Special Coverage

Applying the Dynamic Inertia Measurement Method to Full-Scale Aerospace Vehicles
Method and Apparatus for Measuring Surface Air Pressure
Fully Premixed, Low-Emission, High-Pressure, Multi-Fuel Burner
Self-Healing Wire Insulation
Thermomechanical Methodology for Stabilizing Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) Response
Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams
High Field Superconducting Magnets

DSN Data Visualization Suite

The DSN Data Visualization Suite is a set of computer programs and reusable Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that assist in the visualization and analysis of Deep Space Network (DSN) spacecraft-tracking data, which can include predicted and actual values of downlink frequencies, uplink frequencies, and antenna-pointing angles in various formats that can include tables of values and polynomial coefficients. The data can also include lists of antenna-pointing events, lists of antenna-limit events, and schedules of tracking activities.

Posted in: Briefs, Software


Real-Time Detection of Dust Devils From Pressure Readings

Dust devils are identified as large deviations from a sliding polynomial fit. A method for real-time detection of dust devils at a given location is based on identifying the abrupt, temporary decreases in atmospheric pressure that are characteristic of dust devils as they travel through that location. The method was conceived for use in a study of dust devils on the Martian surface, where bandwidth limitations encourage the transmission of only those blocks of data that are most likely to contain information about features of interest, such as dust devils. The method, which is a form of intelligent data compression, could readily be adapted to use for the same purpose in scientific investigation of dust devils on Earth.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences


Gold Series Panel PCs

Maple Systems, Everett, WA, has released three Gold Series panel PCs in contoured 10", 15", and 17" fanless models. All models feature Intel processors and are preloaded with Windows XP Pro. The fully functional PCs run most Windows-compatible industrial software applications, and are designed for tightly sealed environments where there is no available airflow. The touchscreen interfaces feature high-resolution, high-brightness TFTs that support 16.7 million (24-bit) colors. The fanless models come equipped with a 1.0-GHz Intel Celeron M ULV CPU, and employ a high-speed Ethernet port, two USB ports, and two serial ports on the 10" model, and four serial ports on the 15 and 17" models. Solidstate hard drives are available. With a 40-GB hard drive and 256 MB of flash memory, each model is expandable with numerous options such as 512-MB and 1-GB memory expansions, CD and DVD additions (including CD-ROM, CD-R/W, DVD-ROM, and DVD-R/W), and an 80-GB hard drive upgrade. All models are made with an anodized aluminum bezel, an electrogalvanized steel chassis, and a motherboard designed for harsh manufacturing environments. Applications include remote data entry, remote monitoring, and applications that require support for multiple devices. For Free Info Visit Here.

Posted in: Products


Dr. Drake Deming, Senior Scientist, Solar System Exploration Division, Goddard Space Flight Center

Dr. Drake Deming, former Chief of Goddard Space Flight Center’s Planetary Systems Laboratory, currently serves as Senior Scientist with NASA’s Solar System Exploration Division where he specializes in detecting and characterizing hot Jupiter extrasolar planets. Dr. Deming was named recipient of the 2007 John C. Lindsay Memorial Award, Goddard’s highest honor for outstanding contributions in space science, for his work in developing a way to detect light from extrasolar planets and use it to measure their temperatures. NASA Tech Briefs: What is the Solar System Exploration Division’s primary mission within NASA and what types of projects does it typically handle? Drake Deming: Our primary mission is to study planetary science in the context of NASA’s space mission program. In this case planetary science also includes planets orbiting other stars. NTB: You began your career in education teaching astronomy at the University of Maryland. What lured you away from academia to pursue a career with NASA? Deming: Research, and the opportunity to do cutting-edge space-based research. NTB: Had you always planned to move in that direction, or was it after you had started your career that NASA entered the picture? Deming: I had always planned to move into research. NTB: Much of your research over the years has focused on trying to detect and characterize so-called “hot Jupiter” extrasolar planets. What are “hot Jupiter planets, and what can we learn from them? Deming: Hot Jupiters are giant planets, like Jupiter in our own solar system, but they’re in much closer to their stars. Not only are they much closer than Jupiter in our solar system is, but they’re much closer even than our own Earth. What we can learn from them is quite a bit, because they’re in so close to the star they’re subject to strong irradiation from the star, so the dynamics of their atmosphere is very lively, the circulations are very strong, so we can learn about the physics of their atmospheres. Also, they are subject to tremendous forces from the star; they’re subject to tidal forces, which may play a role in inflating their sizes. So, we can learn about their internal structure, and we can learn a lot about planets from studying hot Jupiters because they’re an extreme case. NTB: Why are extrasolar planets so hard to detect? Deming: They’re so hard to detect because, so far, we cannot spatially resolve them from their parent stars, so we have to study them in the combined light of the planet and the star. That means it’s a small signal riding on top of a large noise source – in this case, the star. NTB: You are the principal investigator on a program called EPOCh, which stands for Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization. Tell us about that program and what you hop to accomplish with it. Deming: Well, we have just concluded our observing with EPOCh. We have over 170,000 images of planet-hosting stars, and when we get these images we don’t resolve the planet from the star. We use the images to do precise photometry. These are bright stars that have planets that transit in front of them, and the geometry of the transit tells us quite a bit about the planet. It tells us the radius. We can examine the data to see whether it has rings or moons. We can look for other, smaller planets in the system that may transit. And in favorable cases our sensitivity extends down to planets the size of the Earth, so we’re searching for smaller worlds in these systems. NTB: You’re also the Deputy Principal Investigator for a mission called EPOXI…Deming: Yes. That’s the same as EPOCh. EPOXI is a combination of EPOCh and DIXI (Deep Impact eXtended Investigation). DIXI is the component of EPOXI that goes to Comet Hartley 2, and that’s now ramping up because EPOCh is finished. NTB: What is that mission designed to accomplish? Deming: Well, I’m not involved in that, but it’s designed to image a comet nucleus. It will use the imaging capability of the Deep Impact flyby spacecraft to image another comet. The original Deep Impact mission released an impactor into a comet nucleus and actually blew a crater in it. Of course, the impactor is no longer available to us because it was used up, but still, a tremendous amount can be learned by imaging another comet nucleus for comparative purposes. NTB: That was the Temple 1 comet, right? Deming: That was the Temple 1 comet. NTB: EPOXI spent most of the month of May observing a red dwarf star called GJ436 that is located just 32 light years from Earth, and it has a Neptune-size planet orbiting it. What did you learn from those observations? Deming: We’re still very intensely analyzing those data, but what we hope to learn is whether there’s another planet in the system, and in this case our sensitivity extends down to Earth-sized planets, so we’re looking for another planet that may have left a small signature in the data as it transited the star. If we can find that, there’s a good chance that that planet might even be habitable. Because our period of observation extends for more than 20 days, and because this is a low-luminosity red dwarf star, the habitable zone in that system is in close to the star where the orbital periods are on the order of 20 days. So we have sensitivity to planets in the habitable zone in this case. Of course, those data have our highest priority and we’re inspecting them very intensely. However, the data analysis process is very involved. We have a lot of sources of spacecraft noise that we have to discriminate against. NTB: In July 2008, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft made a video of the Moon transiting – or passing in front of – the Earth from 31 million miles away. Why did that video generate so much excitement within the scientific community? Deming: Well, I think it generated a lot of excitement both in the scientific community and outside of the scientific community because it’s really, I think, the first time that we’ve seen the Earth/Moon system from that particular perspective, from that specific perspective, where you see the Moon transit in front of the Earth. And there’s also, as we analyze those data, some realization that although it would be a relatively low probability that, if that were to occur for a planet orbiting another star and its moon transited in front of it, we could learn about the topography of the planet. NTB: Do you think we’ll learn anything new about Earth from that video? Deming: I think we’ll learn new things about the Earth as a global object, as an astronomical object. For example, one of the things we should start prominently seeing in the data is the sun glint from the Earth’s oceans, and this has been hypothesized as a way to detect oceans on planets orbiting other stars because that glint would be polarized. Although we don’t have any polarization capability, we can see that the glint sometimes becomes dramatically brighter and we’re trying to understand why that is. It may be because the glint is a specular reflection, probably from the Earth’s oceans, so by correlating that glint, the brightening of that glint with, for example, winds across the oceans and wave heights, we may find that smooth patches of ocean give us a particularly strong glint. So, if the glint were observed on an extrasolar planet, we could then infer from a variable polarization signal the presence of the glint and the presence of oceans. NTB: It was discovered some time ago that Deep Impact’s high-resolution camera has a flaw in it that prevents it from focusing properly. This was a problem during its original mission when it was trying to study a crater made by an impactor on the comet Temple 1, but you were somehow able to use that to your advantage to study planets passing in front of their parent stars. Can you explain how that works?Deming: That’s a big advantage for us because we’re not trying to image the planet. We’re only measuring the total photometric signal, so when the planet passes in front of the star we see a dip in intensity. That dip in intensity is, like, one percent. We’re doing very precise photometry, so that one-percent dip is actually the largest signal we see. We’re actually looking for much smaller dips due to smaller planets. Well, in order to measure that dip very precisely, we have to get a very precise photometric measurement, which means we need to collect a lot of light from the star. If we didn’t have the defocus, all of that light would be falling on one or two small pixels of the detector and they would immediately saturate. We’d have to constantly be reading them out and it just wouldn’t be practical. But by having a defocused image, we can spread the light over many pixels and use them to collect more light in a given readout. For each readout we collect many more photons from the stars. NTB: Among your many accomplishments at NASA, you developed a way to detect light from extrasolar planets and use that light to measure their temperature. Can you explain how that technique works? Deming: This was an observation with Spitzer. And it was also done concurrently by Professor David Charbonneau at Harvard. The Spitzer Observatory wasn’t really developed for that purpose. We just found that that it was particularly capable of that application, and what we did was we observed the systems that had transiting planets in the infrared where the planet is a significant source of radiation and we waited until the planet passed behind the star – and we could calculate when that would be – and then we saw a dip in the total radiation of the system. Since we knew the planet was passing behind the star at that time, the magnitude of that dip tells us the magnitude of the light from that planet. So, in that way we were able to measure the light from extrasolar planets. This has become a big topic of research for Spitzer. Spitzer has done this for many planets over many wavelength bands. It has been able to reconstruct, in kind of a crude way – but even crude measurements of planets orbiting other stars are very revealing and important – it’s been able to reconstruct the emission spectrum of some of these worlds orbiting other stars. NTB: In 2007 you won the John C. Lindsay Memorial Award, Goddard’s highest honor for outstanding contributions in space science. What does it mean to you to have your name added to such a distinguished list of scientists? Deming: Well, of course, I was very honored to receive this award. I was also very surprised because I had no indication, no hint, that this was coming. NTB: Nobody tipped you off? Deming: Nobody tipped me off. It was a complete surprise. I think the award speaks not to my own personal accomplishment but to the success of the NASA missions that enabled the measurements and all the people who designed and built the Spitzer Observatory. It wouldn’t have been possible to make those measurements without that facility. For more information, contact Dr. Drake Deming at leo.d.deming@nasa.gov.  To download this interview as a podcast,

Posted in: Who's Who


NASA-Developed Technique Leads to Cataract Early Detection System

A compact fiber-optic probe developed for the space program has become the first non-invasive early detection device for cataracts. Researchers from NASA and the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, collaborated to develop a simple, safe eye test for measuring a protein related to cataract formation. If subtle protein changes can be detected before a cataract develops, people may be able to reduce their cataract risk by making simple lifestyle changes. The new device is based on a laser light technique called dynamic light scattering (DLS) that was initially developed to analyze the growth of protein crystals in a zero-gravity space environment. NASA’s Dr. Rafat R. Ansari, senior scientist at Glenn Research Center, brought the technology’s possible clinical applications to the attention of NEI vision researchers when he learned that his father’s cataracts were caused by changes in lens proteins. “We have shown that this non-invasive technology that was developed for the space program can now be used to look at the early signs of protein damage due to oxidative stress, a key process involved in many medical conditions, including agerelated cataracts and diabetes, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons,” said Dr. Ansari. “By understanding the role of protein changes in cataract formation, we can use the lens not just to look at eye disease, but also as a window into the whole body.” The DLS technique will assist vision scientists in looking at long-term lens changes due to aging, smoking, diabetes, and LASIK surgery. In addition, NASA researchers will continue to use the device to look at the impact of long-term space travel on the visual system. “During a three-year mission to Mars, astronauts will experience increased exposure to space radiation that can cause cataracts and other problems,” Dr. Ansari explained. “In the absence of proper countermeasures, this may pose a risk for NASA. This technology could help us understand the mechanism for cataract formation so we can work to develop effective countermeasures to mitigate the risk and prevent it in astronauts.” For more information, visit here.

Posted in: UpFront


Presentation Extensions of the SOAP

A set of extensions of the Satellite Orbit Analysis Program (SOAP) enables simultaneous and/or sequential presentation of information from multiple sources. SOAP is used in the aerospace community as a means of collaborative visualization and analysis of data on planned spacecraft missions. The following definitions of terms also describe the display modalities of SOAP as now extended: In SOAP terminology,

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences


Supercomputer Aids NASA’s Journey to the Moon and Mars

SGI® Altix® ICE systemSilicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI)Sunnyvale, CA800-800-7441www.sgi.comSGI has supplied NASA's Advanced Supercomputing facility at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA with Pleiades, the world’s third-fastest supercomputer. The 51,200-core SGI® Altix® ICE 8200EX system can generate a theoretical peak of 609 trillion operations per second (TeraFLOPS). Pleiades supplements Columbia, the 14,336-core SGI® Altix®system.

Posted in: Application Briefs


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