDL. DSENDS provides high-fidelity models of the aerodynamics of entry bodies and parachutes plus supporting models of atmospheres. Terrain and real-time responses of terrain-imaging radar and lidar instruments can also be modeled. The program includes modules for simulation of guidance, navigation, hypersonic steering, and powered descent. Automated state-machine-driven model switching is used to represent spacecraft separations and reconfigurations. Models for computing landing contact and impact forces are expected to be added. DSENDS can be used as a stand-alone program or incorporated into a larger program that simulates operations in real time.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Simulating Vibrations in a Complex Loaded Structure

The Dynamic Response Computation (DIRECT) computer program simulates vibrations induced in a complex structure by applied dynamic loads. Developed to enable rapid analysis of launch- and landing-induced vibrations and stresses in a space shuttle, DIRECT also can be used to analyze dynamic responses of other structures — for example, the response of a building to an earthquake, or the response of an oil-drilling platform and attached tanks to large ocean waves. For a space-shuttle simulation, the required input to DIRECT includes mathematical models of the space shuttle and its payloads, and a set of forcing functions that simulates launch and landing loads. DIRECT can accommodate multiple levels of payload attachment and substructure as well as nonlinear dynamic responses of structural interfaces. DIRECT combines the shuttle and payload models into a single structural model, to which the forcing functions are then applied. The resulting equations of motion are reduced to an optimum set and decoupled into a unique format for simulating dynamics. During the simulation, maximum vibrations, loads, and stresses are monitored and recorded for subsequent analysis to identify structural deficiencies in the shuttle and/or payloads.

Posted in: Software, Briefs

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Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program

The Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program (RSVP) is the software tool for use in the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission for planning rover operations and generating command sequences for accomplishing those operations. RSVP combines three-dimensional (3D) visualization for immersive exploration of the operations area, stereoscopic image display for high-resolution examination of the downlinked imagery, and a sophisticated command-sequence editing tool for analysis and completion of the sequences. RSVP is linked with actual flight-code modules for operations rehearsal to provide feedback on the expected behavior of the rover prior to committing to a particular sequence. Playback tools allow for review of both rehearsed rover behavior and downlinked results of actual rover operations. These can be displayed simultaneously for comparison of rehearsed and actual activities for verification.

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Software Template for Instruction in Mathematics

Intelligent Math Tutor (IMT) is a software system that serves as a template for creating software for teaching mathematics. IMT can be easily connected to artificial-intelligence software and other analysis software through input and output of files. IMT provides an easy-to-use interface for generating courses that include tests that contain both multiplechoice and fill-in-the-blank questions, and enables tracking of test scores. IMT makes it easy to generate software for Web-based courses or to manufacture compact disks containing executable course software. IMT also can function as a Web-based application program, with features that run quickly on the Web, while retaining the intelligence of a high-level language application program with many graphics. IMT can be used to write application programs in text, graphics, and/or sound, so that the programs can be tailored to the needs of most handicapped persons. The course software generated by IMT follows a “back to basics” approach of teaching mathematics by inducing the student to apply creative mathematical techniques in the process of learning. Students are thereby made to discover mathematical fundamentals and thereby come to understand mathematics more deeply than they could through simple memorization.

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Support for User Interfaces for Distributed Systems

An extensible Java™ software framework supports the construction and operation of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for distributed computing systems typified by ground control systems that send commands to, and receive telemetric data from, spacecraft. Heretofore, such GUIs have been custom built for each new system at considerable expense. In contrast, the present framework affords generic capabilities that can be shared by different distributed systems. Dynamic class loading, reflection, and other run-time capabilities of the Java language and JavaBeans component architecture enable the creation of a GUI for each new distributed computing system with a minimum of custom effort. By use of this framework, GUI components in control panels and menus can send commands to a particular distributed system with a minimum of system-specific code. The framework receives, decodes, processes, and displays telemetry data; custom telemetry data handling can be added for a particular system. The framework supports saving and later restoration of users’ configurations of control panels and telemetry displays with a minimum of effort in writing system-specific code. GUIs constructed within this framework can be deployed in any operating system with a Java runtime environment, without recompilation or code changes.

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Data-Driven Software Framework for Web-Based ISS Telescience

Software that enables authorized users to monitor and control scientific payloads aboard the International Space Station (ISS) from diverse terrestrial locations equipped with Internet connections is undergoing development. This software reflects a data-driven approach to distributed operations. A Web-based software framework leverages prior developments in Java and Extensible Markup Language (XML) to create portable code and portable data, to which one can gain access via Web-browser software on almost any common computer. Opensource software is used extensively to minimize cost; the framework also accommodates enterprise-class server software to satisfy needs for high performance and security. To accommodate the diversity of ISS experiments and users, the framework emphasizes openness and extensibility. Users can take advantage of available viewer software to create their own client programs according to their particular preferences, and can upload these programs for custom processing of data, generation of views, and planning of experiments. The same software system, possibly augmented with a subset of data and additional software tools, could be used for public outreach by enabling public users to replay telescience experiments, conduct their experiments with simulated payloads, and create their own client programs and other custom software.

Posted in: Software, Briefs

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