Application Briefs

Low-Power FPGAs Aboard NASA’s Mission to Mars to Study Climate History

RTAX-S field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) Actel Mountain View, CA 650-318-4200 www.actel.com Actel’s RTAX-S field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are aboard NASA’s Phoenix mission to Mars, which launched this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission will study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian Arctic. Included in the spacecraft is a Meterological Station (MET) provided by the Canadian Space Agency, which will acquire, process, and transmit temperature and pressure data to scientists back on Earth. MDA, a provider of robotic space systems, led construction of the MET instrument and incorporated Actel’s one-million-gate RTAX1000SCQ352 device into the instrument subsystem.

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Design of a Field-Mapped Beam Homogenizer

Light beam homogenizer designs used for decades are largely based upon lenticular lens arrays that date back to the 1940s and 1950s. A more recent design is from the late 1980s that comprises a pair of crossed-cylindrical lenticular lens structures coupled with a condensing lens. The 1980s design has 10 optical surfaces which represents a significant source of optical loss, long beam path (typically ~ 1.5 meters) and high cost from having so many optical elements. Further, this design requires careful and precise alignment of the light beam in relation to the optics comprising the homogenizer, in particular angular rotation of the lenslets and their positioning in the X-Y plane of the optical axis. These designs are unable to produce a homogenized ring illumination, which is useful for ablating polymer insulation from metal bonding pads in microelectronic fabrication of multichip modules and memory chips.

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Performing Failure Mode and Effect Analysis

Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) is a methodology for analyzing potential problems early in the product development cycle where it is easier to take action to overcome potential issues, thereby enhancing reliability through design. The tool is used to identify relationships between process and product requirements and the potential for unacceptable outputs and their effects.

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Strainmeter Helps NASA Identify Continental Drift

TEGAM 1949-0001 ratio transformer TEGAM Geneva, OH 440-466-6100 www.tegam.com The EarthScope Project is an undertaking funded by the National Science Foundation in partnership with the United States Geological Survey and NASA to characterize the geology of North America, including continental drift caused by earthquake faults. Capturing the slow movement (which in some areas happens over centuries) can be done by measuring strain. Capturing strain (the deformation caused by stress) also can highlight areas that are moving faster along a fault relative to other areas.

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Advanced Solar Array to Power Electric Propulsion Systems

Stretched Lens Array ENTECH Keller, TX 817-379-0100 www.entechsolar.com ENTECH has been awarded a contract from NASA’s Glenn Research Center, which will support the development of an advanced solar array for powering advanced electric propulsion systems in future space missions. The Stretched Lens Array (SLA) is an ultra-light, ultra-high-performance solar array technology.

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Precision Motors Help Guided Parachutes Deliver Cargo

The Onyx guided parachute designed and manufactured by Atair Aerospace (Brooklyn, NY) is an autonomous precision airdrop system. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) uses motors and planetary gearheads manufactured by Maxon Precision Motor (Fall River, MA) to drive the parachute’s mechanical mechanisms.

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Visualization Software Helps Assess Thin-Film Semiconductor Systems

As thin-film technology advances, it’s increasingly important to monitor the film’s characteristics. That’s because eliminating irregularities in thin films — used primarily to create computer chips — enhances their performance. k-Space Associates (kSA, Ann Arbor, MI) specializes in accurate, precise monitoring methods that allow physicists and engineers to create high-performance thin-film products and improve their research and development workflow.

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