Tech Briefs

Mars-Optimized Solar Cells

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Commercial triple junction solar cell designs were modified in their junction thicknesses, contact grid densities, and anti-reflective (AR) coating thicknesses to better match the Mars surface solar spectrum. Resulting cells show up to approximately 8% relative improvement in efficiency under the Mars solar spectrum, compared to non-optimized space solar cells, in testing performed at JPL.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Alternating Magnetic Field Forces for Satellite Formation Flying

John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida Orbiting a large number of satellites in fixed formations will be critical to many future space missions, especially large-scale interferometers, telescopes, antennas, and gravity wave detectors. Consequently, extensive research has been devoted over the last 20 years to formation flying architectures, concentrating not only on the mission objective, but also on the technologies required to achieve a stable satellite formation. Several proposals have been suggested for determining the location of the satellites, but the more difficult problem is developing a system that can hold the satellites at those desired locations and orientations. The two most common solutions are to use microthrusters, though these require propellant and will eventually be depleted, or to choose orbital patterns that minimize relative perturbations, but for highly precise positioning, this is not adequate. Neither of these approaches solves the problem for long-duration missions such as a multi-element telescope where the mirrors must be located and oriented to a tolerance less than an optical wavelength.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Peak-Seeking Control Method

An algorithm optimizes performance of complex operations in real time. Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California Peak-seeking algorithms optimize physical processes in real time and are widely used throughout a variety of industries. However, measuring associated parameters in changing conditions, and responding to them appropriately, is difficult because the measurements are typically distorted by noise. This technology addresses that problem by employing a time-varying Kalman filter. The filter is an algorithm previously developed to estimate unknown parameters within systems that are intrinsically random and uncertain. The Kalman filter is excellent at finding estimates when it encounters noisy signals. As a minimal-variant filter, it inherently produces the best estimates of a function with the smallest amount of variation from the true value. Thus, the filter can help accurately determine the optimal coordinates of the peak- seeking function as conditions in the environment change.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Software, Briefs

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Enterprise Middleware Solution

Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California An enterprise middleware solution allows disparate information technology (IT) systems to be integrated into one seamless, efficient system. As software and database platforms continue to develop at an accelerated pace, legacy systems can be a drain on resources, requiring complex workarounds and major code modifications in order to share data. This middleware offers an easy-to-use tool that integrates existing IT systems with new applications to help businesses become more agile, intelligent, and innovative.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Software, Briefs

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Processing Time History Data for Display and Analysis

Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California A suite of software tools was developed that enables powerful and efficient processing of time history data. These tools can be used together or independently, offering a variety of capabilities including comparison of time history data files to validate pre-processing activities, conversion from a compressed format to any format suitable for display, and plotting of data from multiple runs and input files using various time-function parameters. Originally developed to process flight test and simulation data, this suite has potential applications for the manufacturing, aerospace, and scientific research industries. These technologies offer a low-cost alternative to expensive, multiple-component data processing and plotting systems.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Software, Briefs

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Prototype Genomics-Based Keyed-Hash Message Authentication Code Protocol

This is targeted for applications without an available public key infrastructure. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Cryptography and molecular biology share certain aspects and operations that allow for a set of unified principles to be applied to problems in either venue. A DNA-inspired hash code system is presented that utilizes concepts from molecular biology. It is a keyed-Hash Message Authentication Code (HMAC) capable of being used in secure mobile ad-hoc networks. It is targeted for applications without an available public key infrastructure. Ad-hoc does not mean the users are completely unknown to each other. They could be part of a military unit, police, emergency workers, mobile vendors, or any collection of users in a common geographical area that wish to communicate in a region lacking a PKI (Public Key Infrastructure).

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Software, Briefs

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Station Spacewalk

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California The Station Spacewalk game enables players to virtually conduct NASA repair work on the International Space Station, including jobs critical to help power up the space station so it can continue to operate. Players are provided with a limited quantity of oxygen during which they must complete extravehicular activities (EVAs) and return to the airlock before the air supply runs out.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Software, Briefs

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