News

NASA Tests Asteroid Sampling Instrument

The first of five instruments for a spacecraft that will collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it back to Earth has arrived at Lockheed Martin for installation onto NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). The Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundances and to take the asteroid Bennu’s temperature.Bolted to a cradle, the OSIRIS-REx TES is prepared for testing. A red lens cover nestles within the angular sunshade, keeping the optics clean. (ASU/Charles Leight)

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Instrumentation

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Kimberly Hambuchen, Deputy Project Manager, Human Robotics System Project, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Kim Hambuchen is currently building user interfaces for Vakyrie, a six-foot-two, 286-pound humanoid robot. The two-legged Valkyrie builds on NASA’s Robonaut, a robotic assistant currently onboard the International Space Station.

Posted in: News, Who's Who

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New Technique Enables Fast, Inexpensive Nanofiber Production

The high cost to manufacture nanofibers has relegated them to just a few niche industries. MIT researchers developed a new technique for producing nanofibers that increases the rate of production fourfold while reducing energy consumption by more than 90 percent, holding out the prospect of cheap, efficient nanofiber production.

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Speedy Laser Mirrors Enable Better Welding

Silicon micromirrors can guide laser beams at extremely high speeds, allowing operators to dose heat input to workpieces with absolute precision. But to date, they have not been robust enough to be used for laser cutting and welding. Researchers have developed fast, durable mirrors that are capable of performing challenging cutting and welding tasks.

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3D-Printed Aerogels Improve Energy Storage

A new type of graphene aerogel will make for better energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis, and separations. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory made graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing. The 3D printed graphene aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, are lightweight, have mechanical stiffness, and exhibit super-compressibility.

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NASA Tests Aircraft Wing Coatings that Slough Bug Guts

Bug guts create drag, and drag increases fuel consumption. But aircraft of the future could be made more fuel-efficient with non-stick coatings NASA recently tested on Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator 757. NASA and Boeing engineers tested non-stick wing coatings designed to shed insect residue and help reduce aircraft fuel consumption. Researchers assessed how well five different coatings worked to prevent insect remains from sticking to the leading edge of the airplane's right wing.

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Fuel Cell Carts Deliver Power to Airplane Galleys

Airplane galleys consume a huge amount of power. Additional power units may soon come to the rescue: housed inside trolley carts in the galleys, these units deliver both supplemental power and thus uncouple the power to the cabin and the kitchen from power supplied to the rest of the aircraft. In addition, the cart does not need new approval every time the airplane gets a retrofit or a facelift.Housed in a trolley cart, the additional power supply for airplanes is easy to stow. (© 2014 Diehl Aerospace GmbH)

Posted in: News, Energy

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System Lets Drones Fly Autonomously and Learn New Routes

Drones, say goodbye to pilots. With the goal of achieving autonomous flight of these aerial vehicles, researchers developed a vision and learning system to control and navigate them without relying on a GPS signal or trained personnel. The method estimates the position and orientation of the vehicle, allowing it to recognize its environment, replacing the GPS location system with low-cost sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, and camcorders.Drone manufactured by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd. (Investigación y Desarrollo)

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Robotics

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Tiny Origami Robot Folds Itself Up

MIT researchers have developed a printable origami-inspired robot that, when heated, folds itself up from a flat sheet of plastic. The robot weighs a third of a gram and measures about a centimeter from front to back.

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New Fluid Makes Geothermal Power Cleaner

More American homes could be powered by the Earth's natural underground heat with a new, nontoxic, and potentially recyclable liquid that is expected to use half as much water as other fluids used to tap into otherwise unreachable geothermal hot spots. The fluid might be a boon to a new approach to geothermal power called enhanced geothermal systems. These systems pump fluids underground, a step that's called "reservoir stimulation," to enable power production where conventional geothermal doesn't work.

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