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Progressive Plant Growing Has Business Blooming

Soil, water, and light. According to prevailing dogma, these are the three main ingredients for growing and maintaining healthy plants. But what if you take soil completely out of the equation and limit the presence of water significantly? Can you still nurture plants in such an environment?

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PRP: The Proven Solution for Cleaning Up Oil Spills

The Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker exporting millions of gallons of oil, ran aground just after midnight on March 24, 1989 in Alaska, creating what is, to this day, the worst environmental disaster in American history. The affected area of coastal Alaska continues to feel the toxic results of that disaster that killed more than 250,000 seabirds, thousands of marine mammals, and countless numbers of other coastal marine organisms in just its first months. Oil is notoriously difficult to clean from water, and it is still emerging from subsurface reservoirs. Salmon caught in that region are, even now, 16 years later, showing signs of long-term contamination from the devastating oil spill.

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Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post

Modifications should lead to greater unit-to-unit consistency. A modified design and fabrication sequence has been devised to improve the performance of a cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscope that includes an axial rod or post rigidly attached to the center of the cloverleaf structure. The basic concepts of cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscopes, without and with rods or posts, were described in two prior articles in NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 21, No. 9 (September 1997): "Micromachined Planar Vibratory Microgyroscopes" (NPO-19713), page 68 and "Planar Vibratory Microgyroscope: Alternative Configuration" (NPO-19714), page 70. As described in more detail in the second-mentioned prior article, the cloverleaf-shaped structure and the rod or post are parts of a vibratory element that senses rotation via the effect of the Coriolis force upon its vibrations.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Microgyroscope With Vibrating Post as Rotation Transducer

Unlike in prior vibratory microgyroscopes, there is no cloverleaf structure. The figure depicts a micromachined silicon vibratory gyroscope that senses rotation about its z axis. The rotation-sensitive vibratory element is a post oriented (when at equilibrium) along the z axis and suspended at its base by thin, flexible silicon bands oriented along the x and y axes, respectively. Unlike in the vibratory microgyroscopes described in the immediately preceding article ["Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post" (NPO-20688)] and other previous articles in NASA Tech Briefs, the rotation-sensitive vibratory element does not include a cloverleaf-shaped structure that lies (when at equilibrium) in the x-y plane.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Single-Vector Calibration of Wind-Tunnel Force Balances

Improved data quality with an order of magnitude reduction in cost and calibration cycle time over prior methods. An improved method of calibrating a wind-tunnel force balance involves the use of a unique load application system integrated with formal experimental design methodology. The Single-Vector Force Balance Calibration System (SVS) overcomes the productivity and accuracy limitations of prior calibration methods.

Posted in: Briefs

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Special Semaphore Scheme for UHF Spacecraft Communications

A semaphore scheme has been devised to satisfy a requirement to enable ultrahigh- frequency (UHF) radio communication between a spacecraft descending from orbit to a landing on Mars and a spacecraft, in orbit about Mars, that relays communications between Earth and the lander spacecraft. There are also two subsidiary requirements: (1) to use UHF transceivers, built and qualified for operation aboard the spacecraft that operate with residual-carrier binary phase-shift-keying (BPSK) modulation at a selectable data rate of 8, 32, 128, or 256 kb/s; and (2) to enable low-rate signaling even when received signals become so weak as to prevent communication at the minimum BPSK rate of 8 kHz. The scheme involves exploitation of Manchester encoding, which is used in conjunction with residual-carrier modulation to aid the carrier-tracking loop. By choosing various sequences of 1s, 0s, or 1s alternating with 0s to be fed to the residual- carrier modulator, one would cause the modulator to generate sidebands at a fundamental frequency of 4 or 8 kHz and harmonics thereof. These sidebands would constitute the desired semaphores. In reception, the semaphores would be detected by a software demodulator.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Tool for Sampling Permafrost on a Remote Planet

A report discusses the robotic arm tool for rapidly acquiring permafrost (RATRAP), which is being developed for acquiring samples of permafrost on Mars or another remote planet and immediately delivering the samples to adjacent instruments for analysis. The prototype RATRAP includes a rasp that protrudes through a hole in the bottom of a container that is placed in contact with the permafrost surface. Moving at high speed, the rasp cuts into the surface and loads many of the resulting small particles of permafrost through the hole into the container. The prototype RATRAP has been shown to be capable of acquiring many grams of permafrost simulants in times of the order of seconds. In contrast, a current permafrost-sampling system that the RATRAP is intended to supplant works by scraping with tines followed by picking up the scrapings in a scoop, sometimes taking hours to acquire a few grams. Also, because the RATRAP inherently pulverizes the sampled material, it is an attractive alternative to other sampling apparatuses that generate core or chunk samples that must be further processed by a crushing apparatus to make the sample particles small enough for analysis by some instruments.

Posted in: Machinery & Automation, Briefs, TSP

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