UpFront

NASA Launches New Technology

A successful NASA flight test this summer showed that a spacecraft returning to Earth can use an inflatable heat shield to slow and protect itself as it enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. This was the first time anyone has successfully flown an inflatable reentry capsule, according to engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

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NASA Research Will Help Aircraft Avoid Ocean Storms and Turbulence

NASA is funding the development of a prototype system to provide aircraft with updates about severe storms and turbulence as they fly across remote ocean regions. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO — in partnership with the University of Wisconsin — are developing a system that combines satellite data and computer weather models with artificial intelligence techniques.

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NASA Develops Rehydration Beverage

To help keep astronauts at peak performance during missions, NASA researched, qualified, and patented a highly effective electrolyte concentrate formula that maintains and restores optimal body hydration levels quickly and conveniently. Developed as a remedy for dehydration, it helps prevent the loss of body fluids during heavy exercise, heat exposure, and illness. It also can be used to treat and prevent dehydration caused by altitude sickness and jetlag.

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NASA Celebrates Apollo’s 40th Anniversary

Forty years ago this month, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module and took “one small step” in the Sea of Tranquility, calling it “a giant leap for mankind.”

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NASA Energy Concept Could Harness the Power of Ocean Waves

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) researchers who developed a new way to power robotic underwater vehicles believe a spin-off technology could help convert ocean energy into electrical energy on a much larger scale. The researchers hope that clean, renewable energy produced from the motion of the ocean and rivers could potentially meet an important part of the world’s demand for electricity.

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New Instrument Could Detect Hidden Aviation Hazards

Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is leading a team of researchers from five universities and organizations to investigate the use of an instrument called a forward looking interferometer to detect invisible aviation hazards during takeoff, cruise, and landing. NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia is also part of the team. Although radar and other systems can warn pilots of potential weather hazards during flight, they do not detect all possible atmospheric dangers. If a plane encounters turbulence or low visibility that does not include rain droplets, radar will not sense them. Forward looking interferometers – passive infrared radiometers based on high-resolution Fourier transform spectrometry technologies – were originally developed for satellite remote sensing. They can detect the presence of the environmental hazards by identifying each hazard’s distinct infrared spectral signature. The instruments have been used to detect aerosols and gases in the air, but not from aircraft during flight. With funding from NASA, the team is conducting studies to determine the sensitivity of the system for detecting clear-air turbulence, wake vortices, volcanic ash, low visibility, dry wind shear, and icing. They are also developing algorithms to estimate the severity of the hazards. The combination of high spectral and temperature resolutions in the forward looking interferometer should enable sophisticated algorithms with high detection rates and low false alarm rates. The instrument will also function as an infrared imager, providing a real-time video display with night vision capability and enhanced vision in obscured conditions. Further research will determine if the hazards can be detected with sufficient time-to-alarm for safe maneuvering to avoid the hazards. For more information, click here.

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2008 Product of the Year Winners

The 14th annual NASA Tech Briefs Readers’ Choice Products of the Year have been selected. Thanks to all of you who submitted your votes. Your winners are: Creaform Lévis, Québec, Canada VIUscan™, the latest addition to the Handyscan 3D line of handheld scanners, is a selfpositioning portable 3D color scanner that creates an exact representation of an object, and generates files that can be exported to most CAD platforms. The scanner features simultaneous texture and geo - metry acquisition, real-time rendering, true color acquisition via a built-in lighting system, adjustable uniform texture resolution, and automatic texture mapping. It requires no external reference system and no external tracking or positioning devices. For Free Info Click Here. Mercury Computer Systems Chelmsford, MA The PowerBlock™ 50 ultra-compact rugged embedded computer for small platforms in the 6- to 10-pound range is optimized for real-time image, sensor, and signal processing. The system’s modular architecture allows for flexible configurations of multiple processors, delivering over 100 GFLOPS of processing power. The system is available as a complete software development platform, including the PowerBlock 50 system, Linux BSP development environment, and a desktop heat rejection unit (HRU). For Free Info Click Here. The MathWorks Natick, MA Simscape™ software for modeling and simulating multidomain physical systems employs a physical network approach to model building, allowing engineers to describe the physical structure of a system, rather than the underlying mathematics. From the model, the software automatically constructs equations that characterize the behavior of the system, and integrates them with the rest of the model. For Free Info Click Here.

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