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Spatial Coverage Planning for Exploration Robots

A report discusses an algorithm for an onboard planning and execution technology to support the exploration and characterization of geological features by autonomous rovers. A rover that is capable of deciding which observations are more important relieves the engineering team from much of the burden of attempting to make accurate predictions of what the available rover resources will be in the future. Instead, the science and engineering teams can uplink a set of observation requests that may potentially oversubscribe resources and let the rover use observation priorities and its current assessment of available resources to make decisions about which observations to perform and when to perform them.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Increasing the Life of a Xenon-Ion Spacecraft Thruster

A short document summarizes the redesign of a xenon-ion spacecraft thruster to increase its operational lifetime beyond a limit heretofore imposed by nonuniform ion-impact erosion of an accelerator electrode grid. A peak in the ion current density on the centerline of the thruster causes increased erosion in the center of the grid. The ion-current density in the NSTAR thruster that was the subject of this investigation was characterized by peak-to-average ratio of 2:1 and a peak-to-edge ratio of greater than 10:1. The redesign was directed toward distributing the same beam current more evenly over the entire grid and involved several modifications of the magnetic-field topography in the thruster to obtain more nearly uniform ionization. The net result of the redesign was to reduce the peak ion current density by nearly a factor of two, thereby halving the peak erosion rate and doubling the life of the thruster. (Note: NSTAR stands for NASA SEP Technology Application Readiness; SEP stands for solar electric propulsion.)

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Estimating the Inertia Matrix of a Spacecraft

A paper presents a method of utilizing some flight data, aboard a spacecraft that includes reaction wheels for attitude control, to estimate the inertia matrix of the spacecraft. The required data are digitized samples of (1) the spacecraft attitude in an inertial reference frame as measured, for example, by use of a star tracker and (2) speeds of rotation of the reaction wheels, the moments of inertia of which are deemed to be known.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Analysis of Performance of Stereoscopic Vision Software

A team of JPL researchers has analyzed stereoscopic vision software and produced a document describing its performance. This software is of the type used in maneuvering exploratory robotic vehicles on Martian terrain. The software in question utilizes correlations between portions of the images recorded by two electronic cameras to compute stereoscopic disparities, which, in conjunction with camera models, are used in computing distances to terrain points to be included in constructing a threedimensional model of the terrain. The analysis included effects of correlation-window size, a pyramidal image down-sampling scheme, vertical misalignment, focus, maximum disparity, stereo baseline, and range ripples. Contributions of sub-pixel interpolation, vertical misalignment, and foreshortening to stereo correlation error were examined theoretically and experimentally. It was found that camera-calibration inaccuracy contributes to both down-range and cross-range error but stereo correlation error affects only the down-range error. Experimental data for quantifying the stereo disparity error were obtained by use of reflective metrological targets taped to corners of bricks placed at known positions relative to the cameras. For the particular 1,024-by-768- pixel cameras of the system analyzed, the standard deviation of the down-range disparity error was found to be 0.32 pixel. This work was done by Won Kim, Adnan Ansar, Robert Steele, and Robert Steinke of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, contact iaoffice@jpl.nasa.gov.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Adaptive Deadband Synchronization for a Spacecraft Formation

A paper discusses general problems in estimation and control of the states (positions, attitudes, and velocities) of spacecraft flying in formation, then addresses the particular formation-flying-control problem of synchronization of deadbands. The paper presents a deadband- synchronization algorithm for the case in which the spacecraft are equipped with pulse- width-modulated thrusters for maintaining their required states. The algorithm synchronizes thruster-firing times across all six degrees of freedom of all the spacecraft. The algorithm is scalable, inherently adapts to disturbances, and does not require knowledge of spacecraft masses and disturbance forces. In this algorithm, one degree of freedom of one spacecraft is designated the leader, and all other degrees of freedom of all spacecraft as followers. The Cassini adaptive optimum deadband drift controller is the subalgorithm for control in each degree of freedom, and the adaptation is run until each spacecraft achieves a specified drift period. The adaptation is critical because a different disturbance affects each different degree of freedom. Then the leader communicates its thruster-firing starting times to the followers. Then, for each follower, a deadband- synchronization subalgorithm determines the shift needed to synchronize its drift period with that of the leader. This work was done by Daniel Scharf, Fred Hadaegh, and Bryan Kang of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-43258.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Simpler Adaptive Selection of Golomb Power-of-Two Codes

The selected code-parameter value is within 1 of the optimum value. An alternative method of adaptive selection of Golomb power-of-two (GPO2) codes has been devised for use in efficient, lossless encoding of sequences of non-negative integers from discrete sources. The method is intended especially for use in compression of digital image data. This method is somewhat suboptimal, but offers the advantage in that it involves significantly less computation than does a prior method of adaptive selection of optimum codes through “brute force” application of all code options to every block of samples.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Error Rates and Channel Capacities in Multipulse PPM

It is now possible to compare expected performances of candidate modulation schemes. A method of computing channel capacities and error rates in multipulse pulse-position modulation (multipulse PPM) has been developed. The method makes it possible, when designing an optical PPM communication system, to determine whether and under what conditions a given multipulse PPM scheme would be more or less advantageous, relative to other candidate modulation schemes.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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