In-Flight Pitot-Static Calibration

This precise yet time- and cost-effective method is based on GPS technology using output error optimization. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a new method for calibrating pitot-static air data systems used in aircraft. Pitot-static systems are pressure-based instruments that measure the aircraft’s airspeed. These systems must be calibrated in flight to minimize potential error. Current methods — including trailing cone, tower fly-by, and pacer airplane — are time- and cost-intensive, requiring extensive flight time per calibration. NASA’s method can reduce this calibration time by up to an order of magnitude, cutting a significant fraction of the cost. In addition, NASA’s calibration method enables near-real-time monitoring of error in airspeed measurements, which can be used to alert pilots when airspeed instruments are inaccurate or failing. Because of this feature, the technology also has applications in the health usage and monitoring (HUMS) industry. Flight test engineers can be trained to use this method proficiently in 12 days without costly specialized hardware.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Calibration, Pitot-static instruments


Real-Time Radiation Monitoring Using Nanotechnology

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California NASA has patented a unique chemical sensor array leveraging nanostructures for monitoring the concentration of chemical species or gas molecules that is not damaged when exposed to protons and other high-energy particles over time. The nanotechnology-enabled chemical sensor array uses single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), metal catalyst-doped SWCNTs, and polymer- coated SWCNTs as the sensing media between a pair of interdigitated electrodes (IDE). By measuring the conductivity change of the SWCNT device, the concentration of the chemical species or gas molecules can be measured. These sensors have high sensitivity, low power requirements, and are robust and have a low manufacturing cost compared to other commercial chemical sensors for detection of trace amount of chemicals in gasses and liquids.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Sensors and actuators, Nanotechnology, Radiation


External Diagnostic Method to Detect Electrical Charging in Complex Ion Trapping Systems

This procedure is implemented without breaking the vacuum and/or disassembling the system. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Electron-ionized atom trapping technology is widely used in mass spectrometry and atomic clocks. The complexity of the trapping configuration operating in an ultra-high vacuum system is driven by demands for ultimate sensitivity, performance, and fundamental science. Consequently, external diagnosis, maintenance, and design verification and validation without opening the vacuum and disassembling the system become increasingly difficult. In these ion trapping configurations, electrical charging of non-metallic materials or opening connections are a hard-to-detect problem, yet can easily compromise the intended trapping potential. More specifically, the JPL Linear Ion Trap Standards (LITS) will benefit from a non-invasive solution for system verification/validation, diagnosis, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Electrical systems, Spectroscopy, Diagnostics


Sonar Inspection Robot System

The system surveys interior volume, interrogates structure integrity, and displays real-time video and sonar. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas The robotic inspection device prototype that was used for testing. NASA’s Johnson Space Center innovators have designed a Robotic Inspection System that is capable of surveying deep sea structures such as oil platform storage cells/tanks and pipelines in order to determine the volume of material remaining inside, interrogate structure integrity, and display real-time video and sonar. This inspection device and method could significantly reduce the cost of inspecting, and in the future, provide sampling of the structure contents. The technology is an all-in-one inspection device that includes cameras, sonar, and motion-sensing instruments with hardware and software components. This NASA-developed technology is available for licensing.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Robotics, Inspections, Test equipment and instrumentation


Modules for Inspection, Qualification, and Verification of Pressure Vessels

This automated, modular, standardized system features interchangeable probes. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas After decades of composite over-wrapped pressure vessel (COPV) development, manufacturing variance is still high, and has necessitated higher safety factors and additional mass to be flown on spacecraft, reducing overall performance. When liners are used in COPVs, they need to be carefully screened before wrapping. These flaws can go undetected and later grow through the thickness of the liner, causing the liner to fail, resulting in a massive leakage of the liner and subsequent mission loss.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Aircraft structures, Composite materials, Inspections, Spacecraft


Precise Measurements on Earth Enable Further Exploration in Space

Measurement is the first step to success. If you can’t measure something accurately, it can’t be understood or improved. That is especially true for the spacecraft rockets and engines designed to operate under extreme temperatures and pressures at liftoff, or space stations the size of a six-bedroom house that must support people living and working in space for years.

Posted in: Articles, Test & Measurement, Measurements, Test equipment and instrumentation, Spacecraft


Next-Generation Infrared Technologies Solve High-Speed Automotive Testing Challenges

Higher-speed IR cameras can improve design phase testing. Product research and development on internal combustion engines, brake rotors, tires, and high-speed airbags are just a few of the areas that truly benefit from high-speed, high-sensitivity thermal characterization testing. Unfortunately, traditional forms of contact temperature measurement such as thermocouples are not practical to mount on moving objects, and non-contact forms of temperature measurement such as spot guns — and even current infrared (IR) cameras — are simply not fast enough to stop motion on these high-speed targets in order to take accurate temperature measurements.

Posted in: Articles, Test & Measurement, Optics, Test equipment and instrumentation, Thermal testing


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