Tech Briefs

Multi-Thruster Propulsion Apparatus

This device switches between ion- or Hall-thruster mode, depending on whether the principal need is efficiency or thrust power.

Two different types of electrostatic thrusters are used to propel spacecraft: ion thrusters and Hall-effect thrusters. Ion thrusters have the benefit of relatively high exhaust velocities with higher overall thrust efficiencies. Hall-effect thrusters typically offer higher thrust-to-power ratios, but they operate somewhat less efficiently than ion thrusters. To take advantage of both thrusters’ strengths, innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed what is essentially a dual-thruster propulsion system. This patented electric propulsion device offers the ability to switch a spacecraft's propulsion system to ion-thruster mode or Hall-thruster mode, depending on whether the principal need is efficiency or thrust power. In addition, Glenn's novel technology allows the dual thruster to operate in burst mode, with one thruster acting as an ion thruster and one as a Hall thruster. This capability can be valuable to facilitate smooth transitions between operating modes or to raise total thrust level (for short periods) beyond what either mode can achieve on its own.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion
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Tangential Wrap Rib Deployable Reflector

The reflector does not use complicated deployment mechanisms.

There is a need for a large deployable reflector of 2-meter diameter or greater so smaller launch vehicles can be used. Common issues with going from a large solid reflector into deployable structures are the structural stiffness and deployable structure complexity.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Method Improves Accuracy of Imaging Data

Research by the University of Chicago provides scientists looking at single molecules or into deep space a more accurate way to analyze imaging data captured by microscopes, telescopes, and other devices. The method, known as single-pixel interior filling function (SPIFF), detects and corrects systematic errors in data and image analysis used in many areas of science and engineering.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors
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Automation System Manages Critical Gas Distribution Process

Part of the TDK group of companies, Headway Technologies (Milpitas, CA) is a semiconductor manufacturer of memory and drive head technologies, and designs and manufactures recording heads for high-performance hard disk drives.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors
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LTAS Source Slaving Selector (LS3) Analyzer

The objective of the Launch Trajectory Acquisition System (LTAS) Source Slaving Selector (LS3) Analyzer application is to convert recorded data files — which are generated by the LTAS Source Slaving Selector (LS3) application in binary format — to human-readable text files as per a variety of options set by the user via a graphical user interface (GUI).

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Ad Hoc Selection of Voice Over Internet Streams

This flexible system is applicable to a wide variety of systems, including office communications and telemedicine.

NASA seeks interested parties to license the Ad Hoc Selection for Voice Over Internet (VoIP) Streams technology developed by engineers at Johnson Space Center. This technology features the ability to select specific audio streams from one or more sources and then convert them into a multicast to the user's audio player. This selection ability benefits the user by allowing a wide range of information and/or data to be monitored from a remote location using existing network technologies in near real time. For example, a user with a personal computer equipped with special-purpose audio player software first needs to launch the program and provide an identification and a password. Once both access control checks are completed, the audio software graphic is displayed, including audio stream and volume control buttons. The user can now select up to 21 streams to monitor simultaneously.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications
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Deep-Space Positioning System

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a compact, low-power, self-contained instrument that provides the equivalent of GPS throughout the solar system without the aid of an artificially provided infrastructure. The state-of-the-art X-ray navigation instrument is also able to determine the position of a spacecraft anywhere in the solar system, but it cannot provide this information relative to the Earth, the Sun, or any other remote target body (the equivalent of GPS providing a user's position relative to a vehicle, a second user, or any other moving target). JPL's uniquely capable deep-space positioning system determines the position and the target-relative position of a spacecraft anywhere in the solar system using optical navigation, which makes it ideally suited for any spacecraft requiring deep-space navigation services.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications
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WX Subsystem Weather Station

This instrument can be used by any organization that needs to monitor weather or the effects of weather.

The WX Subsystem Weather Station was designed for use as part of the Weather Instrumentation (WX) Subsystem for the Constellation Program (CxP) to be implemented in the Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center. The weather stations need to be rugged, robust, and reliable. Although this equipment is not to be located in hazardous zones, it is still required to withstand harsh environmental conditions typical of the launch environment. Health management considerations are incorporated in the design so the user can be notified remotely when sensors, power supplies, dataloggers, etc. require service or maintenance.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing
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Representation and Analysis of System Behavior Using Monotonic Signals

NASA has developed a new method for analyzing complex system behavior that also may be viewed as a type of data visualization and decision support tool. Large complex control systems may have thousands or even millions of sensors, each providing some type of signal that ultimately integrates into a larger organization. For each signal, behavior is represented by a sequence of pairs, with each pair containing a change value (monotonic) and a time interval length over which each of these changes occurs. Signal amplitudes and first derivatives serve as markers for these time intervals. This approach permits a finer scale characterization of the signal(s). The novelty of this approach is in using human visual interpretation in combination with computer signal analysis to monitor the behavior of complex systems in an enhanced manner.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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GPS Satellite Geometry Analysis Tool (GPSGEM)

The purpose of the GPS Satellite Geometry Analysis Tool (GPSGEM) is to evaluate GPS satellite geometry for a given Earth-fixed location or for a provided trajectory. The tool will generate a listing of all satellites in view, the best satellite combination defined by the most optimum Geometric Dilution of Precision (GDOP), the GDOP profile expected if all satellites are available, and the worst-case GDOP profile when one or two satellites are removed from the available constellation. The tool will provide the navigation controller with insight into the expected performance of the GPS constellation, and allow an assessment of the implications to onboard navigation performance for the ascent, orbit, abort, and entry phases of flight.

Posted in: Briefs, Communications
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