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Development of Biomorphic Flyers

Autonomous flight control and navigation in small size is offered for planetary and terrestrial exploration applications. Biomorphic flyers have recently been demonstrated that utilize the approach described earlier in "Bio-Inspired Engineering of Exploration Systems" (NPO-21142), NASA Tech Briefs ,Vol.27, No.5 (May 2003), page 54, to distill the principles found in successful, nature-tested mechanisms of flight control. Two types of flyers are being built, corresponding to the imaging and shepherding flyers for a biomorphic mission described earlier in "Cooperative Lander-Surface/Aerial Microflyer Missions for Mars Exploration" (NPO-30286), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol.28, No.5 (May 2004), page 36. The common features of these two types of flyers are that both are delta-wing airplanes incorporating bio-inspired capabilities of control, navigation, and visual search for exploration. The delta-wing design is robust to ~40 G axial load and offers ease of stowing and packaging.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Second-Generation Six-Limbed Experimental Robot

This robot is designed to be more agile and dexterous than its predecessor. The figure shows the LEMUR II—the second generation of the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR), which was described in "Six-Legged Ex- perimental Robot " (NPO-20897), NASA Tech Briefs,Vol.25, No.12 (December 2001), page 58. The LEMUR II incorporates a number of improvements, including new features, that extend its capabilities beyond those of its predecessor, which is now denoted the LEMUR I.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Miniature Linear Actuator for Small Spacecraft

A report discusses the development of a kit of mechanisms intended for use aboard future spacecraft having masses between 10 and 100 kg. The report focuses mostly on two prototypes of one of the mechanisms: a miniature linear actuator based on a shape-memory-alloy (SMA) wire. In this actuator, as in SMA-wire actuators described previously in NASA Tech Briefs, a spring biases a moving part toward one limit of its stroke and is restrained or pulled toward the other limit of the stroke by an SMA wire, which assumes a slightly lesser or greater "remembered" length, depending on whether or not an electric current is applied to the wire to heat it above a transition temperature. Topics addressed in the report include the need to develop mechanisms like these, the general approach to be taken in designing SMA actuators, tests of the two prototypes of the miniature linear actuators,and improvements in the second prototype over the first prototype resulting in reduced mass and increased stroke. The report also presents recommendations for future development, briefly discusses problems of tolerances and working with small parts, states a need for better understanding of behaviors of SMAs, and presents conclusions.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Format for Interchange and Display of 3D Terrain Data

Visible Scalable Terrain (ViSTa) is a software format for production, interchange, and display of three-dimensional (3D) terrain data acquired by stereoscopic cameras of robotic vision systems. ViSTa is designed to support scalability of data, accuracy of displayed terrain images, and optimal utilization of computational resources. In a ViSTa file, an area of terrain is represented, at one or more levels of detail, by coordinates of isolated points and/or vertices of triangles derived from a texture map that, in turn, is derived from original terrain images. Unlike prior terrain-image software formats, ViSTa includes provisions to ensure accuracy of texture coordinates.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Program Analyzes Radar Altimeter Data

A computer program has been written to perform several analyses of radar altimeter data. The program was designed to improve on previous methods of analysis of altimeter engineering data by (1) facilitating and accelerating the analysis of large amounts of data in a more direct manner and (2) improving the ability to estimate performance of radar-altimeter instrumentation and provide data corrections. The data in question are openly available to the international scientific community and can be downloaded from anonymous file-transfer-protocol (FTP) locations that are accessible via links from altimetry Web sites. The software estimates noise in range measurements, estimates corrections for electromagnetic bias, and performs statistical analyses on various parameters for comparison of different altimeters. Whereas prior techniques used to perform similar analyses of altimeter range noise require comparison of data from repetitions of satellite ground tracks, the present software uses a high-pass filtering technique to obtain similar results from single satellite passes. Elimination of the requirement for repeat-track analysis facilitates the analysis of large amounts of satellite data to assess subtle variations in range noise.

Posted in: Software, Briefs

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Software Assists in Responding to Anomalous Conditions

Fault Induced Document Retrieval Officer (FIDO) is a computer program that reduces the need for a large and costly team of engineers and/or technicians to monitor the state of a spacecraft and associated ground systems and respond to anomalies. FIDO includes artificial-intelligence components that imitate the reasoning of human experts with reference to a knowledge base of rules that represent failure modes and to a database of engineering documentation. These components act together to give an unskilled operator instantaneous expert assistance and access to information that can enable resolution of most anomalies, without the need for highly paid experts. FIDO provides a system state summary (a configurable engineering summary) and documentation for diagnosis of a potentially failing component that might have caused a given error message or anomaly.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Software for Autonomous Spacecraft Maneuvers

The AutoCon computer programs facilitate and accelerate the planning and execution of orbital control maneuvers of spacecraft while analyzing and resolving mission constraints. AutoCon-F is executed aboard spacecraft, enabling the spacecraft to plan and execute maneuvers autonomously; AutoCon-G is designed for use on the ground. The AutoCon programs utilize advanced techniques of artificial intelligence, including those of fuzzy logic and natural language scripting, to resolve multiple conflicting constraints and automatically plan maneuvers. These programs can be used to satisfy requirements for missions that involve orbits around the Earth, the Moon, or any planet, and are especially useful for missions in which there are requirements for frequent maneuvers and for resolution of complex conflicting constraints. During operations, the software targets new trajectories, places and sizes maneuvers, and controls spacecraft burns. AutoCon-G provides a user friendly graphical interface, and can be used effectively by an analyst with minimal training. AutoCon-F reduces latency and supports multiple-spacecraft and formation-flying missions. The AutoCon architecture supports distributive processing, which can be critical for formation-control missions. AutoCon is completely object-oriented and can easily be enhanced by adding new objects and events. AutoCon-F was flight demonstrated onboard GSFC’s EO-1 spacecraft flying in formation with Landsat-7.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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