Tech Briefs

Characterizing Richness of Previously Unmapped Terrain and Estimating Its Impact on Navigation Performance Using 3D Range Sensors in Flight

Landers to large planetary bodies such as Mars typically use a secondary reconnaissance spacecraft to generate high-fidelity 3D terrain maps that are subsequently used for landing site selection and creating onboard maps for terrain-relative navigation systems. This luxury does not exist with small primitive bodies such as comets and asteroids. For these bodies, the landing spacecraft has to perform the 3D mapping and, with possible help from ground control, choose a feasible landing site. To enable this operation, the spacecraft would need to carry a 3D ranging sensor system such as a LIDAR. With the spacecraft placed in extended mapping orbits, 3D range measurement data is then used to create a shape model of the object. Terrain-based navigation schemes that employ cameras could then be used to image, detect, match, and track features against the map database to provide a 6-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) navigation solution during descent. Camera-based systems, however, are not robust to lighting variations, and do not provide a direct 3D position/range feedback.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Cartography, Terrain, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft
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Aircraft Configured for Flight in an Atmosphere Having Low Density

The autonomous airplane can be folded in a confined volume, transported, and deployed in terrestrial or extraterrestrial venues.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace, Airframes, Aircraft instruments, Product development, Storage, Entry, descent, and landing
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Electric Field Activated Shape Memory Polymer Composite

Applications include intelligent medical devices, smart armor, turbine blade stabilization, and aircraft wing stabilization.

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a novel shape memory polymer (SMP) made from composite materials for use in morphing structures. In response to an external stimulus such as a temperature change or an electric field, the thermosetting material changes shape, but then returns to its original form once conditions return to normal. Through a precise combination of monomers, conductive fillers, and elastic layers, the NASA polymer matrix can be triggered by two effects — Joule heating and dielectric loss — to increase the response. The new material remedies the limitations of other SMPs currently on the market; namely, the slow stimulant response times, the strength inconsistencies, and the use of toxic epoxies that may complicate manufacturing. NASA has developed prototypes and now seeks a partner to license the technology for commercial applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Electric power, Product development, Heat treatment, Composite materials, Polymers, Smart materials
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Method of Mapping Anomalies in Homogenous Material

This technology combines the SansEC circuit with a magnetic field reader to produce a spectroscopy readout.

This innovation builds off of NASA Langley Research Center’s SansEC sensing system. SansEC is an open-circuit, resonant sensor that needs no electrical connections (thus the name SansEC or “without electrical connection”). This technology combines the SansEC circuit with a magnetic field reader to allow for detection of magnetic or electric field changes to produce a spectroscopy readout.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Spectroscopy, Materials properties, Test equipment and instrumentation, Test procedures
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AMMOS Common Access Manager (CAM)

The Common Access Manager (CAM) software was developed to control access to functions and data for mission control, telemetry, tracking, instrument data, and other ground data system capabilities. The CAM software is used by Advanced Multi-Mission Operations System (AMMOS) and Deep Space Network (DSN) subsystems, and is available for use in any NASA-funded mission.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Computer software and hardware, Flight control systems, Data management, Logistics
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Strain-Detecting Composite Materials

These materials can be used in aerospace vehicles and aircraft, or in any application where monitoring total overload or localized strain is critical.

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a metallic material that can be embedded into structural alloys to enhance nondestructive evaluation (NDE) of a structure. Current NDE tools, such as eddy current probes and others, can have some difficulties detecting small flaws in certain materials and structures. Also, using them can be costly, time-consuming, and labor-intensive, often resulting in significant downtime in the case of examination of machinery and vehicles. This innovation is to embed particles that react to strain with easily detected acoustic emissions and change in magnetic properties.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Alloys, Composite materials, Non-destructive tests, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Micro-Fresnel Zone Plate Optical Devices Using Densely Accumulated Ray Points

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a novel approach for a high-density optical data storage system to advance the typical capabilities of an optical data storage system. Operating at any laser wavelength from infrared (IR), visible, ultraviolet (UV), and X-ray regimes, the NASA technology utilizes special beam focusing techniques to achieve extremely short focal lengths and ultra-small spot sizes. The technology could be used with any laser wavelength and soft X-ray regime, and can be adapted to take advantage of any optical media. The high-density data storage capability is solely a function of the reduced laser/X-ray spot size.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Lasers, Optics, Waveguides, Data management
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Compositions Comprising Nickel-Titanium, Methods of Manufacture Thereof, and Articles Comprising the Same

These solid lubricant coatings provide reduced friction and wear to any lightly loaded sliding mechanism operating from cryogenic to 650 °C.

NASA's Glenn Research Center has developed high-temperature solid lubricant materials suitable for foil gas bearings that enable the commercialization of a broad array of revolutionary oil-free gas turbines, compressors, blowers, motors, and other rotating machines that can operate from cryogenic to redhot temperatures. These tribological (friction and wear) coatings and composite powder metallurgy material innovations have immediate and proven spinoff potential for high-temperature steam turbine control valves, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valves, articulating ducts and piping joints, and other industrial and aerospace applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Lubricants, Powder metallurgy, Nickel, Titanium, Tribology, Bearings
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Preparation of Metal Nanowire Decorated Carbon Allotropes

This technology produces materials for a variety of applications in electronics, communications, catalysis, and optics.

NASA's Langley Research Center has created a new class of materials based on depositing nanometer-sized metal particles onto carbon allotropes. The method is scalable and relatively simple, and allows for control over the size and distribution of the metal particles in the substrate, adjusting the surface area to optimize specific thermal or electrical properties of the material. One promising nanocomposite material created consists of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) decorated with metal particles dispersed in a polymer matrix. Ribbons, tubes, and moldings of the nanocomposite were found to have novel intrinsic electrical characteristics that enable tunable dielectric constants with low loss factors. The decoupling and independent control of the two fundamental parameters offer a class of materials with the potential for finely tailored electronic properties. The novel methods enable materials that show promise for a variety of applications in electronics, communications, catalysis, and optics.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Product development, Fabrication, Composite materials, Metals, Nanomaterials
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Controlled Deposition and Alignment of Carbon Nanotubes

CNTs are manipulated into specific orientations to create small, powerful, and flexible sensors.

NASA Langley Research Center researchers are experts at producing carbon nanotube (CNT)-based sensors for structural health monitoring (SHM). The sensors can be embedded in structures of all geometries to monitor conditions both inside and at the surface of the structure to continuously sense changes. Having accumulated a body of knowledge on how to deposit and align CNTs, NASA is adept at manipulating the CNTs into specific orientations to create small, powerful, and flexible sensors. One of the sensors created by NASA is a highly flexible sensor for crack growth detection and strain field mapping that features a very dense and highly ordered array of single-walled CNTs. NASA is seeking companies that are interested in licensing technology or engaging NASA in joint research in the area of CNT sensors.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Sensors and actuators, Product development, Fabrication, Nanotechnology
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