New Laser Technology to Make 2020 Mission to Mars

NASA announced recently that laser technology originally developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory has been selected for its new Mars mission in 2020. SuperCam, which builds upon the successful capabilities demonstrated aboard the Curiosity Rover during NASA’s current Mars Mission, will allow researchers to sample rocks and other targets from a distance using a laser.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronics, Imaging, Photonics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Sensors, Detectors, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, Aerospace, Machinery & Automation, News


NASA Engineer Set to Complete First 3D-Printed Space Cameras

By the end of September, NASA aerospace engineer Jason Budinoff is expected to complete the first imaging telescopes ever assembled almost exclusively from 3D-manufactured components.Under his multi-pronged project, funded by Goddard’s Internal Research and Development (IRAD) program, Budinoff is building a fully functional, 50-millimeter (2-inch) camera whose outer tube, baffles and optical mounts are all printed as a single structure. The instrument is appropriately sized for a CubeSat, a tiny satellite comprised of individual units each about four inches on a side. The instrument will be equipped with conventionally fabricated mirrors and glass lenses and will undergo vibration and thermal-vacuum testing next year.Budinoff also is assembling a 350-millimeter (14-inch) dual-channel telescope whose size is more representative of a typical space telescope.Should he prove the approach, Budinoff said NASA scientists would benefit enormously — particularly those interested in building infrared-sensing instruments, which typically operate at super-cold temperatures to gather the infrared light that can be easily overwhelmed by instrument-generated heat. Often, these instruments are made of different materials. However, if all the instrument’s components, including the mirrors, were made of aluminum, then many of the separate parts could be 3D printed as single structures, reducing the parts count and material mismatch. This would decrease the number of interfaces and increase the instrument’s stability.SourceAlso: Learn about an Image Processing Method To Determine Dust Optical Density.

Posted in: Cameras, Imaging, Photonics, Optics, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Aerospace, RF & Microwave Electronics, News


Astronauts to Test Free-Flying Robotic 'Smart SPHERES'

Three bowling ball-size free-flying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying inside the International Space Station since 2006. These satellites provide a test bed for development and research, each having its own power, propulsion, computer, navigation equipment, and physical and electrical connections for hardware and sensors for various experiments.Aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.'s second contracted commercial resupply mission to the space station, which arrived to the orbital laboratory on July 16, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, sent two Google prototype Project Tango smartphones that astronauts will attach to the SPHERES for technology demonstrations inside the space station. By connecting a smartphone to the SPHERES, the technology becomes "Smart SPHERES, " a more "intelligent" free-flying robot with built-in cameras to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, powerful computing units to make calculations and Wi-Fi connections to transfer data in real time to the computers aboard the space station and at mission control in Houston.In a two-phase experiment, astronauts will manually use the smartphones to collect visual data using the integrated custom 3-D sensor to generate a full 3-D model of their environment. After the map and its coordinate system are developed, a second activity will involve the smartphones attached to the SPHERES, becoming the free-flying Smart SPHERES. As the free-flying robots move around the space station from waypoint to waypoint, utilizing the 3-D map, they will provide situational awareness to crewmembers inside the station and flight controllers in mission control. These experiments allow NASA to test vision-based navigation in a very small mobile product.SourceAlso: Learn about Automatic Lunar Rock Detection and Mapping.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Power Management, PCs/Portable Computers, Cameras, Video, Visualization Software, Imaging, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Communications, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, RF & Microwave Electronics, News


Heat-Sensing Camera Reveals Map of Mars Surface

A heat-sensing camera designed at Arizona State University has provided data to create the most detailed global map yet made of Martian surface properties.The map uses data from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a nine-band visual and infrared camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. A version of the map optimized for scientific researchers is available at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)."We used more than 20,000 THEMIS nighttime temperature images to generate the highest resolution surface property map of Mars ever created," says the Geological Survey's Robin Fergason, who earned her doctorate at ASU in 2006. "Now these data are freely available to researchers and the public alike." SourceAlso: Read a Q&A with a Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) engineer.  

Posted in: Cameras, Imaging, Aerospace, Data Acquisition, News


New Study Uses Blizzard to Measure Wind Turbine Airflow

A study by researchers at the University of Minnesota using snow during a Minnesota blizzard is giving researchers new insight into the airflow around large wind turbines. This research is essential to improving wind energy efficiency, especially in wind farms where airflows from many large wind turbines interact with each other. As wind turbines have grown to more than 100 meters tall, field research in real-world settings has become more difficult.

Posted in: Video, Visualization Software, Imaging, Photonics, Optics, Wind Power, Energy Efficiency, Energy, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, News


Nano-Pixels Promise Flexible, High-Res Displays

A new discovery will make it possible to create pixels just a few hundred nanometers across. The "nano-pixels" could pave the way for extremely high-resolution and low-energy thin, flexible displays for applications such as 'smart' glasses, synthetic retinas, and foldable screens.Oxford University scientists explored the link between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials (materials that can change from an amorphous to a crystalline state). By sandwiching a seven=nanometer-thick layer of a phase change material (GST) between two layers of a transparent electrode, the team found that they could use a tiny current to 'draw' images within the sandwich "stack."Initially still images were created using an atomic force microscope, but the researchers went on to demonstrate that such tiny "stacks" can be turned into prototype pixel-like devices. These 'nano-pixels' – just 300 by 300 nanometers in size – can be electrically switched 'on and off' at will, creating the colored dots that would form the building blocks of an extremely high-resolution display technology.SourceAlso: Learn about Slot-Sampled Optical PPM Demodulation.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics, Imaging, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Materials, Semiconductors & ICs, Nanotechnology, News


New Drones Ensure Ideal Photographic Lighting Positions

Researchers at MIT and Cornell University will provide photographers with squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the right positions for photographic lighting. With the new system, the photographer indicates the direction from which the rim light should come, and the miniature helicopter flies to that side of the subject. The photographer then specifies the width of the rim as a percentage of its initial value, repeating that process until the desired effect is achieved.In the researchers' experiments, the robot helicopter was equipped with a continuous-light source, a photographic flash, and a laser rangefinder.The researchers tested their prototype in a motion-capture studio, which uses a bank of high-speed cameras to measure the position of specially designed light-reflecting tags with millimeter accuracy; several such tags were affixed to the helicopter.SourceAlso: Learn about Small-Object Detection via Fast Discrete Curvelet Transform.

Posted in: Cameras, Imaging, Photonics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Lighting, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News


Scientists Demonstrate Data Teleportation for Secure Communications

Teleportation, a long-standing staple in the world of science fiction, has become a reality for scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in terms of battlefield data and image processing. Army Research Laboratory quantum information principal investigator Ronald Meyers and team member Keith Deacon recently demonstrated information teleportation using entangled photons.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Computers, Imaging, Photonics, Communications, News


Synthetic Aperture Sonar Can Help Navy Hunt Sea Mines

Since World War II, sea mines have damaged or sunk four times more U.S. Navy ships than all other means of attack combined, according to a Navy report on mine warfare. New sonar research being performed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) could improve the Navy’s ability to find sea mines deep under water.

Posted in: Imaging, Sensors, Detectors, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Defense, News


Imaging Space System Architectures Using a Granular Medium as a Primary Concentrator

Higher-resolution optics provide improved hyperspectral imaging for ocean and land monitoring, as well as exoplanet detection. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Typically, the cost of a space observatory is driven by the size and mass of the primary aperture. Generally, a monolithic aperture is much heavier and complex to fabricate (hence, more costly) than an aperture of the same size but composed of much smaller units. Formation flying technology, as applied to swarm systems in space, is an emerging discipline.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Imaging, Briefs