UpFront

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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NASA-Developed Technique Leads to Cataract Early Detection System

A compact fiber-optic probe developed for the space program has become the first non-invasive early detection device for cataracts. Researchers from NASA and the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, collaborated to develop a simple, safe eye test for measuring a protein related to cataract formation. If subtle protein changes can be detected before a cataract develops, people may be able to reduce their cataract risk by making simple lifestyle changes. The new device is based on a laser light technique called dynamic light scattering (DLS) that was initially developed to analyze the growth of protein crystals in a zero-gravity space environment. NASA’s Dr. Rafat R. Ansari, senior scientist at Glenn Research Center, brought the technology’s possible clinical applications to the attention of NEI vision researchers when he learned that his father’s cataracts were caused by changes in lens proteins. “We have shown that this non-invasive technology that was developed for the space program can now be used to look at the early signs of protein damage due to oxidative stress, a key process involved in many medical conditions, including agerelated cataracts and diabetes, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons,” said Dr. Ansari. “By understanding the role of protein changes in cataract formation, we can use the lens not just to look at eye disease, but also as a window into the whole body.” The DLS technique will assist vision scientists in looking at long-term lens changes due to aging, smoking, diabetes, and LASIK surgery. In addition, NASA researchers will continue to use the device to look at the impact of long-term space travel on the visual system. “During a three-year mission to Mars, astronauts will experience increased exposure to space radiation that can cause cataracts and other problems,” Dr. Ansari explained. “In the absence of proper countermeasures, this may pose a risk for NASA. This technology could help us understand the mechanism for cataract formation so we can work to develop effective countermeasures to mitigate the risk and prevent it in astronauts.” For more information, visit here.

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NASA Tests First Deep-Space Internet

NASA has successfully tested the first deep-space communications network modeled on the Internet. Part of a NASAwide team, engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, used software called Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) to transmit dozens of space images to and from a NASA science spacecraft located more than 20 million miles from Earth.

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James Webb Telescope Components Pass Tests

Development models for components of the Mid-Infrared Instrument on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) passed a series of temperature and vibration tests that show they can survive the ride to space. Now, engineers have begun building parts of the actual instrument.

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NASA Study Shows How Oil Production Impacts Climate

When and how global oil production will peak has been debated, making it difficult to anticipate emissions from the burning of fuel and to precisely estimate its impact on the climate. To better understand how emissions might change in the future, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard In stitute for Space Studies in New York considered a wide range of fossil fuel consumption scenarios.

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NASA and Ocean Tomo Establish Groundbreaking Partnership to Commercialize NASA Technologies

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD) and Ocean Tomo Federal Services, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ocean Tomo, LLC (Chicago, IL), announced a partnership to commercialize NASA-funded technologies. The partnership will focus on maximizing the value of NASA Goddard inventions by facilitating transfer of over 40 technologies to the private sector for commercial application. “A major component of NASA Goddard’s Innovative Partnerships Program’s mission is to transfer NASA technology to the commercial marketplace,” said Nona Cheeks, Chief of NASA Goddard’s IPP Office, which facilitated the licensing arrangement. “We look forward to working with Ocean Tomo to create greater awareness of the technological innovations available at NASA Goddard.” Ocean Tomo plans to offer the right to license NASA’s technologies through its IP transaction platforms, including Live Public Auction, Private Brokerage, and Patent/Bid-Ask™ as well as IPX International™. “While both NASA and Ocean Tomo stand to benefit from the agreement, the ultimate beneficiary,” said Cheeks, “is the taxpayer. This groundbreaking collaboration between Goddard and Ocean Tomo accelerates the commercialization of NASA technologies into new and advanced products that help improve quality of life,” she added. For more information, contact Darryl Mitchell, technology transfer manager in Goddard’s IPP Office, at 301- 286-5169, Darryl.R.Mitchell@nasa.gov; or Connie Chang at 240-482-8204, cchang@oceantomo.com.

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