Tech Briefs

Progress in Fabrication of Rocket Combustion Chambers by VPS

Several documents in a collection describe aspects of the development of advanced materials and fabrication processes intended to enable the manufacture of advanced rocket combustion chambers and nozzles at relatively low cost. One concept discussed in most of the documents is the fabrication of combustion-chamber liners by vacuum plasma spraying (VPS) of an alloy of 88Cu/8Cr/4Nb (numbers indicate atomic percentages)—a concept that was reported in "Improved Alloy for Fabrication of Combustion Chambers by VPS" (MFS-26546), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 23, No.1 (January 1999), page 50. Another concept is the deposition of graded-composition wall and liner structures by VPS in order to make liners integral parts of wall structures and to make oxidation-and thermal- protection layers integral parts of liners: The VPS process is started at 100 percent of a first alloy, then the proportion of a second alloy is increased gradually from zero as deposition continues, ending at 100 percent of the second alloy. Yet another concept discussed in one of the documents is the VPS of oxidation-protection coats in the forms of nickel-and-chromium-containing refractory alloys on VPS-deposited 88Cu/8Cr/4Nb liners.

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Lightweight Exoskeletons With Controllable Actuators

Resistive or assistive forces and torques would be generated on command. A proposed class of lightweight exoskeletal electromechanical systems would include electrically controllable actuators that would generate torques and forces that, depending on specific applications, would resist and/or assist wearers’ movements. The proposed systems would be successors to relatively heavy, bulky, and less capable human strength amplifying exoskeletal electromechanical systems that have been subjects of research during the past four decades. The proposed systems could be useful in diverse applications in which there are needs for systems that could be donned or doffed easily, that would exert little effect when idle, and that could be activated on demand: examples of such applications include (1) providing controlled movement and/or resistance to movement for physical exercise and (2) augmenting wearers’ strengths in the performance of military, law-enforcement, and industrial tasks.

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Miniature Robotic Submarine for Exploring Harsh Environments

Extreme miniaturization would enable exploration of previously inaccessible regions. The miniature autonomous submersible explorer (MASE) has been proposed as a means of scientific exploration—especially, looking for signs of life—in harsh, relatively inaccessible underwater environments. Basically, the MASE would be a small instrumented robotic submarine (see figure) that could launch itself or could be launched from another vehicle. Examples of environments that might be explored by use of the MASE include subglacial lakes, deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, acidic or alkaline lakes, brine lenses in permafrost, and ocean regions under Antarctic ice shelves.

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Lidar for Guidance of a Spacecraft or Exploratory Robot

A report describes the Laser Mapper (LAMP) — a lightweight, compact, low-power lidar system under development for guidance of a spacecraft or exploratory robotic vehicle (rover) at Mars or another planet. The LAMP is intended especially for use during rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit, for mapping terrain during descent and landing of a spacecraft, for capturing a sample that has been launched into orbit, or navigation and avoidance of obstacles by a rover traversing terrain. The LAMP includes a laser that emits high-power, short light pulses. The laser beam is aimed in azimuth and elevation by use of a mirror on a two-axis gimbal, which scans the beam across a field of regard. Light reflected by a target is collected by a telescope, and the distance to the target is determined by measuring the round-trip travel time for reflected light pulses. The distance information is combined with directional information to construct a three-dimensional map of targets in the field of regard.

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Progress in Insect-Inspired Optical Navigation Sensors

Some details of implementation have become available. Progress has been made in continuing efforts to develop optical flight-control and navigation sensors for miniature robotic aircraft. The designs of these sensors are inspired by the designs and functions of the vision systems and brains of insects. Two types of sensors of particular interest are polarization compasses and ocellar horizon sensors. The basic principle of polarization compasses was described (but without using the term “polarization compass”) in “Insect-Inspired Flight Control for Small Flying Robots” (NPO-30545), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January 2005), page 61. To recapitulate: Bees use sky polarization patterns in ultraviolet (UV) light, caused by Rayleigh scattering of sunlight by atmospheric gas molecules, as direction references relative to the apparent position of the Sun. A robotic direction-finding technique based on this concept would be more robust in comparison with a technique based on the direction to the visible Sun because the UV polarization pattern is distributed across the entire sky and, hence, is redundant and can be extrapolated from a small region of clear sky in an elsewhere cloudy sky that hides the Sun.

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Sol-Gel Glass Holographic Light-Shaping Diffusers

Defined areas can be illuminated diffusely with high efficiency. Holographic glass light-shaping diffusers (GLSDs) are optical components for use in special-purpose illumination systems (see figure). When properly positioned with respect to lamps and areas to be illuminated, holographic GLSDs efficiently channel light from the lamps onto specified areas with specified distributions of illumination — for example, uniform or nearly uniform irradiance can be concentrated with intensity confined to a peak a few degrees wide about normal incidence, over a circular or elliptical area.

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Phase Correction for GPS Antenna With Nonunique Phase Center

Position can be determined more accurately. A method of determining the position and attitude of a body equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver includes an accounting for the location of the nonunique phase center of a distributed or wraparound GPS antenna. The method applies, more specifically, to the case in which (1) the GPS receiver utilizes measurements of the phases of GPS carrier signals in its position and attitude computations and (2) the body is axisymmetric (e.g., spherical or round cylindrical) and wrapped at its equator with a single- or multiple-element antenna, the radiation pattern of which is also axisymmetric with the same axis of symmetry as that of the body.

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