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Lightweight Internal Device to Measure Tension in Hollow- Braided Cordage
System, Apparatus, and Method for Pedal Control
Dust Tolerant Connectors
Foldable and Deployable Power Collection System
Iodine-Compatible Hall Effect Thruster
Development of a Novel Electrospinning System with Automated Positioning and Control Software
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Silicon Microleaks for Inlets of Mass Spectrometers

These devices could contribute to feasibility of small, portable mass spectrometers. Microleaks for inlets of mass spectrometers used to analyze atmospheric gases can be fabricated in silicon wafers by means of photolithography, etching, and other techniques that are commonly used in the manufacture of integrated circuits and microelectro-mechanical systems. The microleaks serve to limit the flows of the gases into the mass- spectrometer vacuums to specified very small flow rates consistent with the capacities of the spectrometer vacuum pumps. There is a need to be able to precisely tailor the dimensions of each microleak so as to tailor its conductance to a precise low value. (As used here, “conductance” signifies the ratio between the rate of flow in the leak and the pressure drop from the upstream to the downstream end of the leak.) To date, microleaks have been made, variously, of crimped metal tubes, pulled glass tubes, or frits. Crimped-metal and pulled-glass-tube microleaks cannot readily be fabricated repeatably to precise dimensions and are susceptible to clogging with droplets or particles. Frits tend to be differentially chemically reactive with various gas constituents and, hence, to distort the gas mixtures to be analyzed. The present approach involving micro-fabrication in silicon largely overcomes the disadvantages of the prior approaches.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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Series-Coupled Pairs of Silica Microresonators

Pass bands are narrower and flatter than those of single microresonators. Series-coupled pairs of whispering-gallery-mode optical microresonators have been demonstrated as prototypes of stable, narrow-band-pass photonic filters. Characteristics that are generally considered desirable in a photonic or other narrow-band-pass filter include response as nearly flat as possible across the pass band, sharp roll-off, and high rejection of signals outside the pass band. A single microresonator exhibits a Lorentzian filter function: its peak response cannot be made flatter and its roll-off cannot be made sharper. However, as a matter of basic principle applicable to resonators in general, it is possible to (1) use multiple resonators, operating in series or parallel, to obtain a roll-off sharper, and out-of-band rejection greater, relative to those of a Lorentzian filter function and (2) to make the peak response (the response within the pass band) flatter by tuning the resonators to slightly different resonance frequencies that span the pass band.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

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High-Performance Algorithm for Solving the Diagnosis Problem

Computation time is reduced substantially. An improved method of model-based diagnosis of a complex engineering system is embodied in an algorithm that involves considerably less computation than do prior such algorithms. This method and algorithm are based largely on developments reported in several NASA Tech Briefs articles: “The Complexity of the Diagnosis Problem” (NPO-30315), Vol. 26, No. 4 (April 2002), page 20; “Fast Algorithms for Model-Based Diagnosis” (NPO-30582), Vol. 29, No. 3 (March 2005), page 69; “Two Methods of Efficient Solution of the Hitting-Set Problem” (NPO-30584), Vol. 29, No. 3 (March 2005), page 73; and “Efficient Model-Based Diagnosis Engine” (NPO-40544), on the following page.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Efficient Method for Optimizing Placement of Sensors

This systematic method supplants ad hoc placement and exhaustive-search optimization methods. A computationally efficient method has been developed to enable optimization of the placement of sensors for the purpose of diagnosis of a complex engineering system (e.g., an aircraft or spacecraft). The method can be used both in (1) designing a sensor system in which the number and positions of sensors are initially not known and must be determined and (2) adding sensors to a pre-existing system to increase the diagnostic capability.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Truncation Depth Rule-of-Thumb for Convolutional Codes

The new rule is more accurate and tight at high signal-to-noise ratios. In this innovation, it is shown that a commonly used rule of thumb (that the truncation depth of a convolutional code should be five times the memory length, m, of the code) is accurate only for rate 1/2 codes. In fact, the truncation depth should be 2.5 m/(1 – r), where r is the code rate. The accuracy of this new rule is demonstrated by tabulating the distance properties of a large set of known codes. This new rule was derived by bounding the losses due to truncation as a function of the code rate.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Formation Flying of Components of a Large Space Telescope

A conceptual space telescope having an aperture tens of meters wide and a focal length of hundreds of meters would be implemented as a group of six separate optical modules flying in formation: a primary-membrane-mirror module, a relay-mirror module, a focal-plane-assembly module containing a fast steering mirror and secondary and tertiary optics, a primary-mirror-figure-sensing module, a scanning-electron-beam module for controlling the shape of the primary mirror, and a sunshade module. Formation flying would make it unnecessary to maintain the required precise alignments among the modules by means of an impractically massive rigid structure. Instead, a control system operating in conjunction with a metrology system comprising optical and radio subsystems would control the firing of small thrusters on the separate modules to maintain the formation, thereby acting as a virtual rigid structure. The control system would utilize a combination of centralized- and decentralized-control methods according to a leader-follower approach.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

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Laser Metrology Heterodyne Phase-Locked Loop

A method reduces sensitivity to noise in a signal from a laser heterodyne interferometer. The phase-locked loop (PLL) removes glitches that occur in a zero-crossing detector's output [that can happen if the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the heterodyne signal is low] by the use of an internal oscillator that produces a square-wave signal at a frequency that is inherently close to the heterodyne frequency. It also contains phase-locking circuits that lock the phase of the oscillator to the output of the zero-crossing detector. Because the PLL output is an oscillator signal, it is glitch-free. This enables the ability to make accurate phase measurements in spite of low SNR, creates an immunity to phase error caused by shifts in the heterodyne frequency (i.e. if the target moves causing Doppler shift), and maintains a valid phase even when the signal drops out for brief periods of time, such as when the laser is blocked by a stray object. This work was done by Frank Loya and Peter Halverson of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Patent Counsel, NASA Management Office–JPL. Refer to NPO-40080.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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