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Robot Task Commander with Extensible Programming Environment

This application can be used in programming robotic systems in real-world environments such as factory floors and disaster sites. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas As robotic systems are expected to perform complex tasks, system developers require tools for application programming that are more advanced than the current state of the art. Robot application programs need to allow the system to respond to different, and possibly unforeseen, situations either autonomously or by enabling operators to modify these programs quickly in the field.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Multi-Spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System/Network-Based Navigation

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Current deep spacecraft rely heavily on ground-based navigation and tracking for state measurement. The requirement for long ground navigation passes, coupled with analysis support, produces a large latency for updating a vehicle’s state. As the current infrastructure continues to age and is increasingly utilized, the capability for these observations will also be diminished.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Heading Versus Tilt Chart for Assessing HGA Occlusion and Flop Risk in MSL Operations

This approach is useful for rovers on Mars or other celestial bodies to point the antenna toward the Earth to transmit data without obstructions to the tracking stations. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) high-gain antenna (HGA) sits low on the deck, leaving the sky occluded in many directions by other parts of the rover. Each drive must end with the rover at a heading where the Earth will be unoccluded during the next HGA communications pass. This is a multidimensional problem that can take considerable time to assess in detail. For a portion of heading/tilt space, the Earth track starts outside joint limits for one kinematic pointing solution, and ends outside joint limits for the other. Tracking would either stop at the joint limit, or go off Earth point (“flop”) in the middle of the pass in order to change kinematic solutions to complete the pass. Special attention to uplink must be made when a drive ends at a heading where there is risk of a flop.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Rapid Forest Triage by Sub-Canopy Micro Air Vehicles

Applications include rapid assessment of biomass for commercial forestry and carbon offsets. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Today, tree distribution maps can only be generated manually in a very time-consuming process, and real-time microclimate mapping of a large 3D volume under tree canopy is not possible. A prototype small quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system was developed that is able to maneuver in cluttered environments like forests, and under tree canopy to map tree distributions from 3D point clouds gathered from an onboard stereo vision system. The UAV uses a small onboard sensor board to record micro-climate parameters during flight.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Insertable, Miniature, In-Vivo Surgical Robot with Embedded Control

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas This innovation is a miniature, in-vivo surgical robot that is able to be inserted into the peritoneal cavity under insufflation. It is designed to perform Laparoendoscopic Single-Site Surgery (LESS). This robotic device is capable of direct visualization of the surgical procedure, and manual or autonomous repositioning within the abdominal cavity.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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CMOS-Compatible Ohmic Contact RF MEMS Switch

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas Radio frequency (RF) microelectromechanical system (MEMS) switches have advantages over their solid-state counterparts. However, ohmic contact MEMS devices face several significant limitations, preventing entry into the mass market. These limitations are cost, reliability, packaging, and integration.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics

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Miller-Jogging for Synthesizer Lock Algorithm Extension

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a wide range of CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) phase lock loop (PLL) chips with self-healing/self-calibration capabilities, allowing them to adapt, on the fly, to changes in temperature and other environment parameters. All CMOS PLLs typically have three major settings that self-healing and calibration can adjust: VCO (voltage controlled oscillator) coarse tuning, divider tuning, and CML (current mode logic) tuning. Previous work done at UCLA uses these “knobs” or settings exclusively to self-lock a PLL. Locking criteria is established by monitoring the control voltage with an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) to see if the PLL loop is settled in the middle of the range (locked), or sitting at the ground or supply (unlocked).

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics

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