Is Pluto a Planet? Scientists Seek New Definition

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to "non-planet" status. Johns Hopkins University scientist Kirby Runyon led a group of six researchers to draft a new definition of "planet" — one that includes more than 100 other celestial bodies, including Pluto. The proposal was presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, hosted in Houston, Texas on March 21.

Posted in: News, Cameras, Imaging, Physical Sciences, Propulsion
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Should Pluto be restored as a planet?

This week’s Question: Last week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Johns Hopkins University's Kirby Runyon reignited an often fierce debate within the scientific community: Pluto’s planetary status.

Posted in: Question of the Week, Physical Sciences
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High-Speed Cameras Help Digital Image Correlation Show Its Strength

Digital Image Correlation (DIC) using high-speed cameras is gaining in popularity as a method for measuring material deformation and strain. That popularity is based on some real advantages of DIC over traditional sensors, and supported by advances in camera capabilities, integrator software, and new measurement techniques.

Posted in: White Papers, Coatings & Adhesives, Materials, Physical Sciences, Test & Measurement
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Foldable and Deployable Power Collection System

The lightweight solar power array can be used in electric vehicles, portable and field-deployable power systems, and power for emergency response operations.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is developing a lightweight space-based solar power array with a high power-to-stowed-volume and weight ratio. The system provides power to small satellites and CubeSats that are power starved, operating on extremely limited power because of the size restrictions for housing onboard power sources. The beauty of NASA’s new solar unit is in its simplicity and packaged power density. Small satellites cannot take advantage of deployable high-efficiency solar cell arrays due to their complexity and mechanical needs; the weight and volume requirements exceed what is available in small satellites and CubeSats. The new system, for example, is compact enough to provide a 3U CubeSat with ~200 Watts, or a 6U with 500 Watts of power. NASA is developing the technology and is looking for partners to license and commercialize it.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Solar Power, Physical Sciences, Solar energy, Product development, Satellites
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Solid-State Ultracapacitor

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a solid-state ultracapacitor utilizing a novel nanocomposite dielectric material. The material’s design is based on the internal barrier layer capacitance (IBLC) concept, and it uses novel dielectric and metallic conductive ink formulations.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Physical Sciences, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Composite materials, Nanomaterials
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Iodine-Compatible Hall Effect Thruster

The use of iodine reduces the technical demands on thruster design.

Iodine-compatible Hall effect thruster.

The Hall effect thruster (HET) was designed for long-duration operation with gaseous iodine as the propellant. Iodine is an alternative to the state-of-the-art propellant xenon. Compared to xenon, iodine stores as a solid at much higher density and at a much lower pressure. Because iodine is a halogen, it is reactive with some of the materials with which a Hall thruster is typically constructed. Through research and testing, the new method allows for the HET to be used with iodine propellant for long periods of time.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Propulsion, Propellants, Spacecraft fuel, Storage, Rocket engines
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An Alternative Molecular Sexing Method for the Florida Scrub-jay

John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida

A new method of molecular sexing is described that helps to understand population dynamics of the Florida Scrub-jay (FSJ). FSJ is an endemic, nonmigratory, monomorphic species of bird found on the Florida peninsula in lowgrowing oak or pine scrub. The current conservation status listed for the FSJ is threatened and vulnerable to extinction.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Biological sciences
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Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) Science Simulator

This program simulates ocean topography observations for generating ocean circulation models.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

The SWOT Science Simulator simulates projected SWOT altimetry observations that can be applied to an ocean general circulation model, allowing the exploration of ideas and methods to optimize information retrieval from the proposed SWOT Mission, which is currently baselined to launch in 2020.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Simulation and modeling
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Digital Elevation Model Maker (DEMmaker)

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

The DEMmaker suite of software applications produces data products containing surface shape, reflectivity, and geomorphology (craters and rocks) for a desired planetary surface based on statistically accurate size and frequency distributions of geologic and surface impact features. The current version can produce models at virtually any resolution or size for any location on the Moon. Remote sensing data can be incorporated to underlie the synthetic landscape with real data where available. The software suite is driven by a graphical user interface (GUI) that lets the user specify which tools of the suite to run, allowing flexibility in the products output by the package.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Simulation and modeling, Computer software and hardware
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Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS)

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

TOPS is a modeling software system that integrates data from satellite, aircraft, and ground sensors, and weather/climate models with application models to expeditiously produce operational nowcasts and forecasts of ecological conditions. TOPS allows determination of the options for different socio-economic and resource management approaches to dealing with fluctuations within our biosphere, and will help in mitigating potential negative impacts.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Simulation and modeling, Computer software and hardware
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