Special Coverage

Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing

Low-Cost RFID Torque and Tension Sensing Tag System

The system has applications in shipbuilding, aerospace engine construction, and other high-tech equipment.

This technology is a low-cost RFID-based torque and tension sensor for high-performance fasteners, such as bolts, that are used in sophisticated high-tech equipment and systems. It offers the ability to remotely and quickly verify that a given fastener is torqued properly, resulting in potential cost-savings over the life of the fastener and its host system. The technology is also extremely low-cost compared to current torque sensing wrenches and comparable technologies. This asset management tool offers performance and safety improvements as well. The motivation behind this invention was the catastrophic event in which a NOAA satellite sustained heavy damage after falling from a Turn-Over-Cart (TOC). The root cause was a configuration change in which 24 bolts had not been secured properly to the TOC. With this NASA invention, the quality assurance, tension monitoring, and configuration management associated with proper torqueing of fasteners will be largely automated, therefore providing a higher degree of safety.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Remote sensing, Radio-frequency identification, Fasteners

Intelligent Robotics Safeguarding

Traditional robot applications limit operator access to hazards through hard-guarding and protective devices that either detect and stop the hazard, or prevent access into the safeguarding space until the hazard no longer exists. The introduction of power- and force-limited robots used in collaborative applications changes this environment. Reduced or nonexistent hard-guarding, along with continuous motion and interaction between the robot and the operator, makes the environment inherently dynamic and uncertain. Methods to reduce risks to a tolerable level include limiting forces and speed, but these measures can yield unacceptable production rates.

Posted in: Articles, Robotics, Artificial intelligence, Risk management, Robotics

SpinDx™ Lab on a Disk

Currently, when a patient arrives at the hospital or doctor's office feeling ill, they are first examined by the doctor, sent to a blood lab where vials of blood are taken, and then sent home to wait for results. This approach often means patients must wait days or weeks to get results. During that waiting period, they are not receiving treatment, which can be a critical factor for cancer, heart attack, or stroke patients.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Computer software and hardware, Diagnosis, Medical equipment and supplies, Test equipment and instrumentation

Cellular Reflectarray Antenna and Method of Making Same

A simple-to-install design for satellite and communications applications solves the problems associated with traditional parabolic reflectors.

NASA's Glenn Research Center invites companies to license a new concept design for terrestrial satellite dishes and communications systems. The Cellular Reflectarray Antenna (CRA) has been developed and tested for use with next-generation Ka-band satellites, although it can be used with all bands of satellite communication. The design's flat, planar configuration all but eliminates the wind-loading problems associated with larger parabolic reflectors for dish systems. The technology also offers unique features that provide ease of installation and improved signal reception, while deterring piracy and theft of subscription satellite services.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications, Antennas, Cyber security, Wireless communication systems, Satellites

Low-Power, Special-Purpose Chip for Speech Recognition in Electronics

Automatic speech recognition is on the verge of becoming the chief means of interacting with computing devices. To address this, MIT researchers have built a low-power chip specialized for automatic speech recognition. Whereas a cellphone running speech recognition software might require about 1 Watt of power, the new chip requires between 0.2 and 10 milliwatts, depending on the number of words it has to recognize. That probably translates to a power savings of 90 to 99 percent, which could make voice control practical for relatively simple electronic devices, including power-constrained devices that harvest energy from their environments, or go months between battery charges.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Integrated circuits, Human machine interface (HMI), Sound quality

9-Meter Slaving System

The objective of the 9-Meter Slaving System is to transmit Launch Trajectory Acquisition System (LTAS) data from one of multiple incoming data streams to the 9-Meter antenna control unit using a synchronous serial modem. The data stream is determined by a 9-Meter telemetry operator's selection via a graphical user interface (GUI).

Posted in: Briefs, Communications, Trajectory control, Antennas, Telemetry, Entry, descent, and landing


The Obs4MIPS.py software package is a front end to an existing free software package written by Lawrence Livermore National Lab, called “Climate Model Output Rewriter” (CMOR2), and reads in a multitude of standard data formats such as netcdf3, netcdf4, Grads control files, MATLAB data files, or a list of netCDF files. The software prepares Earth Science Observational (obs4MIPs) data or Climate Modeling Reanalysis (ana4MIPs) data for publication in the NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS) Earth System Grid Federation system (ESGF). It converts the data into a netCDF file following the Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata convention as specified by Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Obs4MIPs.py addresses the differences in input data format, variable definition, and Global Attribute requirements that exist within observational and re-analyses datasets.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, CAD, CAM, and CAE, Weather and climate, Data management

Turbofan Engine Acoustic Liner Design and Analysis Tools

Statistical- and graphical-based software tools are used to design and analyze turbofan acoustic liners.

NASA Langley Research Center has developed two tools for turbofan engine acoustic liner design and analysis. The first is a statistical approach for broadband liner design and assessment; the second is graphical software to design and analyze resonant channels in acoustic liners.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, CAD, CAM, and CAE, Statistical analysis, Acoustics, Fans, Turboprop engines

System, Apparatus, and Method for Liquid Purification

Scientists at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed a unique water purification method that can be used for water recycling or point-of-use applications. Originally developed as a means to recycle water in space, this technology has applications in industrial water treatment, water recycling, and water purification for military bases, disaster sites, and regions without easy access to clean water. Relying on only electrical energy, this technology uses plasma-generated reactive species to decompose organic contaminants, ranging from submicron particles to water soluble organics like glycol, ethanol, and industrial dyes.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Water reclamation, Water treatment, Electric power

Multi-Thruster Propulsion Apparatus

This device switches between ion- or Hall-thruster mode, depending on whether the principal need is efficiency or thrust power.

Two different types of electrostatic thrusters are used to propel spacecraft: ion thrusters and Hall-effect thrusters. Ion thrusters have the benefit of relatively high exhaust velocities with higher overall thrust efficiencies. Hall-effect thrusters typically offer higher thrust-to-power ratios, but they operate somewhat less efficiently than ion thrusters. To take advantage of both thrusters’ strengths, innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed what is essentially a dual-thruster propulsion system. This patented electric propulsion device offers the ability to switch a spacecraft's propulsion system to ion-thruster mode or Hall-thruster mode, depending on whether the principal need is efficiency or thrust power. In addition, Glenn's novel technology allows the dual thruster to operate in burst mode, with one thruster acting as an ion thruster and one as a Hall thruster. This capability can be valuable to facilitate smooth transitions between operating modes or to raise total thrust level (for short periods) beyond what either mode can achieve on its own.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Electro-thermal engines, Engine efficiency, Spacecraft

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