Physical Sciences

Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) Science Simulator

This program simulates ocean topography observations for generating ocean circulation models.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

The SWOT Science Simulator simulates projected SWOT altimetry observations that can be applied to an ocean general circulation model, allowing the exploration of ideas and methods to optimize information retrieval from the proposed SWOT Mission, which is currently baselined to launch in 2020.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Simulation and modeling

Digital Elevation Model Maker (DEMmaker)

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

The DEMmaker suite of software applications produces data products containing surface shape, reflectivity, and geomorphology (craters and rocks) for a desired planetary surface based on statistically accurate size and frequency distributions of geologic and surface impact features. The current version can produce models at virtually any resolution or size for any location on the Moon. Remote sensing data can be incorporated to underlie the synthetic landscape with real data where available. The software suite is driven by a graphical user interface (GUI) that lets the user specify which tools of the suite to run, allowing flexibility in the products output by the package.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Simulation and modeling, Computer software and hardware

Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS)

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

TOPS is a modeling software system that integrates data from satellite, aircraft, and ground sensors, and weather/climate models with application models to expeditiously produce operational nowcasts and forecasts of ecological conditions. TOPS allows determination of the options for different socio-economic and resource management approaches to dealing with fluctuations within our biosphere, and will help in mitigating potential negative impacts.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Simulation and modeling, Computer software and hardware

Images of Change for iPad

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Images of Change provides a user-friendly mobile interface for exploring an extensive gallery of land-based and space-based images showing dramatic change over time on Earth. Hosted on NASA’s Global Climate Change website, Images of Change is designed to raise awareness of climate change, inspire curiosity and interest in the programs that create the images, and highlight the importance of global climate change research.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Imaging and visualization

Characteristics of the Spliced Kennedy Space Center Doppler Radar Wind Profiler Database

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

NASA relies on the Natural Environments (NE) Branch located at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to provide databases that represent the wind magnitudes and wind changes expected on day-of-launch (DOL) for vehicle programs that MSFC NE supports. MSFC NE has traditionally utilized weather balloon measurements to generate the wind profiles used in DOL loads and trajectory simulations. However, balloon measurement archives have three limitations in that (1) they do not contain a large enough sample to adequately represent the wind environment at extreme percentiles, (2) balloons could misrepresent the aloft wind environment due to their rise rate and drift characteristics, and (3) the Space Shuttle Program’s operational requirements significantly drove the atmosphere databases’ development. To help mitigate these limitations, MSFC NE used the 50-MHz Doppler Radar Wind Profiler (DRWP) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to validate balloon measurements on DOL during the SSP.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Physical Sciences, Radar, Test equipment and instrumentation

Miniature Distillation Column for Producing LOX From Air

This column is only about a hundredth as high as an industrial one.

The figure shows components of a distillation column intended for use as part of a system that produces high-purity liquid oxygen (LOX) from air by distillation. (The column could be easily modified to produce high-purity liquid nitrogen.) Whereas typical industrial distillation columns for producing high-purity liquid oxygen and/or nitrogen are hundreds of feet tall, this distillation column is less than 3 ft (less than about 0.9 m) tall. This column was developed to trickle-charge a LOX-based emergency oxygen system (EOS) for a large commercial aircraft.

The Components of the Distillation Column are designed to maximize mass transfer in a small space.
Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Architecture, Oxygen equipment, Production, Gases

Adjacent-Pair Imaging Shearography Using Bacteriorhodopsin

In a developmental technique of real-time adjacent-pair imaging shearography, a thin film of bacteriorhodopsin is used to record shearograms in argon-laser light for immediate readout in helium/neon-laser light. Unlike conventional silver-halide-based photographic film, bacteriorhodopsin can be used as a real-time recording medium because it yields an image immediately upon exposure and is optically erasable. Bacteriorhodopsin also offers the advantage of resolution as high as 5,000 lines/mm — comparable to the resolutions of silver-halide-based films and much greater than the 80 lines/mm typical of the charge-coupled-device video cameras used heretofore in real-time shearography. Issues to be addressed in subsequent development include the difficulty of recording over a previously recorded image at the recording wavelength, the need for Fourier-transform optics for readout, the need to optimize the optics to realize the full potential for high resolution, and the relative insensitivity of bacteriorhodopsin film (about a tenth of that of silver-halide-based film).

This work was done by Colleen Fitzpatrick of Rice Systems, Inc., for Kennedy Space Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Physical Sciences category, or circle no. 161 on the TSP Order Card in this issue to receive a copy by mail ($5 charge).

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Colleen FitzpatrickRice Systems, Inc.1150 Main Street, Suite CIrvine, CA 92614(714) 553-8768E-mail:

Refer to KSC-11838, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

Black-Body Evaporator Unit for a Point-Focus Solar Collector

A special coating is not necessary to ensure high solar absorptivity.

The figure illustrates a solar thermal energy system for boiling water or another liquid. The system can be used for a variety of purposes that can include drying aqueous hazardous waste, distilling pure solvent from spent solvent, purifying water by distillation, or generating steam. The principal innovative feature of this system is an absorber/evaporator unit, which is designed to absorb radiant solar energy with an effectiveness close to that of an ideal (in the black-body sense) absorber. The design is such that unlike in some other systems, it is not necessary to coat the solar-irradiated surface with a high-solar-absorptivity ("solar black") material to obtain the desired black-body characteristic. The design is also simpler than that of other absorber/evaporator units.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.