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Sample Caching Subsystem

A paper describes the Sample Caching Subsystem (SCS), a method for storing planetary core and soil samples in a container that seals the samples away from the environment to protect the integrity of the samples and any organics they might contain. This process places samples in individual sleeves that are sealed within a container for use by either the current mission or by following missions.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Improved Tracking of Targets by Cameras on a Mars Rover

A paper describes a method devised to increase the robustness and accuracy of tracking of targets by means of three stereoscopic pairs of video cameras on a Mars-rover-type exploratory robotic vehicle. Two of the camera pairs are mounted on a mast that can be adjusted in pan and tilt; the third camera pair is mounted on the main vehicle body. Elements of the method include a mast calibration, a camera-pointing algorithm, and a purely geometric technique for handing off tracking between different camera pairs at critical distances as the rover approaches a target of interest.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Analysis Method for Quantifying Vehicle Design Goals

A document discusses a method for using Design Structure Matrices (DSM), coupled with high-level tools representing important life-cycle parameters, to comprehensively conceptualize a flight/ground space transportation system design by dealing with such variables as performance, up-front costs, downstream operations costs, and reliability. This approach also weighs operational approaches based on their effect on upstream design variables so that it is possible to readily, yet defensibly, establish linkages between operations and these upstream variables.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Plasmoid Thruster for High Specific-Impulse Propulsion

A report discusses a new multi-turn, multi-lead design for the first generation PT-1 (Plasmoid Thruster) that produces thrust by expelling plasmas with embedded magnetic fields (plasmoids) at high velocities. This thruster is completely electrodeless, capable of using in-situ resources, and offers efficiencies as high as 70 percent at a specific impulse, Isp, of up to 8,000 s. This unit consists of drive and bias coils wound around a ceramic form, and the capacitor bank and switches are an integral part of the assembly. Multiple thrusters may be ganged to inductively recapture unused energy to boost efficiency and to increase the repetition rate, which, in turn increases the average thrust of the system.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Using Digital Radiography To Image Liquid Nitrogen in Voids

X-ray motion pictures show draining and filling caused by cryopumping. Digital radiography by use of (1) a field- portable x-ray tube that emits low- energy x rays and (2) an electronic imaging x-ray detector has been found to be an effective technique for detecting liquid nitrogen inside voids in thermal- insulation panels. The technique was conceived as a means of investigating cryopumping (including cryoingestion) as a potential cause of loss of thermal insulation foam from space-shuttle external fuel tanks. The technique could just as well be used to investigate cryopumping and cryoingestion in other settings.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Multiple-Parameter, Low-False-Alarm Fire-Detection Systems

Compact, low-power systems detect fires reliably. Fire-detection systems incorporating multiple sensors that measure multiple parameters are being developed for use in storage depots, cargo bays of ships and aircraft, and other locations not amenable to frequent, direct visual inspection. These systems are intended to improve upon conventional smoke detectors, now used in such locations, that reliably detect fires but also frequently generate false alarms: for example, conventional smoke detectors based on the blockage of light by smoke particles are also affected by dust particles and water droplets and, thus, are often susceptible to false alarms. In contrast, by utilizing multiple parameters associated with fires, i.e. not only obscuration by smoke particles but also concentrations of multiple chemical species that are commonly generated in combustion, false alarms can be significantly decreased while still detecting fires as reliably as older smoke-detector systems do.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Direct Coupling From WGM Resonator Disks to Photodetectors

Output coupling of light from a whispering- gallery-mode (WGM) optical resonator directly to a photodetector has recently been demonstrated. By “directly” is meant that the coupling is effected without use of intervening optical components. Heretofore, coupling of light into and out of WGM resonators has been a complex affair involving the use of such optical components as diamond or glass prisms, optical fibers, coated collimators, and/or fiber tapers. Alignment of these components is time-consuming and expensive.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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