Tech Briefs

Ring-Down Spectroscopy for Characterizing a CW Raman Laser

Parameters of operation can be obtained from a single ringdown scan.

A relatively simple technique for characterizing an all-resonant intracavity continuous- wave (CW) solid-state Raman laser involves the use of ring-down spectroscopy. As used here, “characterizing” signifies determining such parameters as threshold pump power, Raman gain, conversion efficiency, and quality factors (Q values) of the pump and Stokes cavity modes.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Lasers, Spectroscopy, Performance tests, Test procedures

Imaging Spectrometer on a Chip

One integrated circuit would perform the functions of a conventional several-kilogram spectrometer.

A proposed visible-light imaging spectrometer on a chip would be based on the concept of a heterostructure comprising multiple layers of silicon-based photodetectors interspersed with long-wavelength-pass optical filters. In a typical application, this heterostructure would be replicated in each pixel of an image-detecting integrated circuit of the active-pixel-sensor type (see figure).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Semiconductors & ICs, Imaging and visualization, Integrated circuits, Sensors and actuators, Spectroscopy

AIRSAR Web-Based Data Processing

The AIRSAR automated, Web-based data processing and distribution system is an integrated, end-to-end synthetic aperture radar (SAR) processing system. Designed to function under limited resources and rigorous demands, AIRSAR eliminates operational errors and provides for paperless archiving. Also, it provides a yearly tune-up of the processor on flight missions, as well as quality assurance with new radar modes and anomalous data compensation.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Data exchange, Internet, Radar, Data management, Automation, Quality assurance

Translator for Optimizing Fluid-Handling Components

A software interface has been devised to facilitate optimization of the shapes of valves, elbows, fittings, and other components used to handle fluids under extreme conditions. This software interface translates data files generated by PLOT3D (a NASA grid-based plotting-and- data-display program) and by computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software into a format in which the files can be read by Sculptor, which is a shape-deformation- and-optimization program. Sculptor enables the user to interactively, smoothly, and arbitrarily deform the surfaces and volumes in two- and three-dimensional CFD models. Sculptor also includes design-optimization algorithms that can be used in conjunction with the arbitrary-shape-deformation components to perform automatic shape optimization. In the optimization process, the output of the CFD software is used as feedback while the optimizer strives to satisfy design criteria that could include, for example, improved values of pressure loss, velocity, flow quality, mass flow, etc.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Computational fluid dynamics, Mathematical models, Optimization, Computer software and hardware, Fittings, Valves

Progressive Failure Analysis of Composite Structures with FEA Software

A combination of analysis programs simulates the stochastic nature of fiber breakage in composites.

The Micromechanics Analysis Code with Generalized Method of Cells (MAC/GMC) is core technology in a software suite called ImMAC, developed at NASA’s John Glenn Research Center. An abbreviation for Integrated Multiscale Micromechanics Analysis Code, ImMAC is used in the design and analysis of advanced composite structures.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Finite element analysis, Computer software and hardware, Microelectromechanical devices, Composite materials

Pattern Matcher for Trees Constructed From Lists

A software library has been developed that takes a highlevel description of a pattern to be satisfied and applies it to a target. If the two match, it returns success; otherwise, it indicates a failure. The target is semantically a tree that is constructed from elements of terminal and non-terminal nodes represented through lists and symbols. Additionally, functionality is provided for finding the element in a set that satisfies a given pattern and doing a tree search, finding all occurrences of leaf nodes that match a given pattern. This process is valuable because it is a new algorithmic approach that significantly improves the productivity of the programmers and has the potential of making their resulting code more efficient by the introduction of a novel semantic representation language. This software has been used in many applications delivered to NASA and private industry, and the cost savings that have resulted from it are significant.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Mathematical models, Architecture, Data management

Reducing a Knowledge-Base Search Space When Data Are Missing

This software addresses the problem of how to efficiently execute a knowledge base in the presence of missing data. Computationally, this is an exponentially expensive operation that without heuristics generates a search space of 1 + 2n possible scenarios, where n is the number of rules in the knowledge base. Even for a knowledge base of the most modest size, say 16 rules, it would produce 65,537 possible scenarios. The purpose of this software is to reduce the complexity of this operation to a more manageable size. The problem that this system solves is to develop an automated approach that can reason in the presence of missing data. This is a meta-reasoning capability that repeatedly calls a diagnostic engine/model to provide prognoses and prognosis tracking. In the big picture, the scenario generator takes as its input the current state of a system, including probabilistic information from Data Forecasting. Using model-based reasoning techniques, it returns an ordered list of fault scenarios that could be generated from the current state, i.e., the plausible future failure modes of the system as it presently stands. The scenario generator models a Potential Fault Scenario (PFS) as a black box, the input of which is a set of states tagged with priorities and the output of which is one or more potential fault scenarios tagged by a confidence factor. The results from the system are used by a model-based diagnostician to predict the future health of the monitored system.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Failure modes and effects analysis, Architecture, Artificial intelligence, Computer software and hardware, Prognostics, Data management

State-Chart Autocoder

A computer program translates Unified Modeling Language (UML) representations of state charts into source code in the C, C++, and Python computing languages. (“State charts” signifies graphical descriptions of states and state transitions of a spacecraft or other complex system.) The UML representations constituting the input to this program are generated by using a UML-compliant graphical design program to draw the state charts. The generated source code is consistent with the “quantum programming” approach, which is so named because it involves discrete states and state transitions that have features in common with states and state transitions in quantum mechanics. Quantum programming enables efficient implementation of state charts, suitable for real-time embedded flight software. In addition to source code, the autocoder program generates a graphical- user-interface (GUI) program that, in turn, generates a display of state transitions in response to events triggered by the user. The GUI program is wrapped around, and can be used to exercise the state-chart behavior of, the generated source code. Once the expected state-chart behavior is confirmed, the generated source code can be augmented with a software interface to the rest of the software with which the source code is required to interact.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Architecture, Computer software and hardware, Displays

Pointing History Engine for the Spitzer Space Telescope

The Pointing History Engine (PHE) is a computer program that provides mathematical transformations needed to reconstruct, from downlinked telemetry data, the attitude of the Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility) as a function of time. The PHE also serves as an example for development of similar pointing reconstruction software for future space telescopes. The transformations implemented in the PHE take account of the unique geometry of the Spitzer telescope-pointing chain, including all data on relative alignments of components, and all information available from attitude-determination instruments. The PHE makes it possible to coordinate attitude data with observational data acquired at the same time, so that any observed astronomical object can be located for future reference and re-observation. The PHE is implemented as a subroutine used in conjunction with telemetry-formatting services of the Mission Image Processing Laboratory of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to generate the Boresight Pointing History File (BPHF). The BPHF is an archival database designed to serve as Spitzer’s primary astronomical reference documenting where the telescope was pointed at any time during its mission.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Mathematical models, Computer software and hardware, Data exchange, Optics, Telemetry, Documentation

Low-Friction, High-Stiffness Joint for Uniaxial Load Cell

Friction and hysteresis are minimized.

A universal-joint assembly has been devised for transferring axial tension or compression to a load cell. To maximize measurement accuracy, the assembly is required to minimize any moments and non-axial forces on the load cell and to exhibit little or no hysteresis. The requirement to minimize hysteresis translates to a requirement to maximize axial stiffness (including minimizing backlash) and a simultaneous requirement to minimize friction. In practice, these are competing requirements, encountered repeatedly in efforts to design universal joints. Often, universal-joint designs represent compromises between these requirements.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Design processes, Measurements, Universal joints

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