Special Coverage


Products of Tomorrow: September 2014

The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today.

Posted in: Products, Articles


Robots are (Almost) People, Too

Biologically inspired robots have been an ongoing fascination in movies for years. We know that robots can’t cry, bleed, or feel like humans can, and that’s what makes them different. But what if they could think like humans? Biologically inspired robots are being realized by engineers and scientists all over the world. While much emphasis is placed on developing physical characteristics for robots such as human-like faces or artificial muscles, engineers in the Telerobotics Research and Applications Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, are among those working to program robots with forms of artificial intelligence similar to human thinking processes.

Posted in: Articles


NASA Uses Analysis Software to Assess Orion Crew Module Heat Shield

HyperSizer® composite analysis and structural sizing software Collier Research Corp. Newport News, VA 757-825-0000 www.hypersizer.com Protected by the shell of its huge launch rocket during blastoff, NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) must get back to Earth on its own at mission’s end. The flight plan for this next-generation craft includes a dramatic ocean splashdown reminiscent of the Apollo program that predated the Space Shuttle’s smooth runway landings.

Posted in: Application Briefs


Satellite Data Monitors Nation’s Forests

Data obtained from NASA satellites helps scientists monitor damage caused by wildfires, drought, and other natural disturbances. Joe Spruce’s last name is a fitting one: Spruce is a research scientist at NASA’s Stennis Space Center working with the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service to monitor forests and other vegetation across the country using NASA satellite data.

Posted in: Articles, Spinoff


Universal Mechanical Testers for Tribology Testing in the Automotive Industry

Universal mechanical testers provide tribology testing for friction, wear, coatings, and lubrication in macro, micro, and nano regimes. Bruker Nano Surfaces, Tucson, Arizona Very few industries are as affected by strict test standards as the automotive sector. Nearly every automobile component (engine parts, accelerators, clutches, brakes, tires, seatbelts, etc.) must exhibit adequate tribological properties in accordance with ASTM, DIN, JIS, ISO, and other comprehensive international standards. Universal mechanical testers (UMTs) that are able to perform multiple tests in a single platform with interchangeable modules can help manufacturers meet test specifications quickly and economically. For example, crankshafts and camshafts have critical requirements for proper functioning under diverse service conditions. Tests include evaluation of base materials, heat-treated parts, surface coatings, and lubricants. Tests can be run with diverse loads, velocities, and temperatures that simulate actual service conditions using various lubricants and liquids.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Test & Measurement, Briefs


Photogrammetric Recession Measurement

This method can be used to measure the recession of ablative materials in insulation coatings, ceramics and composites, arc-jet systems, and soil erosion. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California The testing of materials that ablate as a design function requires detailed time history of the ablation process. The rate at which the surface recedes during testing is a critically important measure of the performance of thermal protection system (TPS) materials like heat shields for aerospace vehicles. Photogrammetric recession measurement (PRM) meets these needs by recording the surface of the ablating model during heating in hyperthermal test facilities (arc-jets), using two high-resolution digital cameras capable of recording simultaneously. The cameras are calibrated to yield three-dimensional object space measurement for each stereo pair of images, producing surface recession data over the portion of the model for which both cameras share a view.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Test & Measurement, Briefs


Tissue-Equivalent Radiation Dosimeteron-a-Chip with Plastic Scintillation Material

This innovation uses solid-state technology to create a compact, lightweight, personal space radiation monitor. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas The complexity of spaceflight design requires reliable, fault-tolerant equipment capable of providing real-time dosimetry during a mission, which is not feasible with existing thermoluminescent dosimeter (TLD) technology. Real-time monitoring is important for low-Earth-orbiting spacecraft and interplanetary spaceflight to alert the crew when solar particle events (SPE) increase the particle flux of the spacecraft environment. In this innovation, the personal dosimeter is comprised of a tissue-equivalent scintillator coupled to a solid-state photomultiplier.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Test & Measurement, Briefs