Special Coverage

Self-Healing Wire Insulation
Thermomechanical Methodology for Stabilizing Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) Response
Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams
High Field Superconducting Magnets
Active Response Gravity Offload and Method
Strat-X
Sonar Inspection Robot System
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Highly Power-Aware Digital Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Radio

As NASA embarks upon deep-space human exploration, the next-generation extravehicular activity (EVA) radio will be a pivotal technology and an integral part of lunar surface systems success. It facilitates surface operations, enables crew mobility, and supports point to multi-point communications across rovers, landers, habitat, and other astronauts. Driven by Com - m unications, Command, Control, and Information (C3I) interoperability, stringent power budgets, and miniaturization, this mobile radio platform has become increasingly complex. To achieve the overarching communication goals of small form factor, ultrapower, and reconfigurability, NASA needs to advance power-aware processing technology.

Posted in: NASA Tech Needs

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Spreadsheets for Analyzing and Optimizing Space Missions

XCALIBR (XML Capability Analysis LIBRary) is a set of Extensible Markup Language (XML) database and spreadsheet-based analysis software tools designed to assist in technology-return-on-investment analysis and optimization of technology portfolios pertaining to outer- space missions. XCALIBR is also being examined for use in planning, tracking, and documentation of projects. An XCALIBR database contains information on mission requirements and technological capabilities, which are related by use of an XML taxonomy. XCALIBR incorporates a standardized interface for exporting data and analysis templates to an Excel spreadsheet. Unique features of XCALIBR include the following:

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software

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Alternative Packaging for Back-Illuminated Imagers

Electrical contacts are made accessible from the back side. An alternative scheme has been conceived for packaging of silicon- based back-illuminated, back- side-thinned complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) and charge-coupled-device image-detector integrated circuits, including an associated fabrication process. This scheme and process are complementary to those described in “Making a Back- Illuminated Imager With Back-Side Connections” (NPO-42839), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 32, No. 7 (July 2008), page 38.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Diamond Machining of an Off-Axis Biconic Aspherical Mirror

Complex shapes can be produced at relatively low costs. Two diamond-machining methods have been developed as part of an effort to design and fabricate an off-axis, biconic ellipsoidal, concave aluminum mirror for an infrared spectrometer at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Beyond this initial application, the methods can be expected to enable satisfaction of requirements for future instrument mirrors having increasingly complex (including asymmetrical), precise shapes that, heretofore, could not readily be fabricated by diamond machining or, in some cases, could not be fabricated at all.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Laser Ablation Increases PEM/Catalyst Interfacial Area

Increased interfacial area is expected to result in improved fuel-cell performance. An investigational method of improving the performance of a fuel cell that contains a polymer-electrolyte membrane (PEM) is based on the concept of roughening the surface of the PEM, prior to deposition of a thin layer of catalyst, in order to increase the PEM/catalyst interfacial area and thereby increase the degree of utilization of the catalyst. The roughening is done by means of laser ablation under carefully controlled conditions. Next, the roughened membrane surface is coated with the thin layer of catalyst (which is typically platinum), then sandwiched between two electrode/catalyst structures to form a membrane/electrode assembly.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Polyimide/Glass Composite High-Temperature Insulation

This composite was found to exhibit an unexpectedly high degree of fire resistance. Lightweight composites of RP46 polyimide and glass fibers have been found to be useful as extraordinarily fire-resistant electrical-insulation materials. RP46 is a polyimide of the polymerization of monomeric reactants (PMR) type, developed by NASA Langley Research Center. RP46 has properties that make it attractive for use in electrical insulation at high temperatures. These properties include high-temperature resistance, low relative permittivity, low dissipation factor, outstanding mechanical properties, and excellent resistance to moisture and chemicals. Moreover, RP46 contains no halogen or other toxic materials and when burned it does not produce toxic fume or gaseous materials.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Damage Detection and Self-Repair in Inflatable/Deployable Structures

Integrated sensors and self-repairing materials provide structural health management. Inflatable/deployable structures are under consideration for applications as varied as expansion modules for the International Space Station to destinations for space tourism to habitats for the lunar surface. Monitoring and maintaining the integrity of the physical structure is critical, particularly since these structures rely on non-traditional engineering materials such as fabrics, foams, and elastomeric polymers to provide the primary protection for the human crew. The closely related prior concept of monitoring structural integrity by use of built-in or permanently attached sensors has been applied to structures made of such standard engineering materials as metals, alloys, and rigid composites. To effect monitoring of flexible structures comprised mainly of soft goods, however, it will be necessary to solve a different set of problems — especially those of integrating power and data-transfer cabling that can withstand, and not unduly interfere with, stowage and subsequent deployment of the structures. By incorporating capabilities for self-repair along with capabilities for structural health monitoring, successful implementation of these technologies would be a significant step toward semi-autonomous structures, which need little human intervention to maintain. This would not only increase the safety of these structures, but also reduce the inspection and maintenance costs associated with more conventional structures.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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