Special Coverage

Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research
Small Robot Has Outstanding Vertical Agility
Smart Optical Material Characterization System and Method
Lightweight, Flexible Thermal Protection System for Fire Protection
Nasa Tech Briefs

Amorphous Rover

This rover would maneuver on terrain by altering its shape. A proposed mobile robot, denoted the amorphous rover, would vary its own size and shape in order to traverse terrain by means of rolling and/or slithering action. The amorphous rover was conceived as a robust, lightweight alternative to the wheeled rover-class robotic vehicle heretofore used in exploration of Mars. Unlike a wheeled rover, the amorphous rover would not have a predefined front, back, top, bottom, or sides. Hence, maneuvering of the amorphous rover would be more robust: the amorphous rover would not be vulnerable to overturning, could move backward or sideways as well as forward, and could even narrow itself to squeeze through small openings. Examples of potential terrestrial applications of the amorphous rover include exploration or military reconnaissance on rough terrain, inspection inside narrow tunnels, and searching for victims trapped in rubble of collapsed buildings.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Terrain, Product development, Robotics, Military vehicles and equipment, Rescue and emergency vehicles and equipment, Spacecraft

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Space-Frame Antenna

The structure could be deformed to a desired size, shape, and orientation. The space-frame antenna is a conceptual antenna structure that would be lightweight, deployable from compact stowage, and capable of deforming itself to a size, shape, and orientation required for a specific use. The underlying mechanical principle is the same as that of the amorphous rover described in the immediately preceding article: The space-frame antenna would be a trusslike structure consisting mostly of a tetrahedral mesh of nodes connected by variable-length struts. (The name of the antenna reflects the fact that such a structure has been called a “space frame.”) The deformation of the antenna to a desired size, shape, and orientation would be effected through coordinated lengthening and shorting of the struts. In principle, it would even be possible to form the space-frame antenna by deforming another space-frame structure (e.g., the amorphous rover) in this manner.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Aircraft structures, Airframes, Antennas, Storage, Spacecraft

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Space-Frame Lunar Lander

This structure would deform itself to sit stably on rough terrain. The space-frame lunar lander is a conceptual spacecraft or spacecraftlike system based largely on the same principles as those of the amorphous rover and the space-frame antenna described in the two immediately preceding articles. The space-frame lunar lander was originally intended to (1) land on rough lunar terrain, (2) deform itself to conform to the terrain so as to be able to remain there in a stable position and orientation, and (3) if required, further deform itself to perform various functions. In principle, the space-frame lunar lander could be used in the same way on Earth, as might be required, for example, to place meteorological sensors or a radio-communication relay station on an otherwise inaccessible mountain peak.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Aircraft structures, Airframes, Attitude control, Spacecraft

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In-Situ Focusing Inside a Thermal Vacuum Chamber

This method would enable less expensive, faster focusing for IR imaging cameras and spectrometers.Traditionally, infrared (IR) space instruments have been focused by iterating with a number of different thickness shim rings in a thermal vacuum chamber until the focus meets requirements. This has required a number of thermal cycles that are very expensive as they tie up many integration and test (I&T)/ environmental technicians/engineers working three shifts for weeks. Rather than creating a test shim for each iteration, this innovation replaces the test shim and can focus the instrument while in the thermal vacuum chamber.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Optics, Systems engineering, Mountings, Test equipment and instrumentation

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Gear-Driven Turnbuckle Actuator

This tool allows for continued adjustments to turnbuckles without the need to remove them.This actuator design allows the extension and contraction of turnbuckle assemblies. It can be operated manually or remotely, and is extremely compact. It is ideal for turnbuckles that are hard to reach by conventional tools. The tool assembly design solves the problem of making accurate adjustments to the variable geometry guide vanes without having to remove and reinstall the actuator system back on the engine. The actuator does this easily by adjusting the length of the turnbuckles while they are still attached to the engine.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Downsizing, Sensors and actuators, Tools and equipment, Gears, Engine components

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CAD and Virtual Prototyping Software: Continuous Development in a Challenging Economy

In our annual poll of executives at leading design and virtual prototyping software companies, we found that in difficult economic times, providing customers with easy-to-use, value-added products is even more important. We asked executives to give their views on the importance of 2D to 3D, upfront simulation, and trends that will affect the software market in 2010.

Posted in: Articles, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Software, CAD, CAM, and CAE, Design processes, Market research

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Aircraft Modification and Integration Enables SOFIA to Fly

Aircraft and airborne system development and modification L-3 Communications Integrated Systems Waco, TX 254-799-5533 www.l-3com.com/is/

Posted in: Application Briefs, Aerospace, Optics, Performance upgrades, Fixed-wing aircraft

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