Tech Briefs

Mars Science Laboratory Flight Software for Autonomous Drilling

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California One of the goals of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is to collect powderized samples from the interior of rocks and deliver them to onboard science instruments. This goal is achieved using the algorithms and software that control the drill hardware to produce a system that can robustly, efficiently, and autonomously drill into rocks with a priori unknown, and widely varying properties.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Morpheus Lander Vehicle Simulation/Vehicle Flight Software

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas The Morpheus simulation is a suite of software models that simulates the performance of a lander vehicle. The specific vehicle is a terrestrial lander used as a “vertical test bed” platform for developing technology, and proving hardware and software systems for use in space exploration. Morpheus software consists of three main components: flight software, ground software, and simulation software. While the emphasis in spacecraft development typically tends to be the flight software residing and running on the actual vehicle, both ground and simulation software components are equally essential in developing, testing, and operating the craft.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Risk-Aware Mars Rover Operation Tool with Autonomous Terrain Classifier and Path Planner

This technology can reduce the risk of the loss of rovers by preventing oversight of terrain-related risks. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The greatest single source of risks for Mars rovers is terrain. These risks are currently managed by a labor-intensive process in which rover operators carefully examine the terrain and plan a path to avoid any potential hazards. This poses a challenge, particularly for the operation of an MSL (Mars Science Laboratory)-class rover, because it must be very risk-averse in order not to lose the asset, while it already requires a significant amount of labor due to the complexity of the rover. Hence, it is important to develop a software tool that helps operators to detect and avoid terrain hazards efficiently and reliably.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Robust, Optimal Subsonic Airfoil Shapes

The technology has applications in aerospace and transportation vehicles, industrial machinery, and power plant turbomachinery. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California This invention relates to the design of optimal shapes of airfoils, such as turbine blades, operating in subsonic flow regimes. An airfoil, such as a propeller blade or a turbine vane or blade (collectively referred to herein as an “airfoil”), may be used in a variety of environments, including different ambient temperatures, gas densities, gas compositions, gas flow rates, pressures, and motor rotational speeds. An airfoil shape that is optimized for one environment may have sharply limited application in another environment. This invention is robust enough to provide designs of airfoils that operate satisfactorily in any class of environments and with any reasonable differences from manufacturing specifications, and that satisfy the constraints imposed on the design.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Merging and Spacing Software in the ACES Simulation

Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia Merging and Spacing (M&S) in ACES is a software product written in the Java programming language that adds scheduling and management of flights into and out of an airport for the Airspace Concepts Evaluation System (ACES) simulation. ACES is a systems-level simulation that portrays NAS-wide flight. The ACES simulation, prior to the delivery of the M&S product in 2010, was limited to a node/queuing model for the terminal airspace, which means that it modeled the time an aircraft would generally take from its metering fix to/from a runway, but it did not provide a model for its physical location during that flight phase. The M&S software uses the IAI Kinematic Trajectory-Generator to model actual physical trajectories through the terminal airspace, and uses a scheduling algorithm along with various managers for waypoints (specific locations along the route) to direct each arriving and departing aircraft to a trajectory and schedule that not only behaves according to the performance characteristics of the specific aircraft, but also maintains the FAA’s requirements for wake vortex spacing during flight. This allows Langley research using ACES for the physical behaviors in the complex terminal airspace for the first time.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Integration into the National Airspace System

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California NASA and other organizations have invested heavily in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research. UAVs can be flown in the National Airspace System (NAS) today, but only with special permission from the Federal Aviation Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Integration into the National Airspace System Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California Administration (FAA) — a process that often takes 60 to 90 days.

Posted in: Briefs

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Data Server for Real-Time Display Interface

This server is a central source for state data for aircraft/spacecraft, and management of multiple client data requests. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia The purpose of this software is to decouple display and data interface functions by developing a central data server. By using the centralized data server, flight displays can be easily transferred between simulators and research airplanes without having to reprogram flight display graphics. Therefore, to drive flight displays, only a single software interface needs to be written to communicate with the data server. Further, the interface to the server has the ability to add and remove variables from the data server in real-time. This allows for great flexibility in the use of the data server. This design allows data to be centrally recorded and played back on the flight deck displays for later analysis by researchers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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