Test & Measurement

In-Flight Pitot-Static Calibration

This precise yet time- and cost-effective method is based on GPS technology using output error optimization. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a new method for calibrating pitot-static air data systems used in aircraft. Pitot-static systems are pressure-based instruments that measure the aircraft’s airspeed. These systems must be calibrated in flight to minimize potential error. Current methods — including trailing cone, tower fly-by, and pacer airplane — are time- and cost-intensive, requiring extensive flight time per calibration. NASA’s method can reduce this calibration time by up to an order of magnitude, cutting a significant fraction of the cost. In addition, NASA’s calibration method enables near-real-time monitoring of error in airspeed measurements, which can be used to alert pilots when airspeed instruments are inaccurate or failing. Because of this feature, the technology also has applications in the health usage and monitoring (HUMS) industry. Flight test engineers can be trained to use this method proficiently in 12 days without costly specialized hardware.

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Real-Time Radiation Monitoring Using Nanotechnology

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California NASA has patented a unique chemical sensor array leveraging nanostructures for monitoring the concentration of chemical species or gas molecules that is not damaged when exposed to protons and other high-energy particles over time. The nanotechnology-enabled chemical sensor array uses single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), metal catalyst-doped SWCNTs, and polymer- coated SWCNTs as the sensing media between a pair of interdigitated electrodes (IDE). By measuring the conductivity change of the SWCNT device, the concentration of the chemical species or gas molecules can be measured. These sensors have high sensitivity, low power requirements, and are robust and have a low manufacturing cost compared to other commercial chemical sensors for detection of trace amount of chemicals in gasses and liquids.

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External Diagnostic Method to Detect Electrical Charging in Complex Ion Trapping Systems

This procedure is implemented without breaking the vacuum and/or disassembling the system. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Electron-ionized atom trapping technology is widely used in mass spectrometry and atomic clocks. The complexity of the trapping configuration operating in an ultra-high vacuum system is driven by demands for ultimate sensitivity, performance, and fundamental science. Consequently, external diagnosis, maintenance, and design verification and validation without opening the vacuum and disassembling the system become increasingly difficult. In these ion trapping configurations, electrical charging of non-metallic materials or opening connections are a hard-to-detect problem, yet can easily compromise the intended trapping potential. More specifically, the JPL Linear Ion Trap Standards (LITS) will benefit from a non-invasive solution for system verification/validation, diagnosis, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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Sonar Inspection Robot System

The system surveys interior volume, interrogates structure integrity, and displays real-time video and sonar. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas The robotic inspection device prototype that was used for testing. NASA’s Johnson Space Center innovators have designed a Robotic Inspection System that is capable of surveying deep sea structures such as oil platform storage cells/tanks and pipelines in order to determine the volume of material remaining inside, interrogate structure integrity, and display real-time video and sonar. This inspection device and method could significantly reduce the cost of inspecting, and in the future, provide sampling of the structure contents. The technology is an all-in-one inspection device that includes cameras, sonar, and motion-sensing instruments with hardware and software components. This NASA-developed technology is available for licensing.

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Modules for Inspection, Qualification, and Verification of Pressure Vessels

This automated, modular, standardized system features interchangeable probes. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas After decades of composite over-wrapped pressure vessel (COPV) development, manufacturing variance is still high, and has necessitated higher safety factors and additional mass to be flown on spacecraft, reducing overall performance. When liners are used in COPVs, they need to be carefully screened before wrapping. These flaws can go undetected and later grow through the thickness of the liner, causing the liner to fail, resulting in a massive leakage of the liner and subsequent mission loss.

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Hermetic Seal Leak Detection Apparatus with Variable Size Test Chamber

A streamlined, cost-effective, sensitive approach to detecting leaks in hermetic seals. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a unique apparatus ideal for use in nondestructive testing (NDT) of hermetic seals of containers or instrumentation. The device is capable of detecting both large and small leaks and can be calibrated to characterize the relative leak rate. Its simple design does not require specialized gases for pressurization and detection, and eliminates the need for expensive instrumentation such as a mass spectrometer to analyze leaks and achieve high sensitivity. Low in cost and simple to manufacture, the patent-pending technology is ideal for use in many industries, from aerospace applications to food packaging and commercial goods.

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Extreme Low Frequency Acoustic Measurement System

This system detects and locates atmospheric clear air turbulence and severe weather. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a system to detect and locate atmospheric clear air turbulence (CAT) by means of a ground-based infrasonic array to serve as an early warning system for aircraft. This system could augment existing systems such as pilot reports (PIREPs), airborne lidar, and airborne radar. The NASA system offers a benefit since the existing electromagnetic methods lack targets at 30,000-40,000 feet and will not detect CAT. Because CAT and severe storms emit infrasound that propagates over vast distances through the Earth’s atmosphere, the Langley system offers an excellent early warning opportunity. The system has been able to detect known events — such as detection of the launch of the Space Shuttle in Florida all the way from Virginia. It also has correlated data with NOAA’s PIREPs information.

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