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Cathode Discharge Catalytic Systems for Hydrogen Recovery from Methane

Methane previously vented into space is now used for hydrogen recovery. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama In the process of recovery and regeneration of cabin atmosphere to supply oxygen to facilitate extended-duration manned missions, including expeditions to Mars or a return to the Moon, one of the byproducts of this reaction is waste methane, which is vented into space. This innovation reclaims hydrogen from the methane using a low-power, non-thermal plasma discharge process based on distributed hollow-cathode and filamentary discharges. This hollow-cathode, non-thermal plasma (HCNTP) is characterized by electrons and heavy particles being in thermodynamic non-equilibrium with electrons heated to 10,000 K and above, while ions and neutral species remain at near ambient temperature. By using pulsed voltage waveforms for generating the plasma discharge, a majority of electric energy goes into heating electrons.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Beneficiation of Planetary Regolith by Pneumatically Enhanced Tribocharging of Granular Material

This technique has applications in all types of material handling, mining, and processing. John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida Liberation of oxygen from the mineral ilmenite (FeTiO3), which may be found on the Moon, Mars, or asteroids, is inefficient due to the abundance of other minerals in the excavated regolith that are present but not needed during the chemical processing. Energy for the reduction reaction is in short supply on the lunar, Martian, and asteroid surfaces. The ilmenite should be separated from other minerals to simplify and improve the process efficiency. Lunar and planetary basaltic lavas contain ilmenite, but they consist only of 12 to 20 percent by weight.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Fourier Transform Spectrometer on Autonomous Self-Healing Hardware Platform

This liquid crystal waveguide-based platform provides self-healing for electronics in dangerous or hard-to-reach locations. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The autonomous self-healing (eDNA) hardware platform is a reconfigurable field-programmable gate-array (FPGA)-type platform developed by Technical University of Denmark (patent: WO/2010/060923). It is capable of autonomously reconfiguring itself in case a fault is detected and, thusly, restoring functionality at a fault-free location on the chip.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Low-Temperature-Compatible Electronics for a Miniature Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer

The electronics have been demonstrated to function down to 77 K. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Missions to Titan are severely limited in available mass and power because spacecraft have to travel over a billion miles to get there, consuming large masses of propellants. Thus low-mass, low-power instruments are a high priority need for Titan missions. A miniature, liquid-phase, high-resolution, pulsed proton-NMR (1H-NMR) spectrometer was developed with low mass (1.5 kg), requiring low power, that can be operated cryogenically on the surface of Titan. This work focuses on new pulsed electronic circuits, optimized for a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer for analysis of hydrocarbon liquids on Titan.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Ionospheric Delay Compensation Using a Scale Factor Based on an Altitude of a Receiver

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas GPS receivers must compensate for the delay a GPS signal experiences as it passes through the ionosphere in order to accurately determine the position of the receiver. Receivers limited to terrestrial operation may utilize the Klobuchar parameters transmitted by the GPS satellites to model the ionosphere and remove much of this delay. However, as a GPS receiver passes through the ionosphere, such as in a spacecraft or low-Earth orbit space station, the Klobuchar model no longer adequately approximates the correction to be applied. Other models exist, particularly the IRI 2007 model created by NASA et al., but these are too computationally complex to be performed in real time by common hardware available for space implementations. Moreover, although the IRI model provides extensive insight into the historical characteristics of the ionosphere, it is purely predictive for times beyond the publication date of the model. Still other models exist that can be used during post-processing but are also not available in real time.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Microelectronic Repair Techniques for Wafer-Level Integration

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Wafer-level integration was employed to mount the microshutter array for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the detector-read-out hybrid for TIRS (Thermal Infrared Sensor). In the case of the JWST substrate, two conductors (polysilicon and aluminum) separated by a silicon oxide insulating layer were fabricated on a roughly 85-mm-square silicon wafer. The size of the substrate, the density and length of the conductive traces, and the requirement of zero shorts and zero opens on the finished device necessitated nearly impossible cleanroom requirements. Techniques were developed to repair the inevitable shorts and opens created during the wafer fabrication process. The wafers were repaired to zero shorts and zero opens without degradation of device performance.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Multi-Gigabit-Rate Radiation Hard Bus

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland A concept was developed for a multi-gigabit-rate, radiation-hardened (RH) bus that would support open-system architecture and provide a cost-effective, high-speed interconnect. This concept is based on Advanced Science and Novel Technology Company’s SerDes system, which supports a variety of interfaces, and operates at frequencies from DC to more than 15 GHz. The design of the improved SerDes is based on the company’s proprietary library of RH cells and functional blocks using annular FETs (field-effect transistors) that are available in commercial CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) technologies. Bus architecture and preliminary SerDes circuit design have been accomplished during this phase. At the time of this reporting, the complete chip was to be designed and fabricated in the next phase.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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