Wideband, GaN MMIC, Distributed Amplifier-Based Microwave Power Module

The solid-state module operates as a radar, communication, or navigation system.

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Historically, the term microwave power module (MPM) has been associated with a small, fully integrated, self-contained radio frequency (RF) amplifier that combines both solid-state and microwave vacuum electronics technologies. Typically, the output power of these MPMs is on the order of about 100 Watts CW over an octave bandwidth. The MPMs require both a solid-state amplifier at the front end and a microwave vacuum electronics amplifier at the back end. However, such MPMs cannot be utilized for communications because the MPMs are not optimized for linearity or efficiency. Also, the MPMs can be very expensive to manufacture, particularly when modules are produced in very small quantities for space applications. Also, a kilovolt (kV) class power supply is required to power the traveling-wave tube amplifier, which is a part of the microwave vacuum electronics.

Posted in: Briefs, Power Management, Energy, Energy Storage, Amplifiers, Architecture, Product development, Radiation

Integrated Solar Array Power Management System

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

When solar cells are electrically connected to form solar arrays, they are organized into strings. Each string represents a specific number of cells connected in series to produce a specific voltage. The strings are then connected in parallel to add their currents to meet the array power requirement. This requires that the strings have the same voltage. Blocking diodes are used to take out strings with voltage that is too low, resulting in loss of power. When the arrays are mounted to a non-coplanar surface such as a spacecraft body or inflatable structure, many strings will have voltages lower than the rated voltage. This regulator manages the voltage of each string individually so that its power may be used, regardless of its voltage. It does this by converting each string’s energy into a series of high-voltage pulses that charges a reservoir capacitor to one of a set of common voltages used by the spacecraft bus. This allows for use of all of the illuminated strings in producing well-regulated power at pre-programmed voltages.

Posted in: Briefs, Power Management, Energy, Energy Storage, Architecture, Capacitors, Voltage regulators, Solar energy, Spacecraft

High-Energy-Density Solid-State Li-Ion Battery with Enhanced Safety

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

High-energy-density and safe rechargeable batteries are required for NASA’s future exploration missions. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are attractive energy storage systems due to their relatively high energy and power densities. However, the unfavorable side reactions between the electrodes and the liquid electrolyte adversely impact performance. These interfacial reactions are in the form of either anodic oxidation of the electrolyte, or dissolution of the cathode into the electrolyte. As a result, the practical capacity and cycle life of the battery are limited. More importantly, the reactions at the cathode-electrolyte interface pose a serious threat to safety due to the electrolyte decomposition and formation of gaseous products within the cell. In addition, growth of lithium dendrite on the anode can cause cell short circuit and lead to fire or even explosion in the presence of liquid electrolyte.

Posted in: Briefs, Thermal Management, Energy, Energy Storage, Battery cell chemistry, Lithium-ion batteries, Safety testing and procedures, Spacecraft

GSPS DACs Enable Ultra-Wide Bandwidth Applications

To meet the increasing capacity demand of mobile customers, the emerging E-band market requires wider bandwidth capabilities compared to traditional microwave backhaul wireless architectures. Due to increased capacity, 2-GHz E-band systems will be needed in the near future. This white paper covers the demands of current E-band point-to-point systems, and how Analog Devices’ high-speed digital-to-analog converters (DACs) provide the necessary bandwidth and sampling frequencies to support them.

Posted in: White Papers, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Data Acquisition, Sensors

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, Electronics & Computers, Microelectromechanical devices, Radio equipment, Switches

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, Electronics & Computers, Mathematical models, Semiconductors

Deployable Antenna Circuit Board Material Design and Fabrication Process

This technology has applications in solar arrays for small satellites.

The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray (ISARA) antenna requires a rugged circuit board material that will meet the following requirements: (1) remains sufficiently flat over the required operating temperature range with solar cells mounted, and under full solar illumination, including heat dissipation due to ≈30% efficiency solar cells; (2) provides a sufficiently high-quality RF-grade circuit board material needed to print the reflectarray antenna; (3) is sufficiently thin (<2.5 mm) to fit within the available stowage volume; and (4) has low mass density (≈5 kg/m2).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Integrated circuits, Fabrication

Rigorous Antenna Noise Temperature Calculation Method for International Space Station Visiting Spacecraft

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

The temperature of the orbiting space station’s Sun-facing side could be up to 250 °F (≈120 °C) and will be a significant antenna noise temperature contributor for visiting spacecraft communication and tracking systems during rendezvous. The conventional antenna noise temperature calculation does not take into account the space station reflection effects, and results in an underestimated antenna and system noise temperature. Thus, the visiting spacecraft communication and tracking system performance could be overestimated during rendezvous.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Electronics & Computers, Software, Antennas, Telecommunications, Thermodynamics, Noise, Spacecraft

Recurring Anomaly Detection System (ReADS)

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

NASA Engineering & Safety Center (NESC) subject matter experts analyze records in various International Space Station and shuttle databases to identify recurring anomalies. The key problems these experts face in analyzing such database records are:

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Electronics & Computers, Software, Analysis methodologies, Data acquisition and handling, Spacecraft

Method for Automatic Optimization of Yaw Maneuvers for Orbiting Space Vehicles

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

A new method for optimizing yaw attitude maneuvers on the International Space Station (ISS) was developed. Docking and undocking operations often require 180° yaw rotations, which are the most common large maneuvers on the ISS. When optimized, some large maneuvers, previously performed using thrusters, could be performed using control moment gyroscopes (CMGs) or with significantly reduced thruster firings. The ability to perform a non-propulsive or low-propulsive 180° yaw maneuver on the ISS has been proven through the zero propellant maneuver (ZPM) and the optimal propellant maneuver (OPM). The ZPM and OPM were created by Draper Laboratory using the computational approach. Each maneuver is unique, and can only be calculated on the ground because significant computer resources are needed for the calculations.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Electronics & Computers, Software, Optimization, Simulation and modeling, Attitude control, Spacecraft guidance, Spacecraft

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