UpFront

Walk and Roll Robot

A CAD model of the Walk and Roll Robot. To traverse smooth terrain, the most efficient motion is rolling; however, when a wheeled vehicle encounters obstacles, it has to avoid them, if possible, or choose an alternate path. Legged vehicles can traverse these obstacles by stepping over them, but are not energy-efficient on smooth terrain. The Walk and Roll Robot, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, combines walking and rolling for energy- efficient motions. The robot has a compact design in which all of the components are contained within the body, allowing it to be used for applications in harsh environments where robots traditionally have difficulty with debris, moisture, or dust. Other applications include urban search and rescue missions, and military reconnaissance and exploration. Visit http://technology.nasa.gov/patent/TB2016/GSC-TOPS-43

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace, Robotics

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Testing a Robotic Miner

Resource Prospector sits in the vacuum chamber that simulates the thermal environment and low atmospheric pressure and density the rover will experience on the Moon. The Resource Prospector (RP) rover could be the first robot to mine for resources on another world. Targeted for launch in the early 2020s, RP will search for and characterize sub-surface water, hydrogen, and other volatiles on the Moon. But first, NASA needs to test its resilience to the harsh environments of deep space and extremely cold temperatures on the Moon. During testing in a thermal vacuum chamber at Johnson Space Center, NASA simulated the thermal environment and extremely low atmospheric pressure and density that RP would experience. Learn more about Resource Prospector in the feature article HERE.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace, Robotics

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Editor’s Choice: June 2016

A small, metallic thermometer is hermetically sealed, has an essentially unlimited shelf-life, is insensitive to radiation, has no electronics or mechanisms, can operate in any orientation or gravity, and provides good thermal conductivity. It features an off-the-shelf ultra-high vacuum flange and permanently records temperatures in extreme environments. The low-cost device is read by visual inspection after opening the seal. Find out more HERE.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace

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NASA Public Domain Patents Benefit U.S. Industry

NASA has released 56 of its formerly patented technologies into the public domain, making them freely available for unrestricted commercial use. In addition, a searchable database is now available that catalogs thousands of expired NASA patents already in the public domain.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace

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NASA and FAA Demonstrate Wireless Communication with Aircraft

For the first time ever, engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center conveyed aviation data — including route options and weather information — to an airplane over a wireless communication system for aircraft on the ground. The demonstration, conducted in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and Hitachi, demonstrated two technologies that could change airport operations worldwide.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace

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Editor’s Choice: May 2016

A non-explosive rock splitter uses high-temperature shape memory alloys (SMAs) as the driving member. The SMAs, in the form of cylindrical pellets, generate extremely large forces to fracture rock-like materials and minerals when used with DC voltage heaters placed in boreholes. The devices can be used for breaking rocks where the fracture of large samples is required, or where explosive or impact techniques can’t be used because of the damage they could cause to the underlying sample. Find out more HERE.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace

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NASA’s New Rocket Will Feel the Force

At NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, construction is underway in Building 4619, a multipurpose, high-bay test facility that has been a hotbed for all types of testing, including loads, acoustics, vibration, extreme temperatures, high and low pressures, and environments that simulate the cold, black conditions of outer space.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace

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