Tech Briefs

RapidScat Flight Software

This software acts as an interface between the ISS and the scaterometer radar. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Figure 1. RapidScat DIB top-level software architecture. The legacy SeaWinds scatterometer radar needed to be interfaced to the International Space Station (ISS) without any modifications. It had been designed to fly on the Adeos II spacecraft. An interface to translate between ISS protocols and the existing radar interface was needed both for commanding and for science data return.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics

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Achieving a Realistic Model of Flight Dynamics and Aeroelasticity of Flexible Aircraft

This method enables creation of a state-space model familiar to flight control engineers, and avoids the numerical errors that hinder traditional methods. Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California Researchers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center have developed a method that allows for the translation of frequency-domain aerodynamics from commercial code (e.g., ZAERO™ or NASTRAN®) to a time-domain formulation that can be easily understood by flight control engineers, and eliminates the complications inherent in previous methods. These previous methods were designed for structural control (independent of flight dynamics) and are therefore formulated in the inertial (stationary) modal reference frame, which cannot accurately capture phugoid mode dynamics without significant complexity. Thus, a non-inertial reference frame was required to correctly model flight dynamics — a goal previously achieved by applying a transformation to the final statespace model. However, the transformation method created numerical errors, leading to problems in model simulation, reduction of the order-for-control development, and decreased accuracy.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics

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AutoNav: Navigation Flight Software on a Smartphone

This handheld system could mount easily to a rover, UAV, linear track, air bearing, or wire. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Today’s mobile computing platforms (phones and tablets) contain considerable computing power and are instrumented similar to spacecraft. They have cameras, accelerometers, gyros, magnetometers, GPS, and multiple radios for communication. It was postulated that a modern commercial smartphone could make an excellent test platform for spacecraft flight software.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics

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Method and Circuit for In-Situ Health Monitoring of Solar Cells in Space

Potential applications include use in diagnostics for terrestrial solar power generation systems. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed a method and apparatus for in-situ health monitoring of solar cells. The innovation is a novel approach to solar cell monitoring, as it is radiation- hard, consumes few system resources, and uses commercially available components. The system operates at temperatures from –55 to 225 °C, allowing it to reside close to the array in direct sunlight. The circuitry measures solar cell current versus voltage (I-V) curves using relatively inexpensive electronics, a single switchable +28 V power bus, and two analog-to-digital (A/D) converter channels. A single transistor is used as a variable resistive load across the cell, rather than the large resistor arrays or active current sources normally used to characterize cells. Originally developed for space, the technology can be adapted for use in terrestrial solar power generation systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Solar Power

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Foldable and Deployable Power Collection System

The lightweight solar power array can be used in electric vehicles, portable and field-deployable power systems, and power for emergency response operations. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is developing a lightweight space-based solar power array with a high power-to-stowed-volume and weight ratio. The system provides power to small satellites and CubeSats that are power starved, operating on extremely limited power because of the size restrictions for housing onboard power sources. The beauty of NASA’s new solar unit is in its simplicity and packaged power density. Small satellites cannot take advantage of deployable high-efficiency solar cell arrays due to their complexity and mechanical needs; the weight and volume requirements exceed what is available in small satellites and CubeSats. The new system, for example, is compact enough to provide a 3U CubeSat with ~200 Watts, or a 6U with 500 Watts of power. NASA is developing the technology and is looking for partners to license and commercialize it.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Solar Power

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Solid-State Ultracapacitor

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a solid-state ultracapacitor utilizing a novel nanocomposite dielectric material. The material’s design is based on the internal barrier layer capacitance (IBLC) concept, and it uses novel dielectric and metallic conductive ink formulations.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy

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Double-acting Extremely Light Thermo-Acoustic (DELTA) Converter

This technology enables a new class of lightweight power systems for small aircraft, camping, or micro-cogeneration that is small, quiet, efficient, and essentially maintenance-free. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio Power generation from an external or internal heat source using thermal energy conversion technologies such as solid-state thermionics and thermoelectrics or dynamic conversion with Otto, Stirling, Brayton, or Rankine technologies is fundamentally limited in maximum specific power due to either low efficiency and/or operating frequency. These solid-state technologies are low voltage and hence produce a high DC current that restricts their minimum geometry to approximately 4 A/mm2 to avoid overheating. High-power implementations of this technology class are inefficient, large, and heavy.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy

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