Special Coverage


Industry Roundtable: 3D Printing

It’s being called a revolutionary change in the way we design and make products – a disruptive technology that will have far-reaching effects for both engineers and consumers. It’s 3D printing, and it is shaping the future of manufacturing. NASA Tech Briefs spoke recently with executives at four of the leading 3D printer vendors about what 3D printing is today, what it will be tomorrow, and if it really will change the world.

Posted in: Features, Articles


Lithium-Ion Batteries Critical to Mars Spacecraft

Lithium-ion batteries Yardney Technical Products East Greenwich, RI 401-471-6599 www.yardney.com On November 18, 2013, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft was launched into space to begin its ten-month journey to Mars. The spacecraft is being powered by a combination of solar arrays and two advanced, space-qualified, 28-Volt, 55-Ah Yardney lithium-ion batteries.

Posted in: Application Briefs


EZVI Technology Cleans Up Contaminants at Kennedy Space Center

Jacobs Engineering Group Pasadena, CA www.jacobs.com CORE Engineering and Construction Winter Park, FL www.core-encon.com A groundwater technology developed at Kennedy Space Center was used to treat subsurface contaminants near one of the center’s buildings: the Reutilization, Recycling and Marketing Facility (RRMF).

Posted in: Application Briefs


Home Air Purifiers Eradicate Harmful Pathogens

An air scrubber used in space station plant growth helps you breathe easier at home. In the 1990s, NASA scientists were thinking of what astronauts would need to survive long-term missions to the Moon and other planets. One important requirement was a dependable source of food, which could be accomplished by astronauts growing their own produce in space-age greenhouses. But cultivating crops in a sealed-off environment results in the buildup of an undesirable gas called ethylene. Plants release the odorless, colorless fume into the air, which has the unfortunate effect of accelerating decay, hastening the wilting of flowers and the ripening of fruits and vegetables.

Posted in: Articles, Spinoff


Real-Time Minimization of Tracking Error for Aircraft Systems

Direct adaptive control looks at errors and decides if and when corrections are needed. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California In many cases when an aircraft/spacecraft vehicle encounters a failure (such as a jammed control or loss of a part), there are still enough redundant actuation mechanisms to safely maneuver the vehicle. However, most pilots/autonomous systems are unable to adapt to the altered configuration and learn to control the damaged aircraft in the very short time available for safe operation. Fortunately, the flight computer may have the necessary information as well as bandwidth available to learn the new dynamics and determine mechanisms to control the vehicle quickly. The flight computer needs an intelligent controller that flies the vehicle with the baseline controller during normal conditions, and adapts the design when the vehicle suffers damage. Using information about the vehicle from all the available sensors, the system determines whether the vehicle is damaged. Direct adaptive control (DAC) looks directly at the errors, and updates the control law accordingly. This technology looks not just at the tracking error, but rather its characteristics over time to determine whether the controller needs to be adapted or left alone. This is typically fast and meets the timing considerations for aircraft/spacecraft system implementation.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Data Acquisition, Briefs


Detecting an Extreme Minority Class in Hyperspectral Data Using Machine Learning

Automated classifiers can detect surface sulfur in orbital remote sensing observations. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Orbital remote sensing provides a powerful way to efficiently survey targets for features of interest in inaccessible regions of the Earth as well as on other planets. One such feature of astrobiological relevance is the presence of surface sulfur deposits, which may be present on icy moons such as Europa. All hyperspectral instruments face the difficult task of spectral feature selection (finding the spectral bands that matter), especially those that operate in previously unstudied arenas encountered in planetary missions. This software demonstrates how manually annotated labels can enable automated feature discovery that boosts science return.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Data Acquisition, Briefs


KSC Spaceport Weather Data Archive

John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida The Spaceport Weather Data Archive provides a fully searchable database of weather data gathered at Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Weather data includes wind, temperature, and humidity data from a surface meteorological tower network; upper air soundings from both weather balloons and radar wind profilers; and data from the extensive rain gauge network. Not only can the user easily retrieve data and download it, but the user can also view graphically the weather data on a map overlay. For example, the user can enter search criteria to view all lightning strikes ending at a particular date/time, and graphically see the lightning strikes color-coded based on elapsed time for the prior seven hours. A unique feature of the software is the capability to invoke an automated playback for cloud-to-ground lightning events on a geographic overlay for a selected date and time interval.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Electronics & Computers, Data Acquisition, Briefs