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Smart Core-Bit Probe (SCOPe)

This system can be used in drilling applications in the oil and gas industry. Smart Core-Bit Probe (SCOPe) employs ruggedized MEMS-based sensors for real-time monitoring of sample core integrity (compositional or morphological changes) and drill health during sample acquisition. SCOPe enables comprehensive preliminary in situ measurements (both dynamic and static) during sample acquisition and before retrieving the sample. This results in maximum science return, and enables rapid and accurate analyses of mineralogy and chemistry of the sample from initial acquisition to the end of the sample acquisition and handling chain.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Electrically Conductive, Failure-Resistant Tethers

Fine wires are loosely woven into a load-bearing netlike structure. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Special electrically conductive, failure-resistant rope/wire combinations are being developed for use as electrodynamic spacecraft tethers. These or similar combinations could also prove useful on Earth in applications in which there are requirements for strong, reliable, lightweight tethers that can conduct electric currents of moderate size: such applications might include tethering of aerostats and of wind-powered electric generators.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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ATHLETE Low-Gravity Testbed

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A six-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) testbed was developed for evaluating microgravity and low-gravity proximity and contact operations, e.g. in the vicinity of a near Earth orbit, for simulation of proximity operations for a human mission to an asteroid. This is accomplished using an “inverted Stewart platform” where the vehicle under test — in this case, the ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) — is suspended by six computer-controlled cable winches so that it can be maneuvered in all six degrees of freedom. Position feedback is provided by both the encoders at the winch motor, and a motion capture system installed on the testbed structural frame. The payload is attached to the work platform at the end of the six cables.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Acoustic Mechanical Feedthroughs for Producing Work Across a Structure

This technology is applicable wherever an actuator needs to be isolated from another environment. Electromagnetic motors can have problems when operating in extreme environments. In addition, if one needs to do mechanical work outside a structure, electrical feedthroughs are required to transport the electric power to drive the motor. Piezoelectric motors can be designed directly with high torques and lower speeds without the need for gears. One can also actuate piezoelectric, electrostrictive, or magnetostrictive materials in a benign environment and transmit the power in acoustic form as a stress wave and actuate external to the benign environment. This technology removes the need to perforate a structure and allows work to be done directly on the other side of a structure without the use of electrical feedthroughs, which can weaken the structure, pipe, or vessel.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Life-Detecting Radar

First responders and search and rescue teams are the primary applications. A new device detects the heartbeat and respiration of victims trapped in rubble or disaster debris, and reduces the time required to initiate a rescue. Searchers would like to distinguish live victims from those who have died recently and to distinguish humans from animals. In addition to search and rescue, there are other uses for the device that can detect multiple humans from a distance, and with material between the device and the humans.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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High-Energy Lithium Flow Cells With Sulfur Cathodes for Transportation Applications

These cells can be used for large energy storage systems. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Since the entry of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries into the market, considerable improvements have been made in their gravimetric and volumetric energy densities, especially compared to aqueous systems such as Pb-acid, Ni-Cd, and Ni-MH. Sulfur cathodes have been well studied for over three decades, due to many of their attractive features such as high specific energy, abundance, and low cost. A successful sulfur-based battery is, however, still to emerge, especially for ambient temperature applications.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Physical Causes of Extremely Low Geomagnetic Activity

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California An analysis of solar, solar wind, and geomagnetic data during the recent solar cycle minimum (2008) has recently been undertaken. It was discovered that the lowest value of the Ap index [this index is an averaged planetary A index based on data from a set of specific magnetometer stations] in the history of its recording occurred during 2009, about 1 year after solar minimum. The investigators were able to determine that it was the decrease of solar and interplanetary forcing that was causing the anomalous effect. The coronal holes, which emit high-speed solar wind plasma streams, were located at middle (solar) latitudes during this epoch of the solar cycle. Thus the full brunt of the solar wind and its embedded Alfvén waves missed the Earth and its magnetosphere, lessening the effect of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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