Tech Briefs

yourSky: Custom Sky-Image Mosaics via the Internet

is a computer program that supplies custom astronomical image mosaics of sky regions specified by requesters using client computers connected to the Internet. [yourSky is an upgraded version of the software reported in "Software for Generating Mosaics of Astronomical Images" (NPO-21121), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 4 (April 2001), page 16a.] A requester no longer has to engage in the tedious process of determining what subset of images is needed, nor even to know how the images are indexed in image archives. Instead, in response to a requester's specification of the size and location of the sky area, (and optionally of the desired set and type of data, resolution, coordinate system, projection, and image format), yourSky automatically retrieves the component image data from archives totaling tens of terabytes stored on computer tape and disk drives at multiple sites and assembles the component images into a mosaic image by use of a high-performance parallel code. yourSky runs on the server computer where the mosaics are assembled. Because yourSky includes a Web-interface component, no special client software is needed: ordinary Web-browser software is sufficient.

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Lightweight Mirrors for Orbiting Earth-Observing Instruments

A report discusses selected aspects of a continuing program to develop thermally stable, lightweight mirrors for planned Earth-observing spaceborne instruments. These mirrors are required to retain precise concave or convex surface figures required for diffraction-limited optical performance, even in the presence of transient, asymmetric thermal loads, which include solar heating and radiational cooling. In the first phase of the program, preliminary analyses were performed to select one of three types of mirror structures: one made of SiC, one made of Be, and a hybrid comprising a lightweight composite-material substructure supporting a glass face sheet that would be a substrate for the required precise optical surface. The hybrid structure was selected for further development because it would offer a combination of high stiffness and low mass and because, relative to the Be and SiC structures, (1) the coefficients of thermal expansion of its constituent materials and the resulting wavefront error would be smaller, and (2) it could be fabricated at lower cost. A prototype hybrid structure with an aperture diameter of 0.3 m was fabricated. Planned efforts in the next phase of the program include optical polishing of the glass face sheet and testing.

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Ultrahigh-Vacuum Arc-Jet Source of Nitrogen for Epitaxy

Electron-excitation and translational energies can be selected. An arc-jet source of chemically active nitrogen atoms has been developed for use in molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) to grow such III-V semiconductors as nitrides of gallium, aluminum, and indium. This apparatus utilizes a confined arc to thermally excite N2 and to dissociate N2 into N atoms. This apparatus is compatible with other, ultrahigh-vacuum MBE equipment commonly used in growing such materials.

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Scanning Thermography

Large objects can be scanned fairly quickly. Scanning thermography is a noncontact, nondestructive technique that makes it possible to find defects hidden inside structural components in a variety of settings. Scanning thermography can be used to perform inspections of objects that may have large areas and a variety of shapes and that are found in a variety of settings that include, but are not limited to, production lines, industrial tanks and pipes, aircraft, power plants, and bridges. Scanning thermography is applicable to diverse structural materials, including metals, plastics, laminated polymer-matrix composites, and bonded aluminum composites, to name a few. Defects that can be detected by scanning thermography include cracks, disbonds (delaminations), corrosion, and wear.

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Software for Managing Inventory of Flight Hardware

The Flight Hardware Support Request System (FHSRS) is a computer program that relieves engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) of most of the non-engineering administrative burden of managing an inventory of flight hardware. The FHSRS can also be adapted to perform similar functions for other organizations. The FHSRS affords a combination of capabilities, including those formerly provided by three separate programs in purchasing, inventorying, and inspecting hardware. The FHSRS provides a Web-based interface with a server computer that supports a relational database of inventory; electronic routing of requests and approvals; and electronic documentation from initial request through implementation of quality criteria, acquisition, receipt, inspection, storage, and final issue of flight materials and components. The database lists both hardware acquired for current projects and residual hardware from previous projects. The increased visibility of residual flight components provided by the FHSRS has dramatically improved the re-utilization of materials in lieu of new procurements, resulting in a cost savings of over $1.7 million. The FHSRS includes subprograms for manipulating the data in the database, informing of the status of a request or an item of hardware, and searching the database on any physical or other technical characteristic of a component or material. The software structure forces normalization of the data to facilitate inquiries and searches for which users have entered mixed or inconsistent values.

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Adaptation of Mesoscale Weather Models to Local Forecasting

Both objective and subjective evaluation methodologies are needed. Methodologies have been developed for (1) configuring mesoscale numerical weather- prediction models for execution on high- performance computer workstations to make short-range weather forecasts for the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and (2) evaluating the performances of the models as configured. These methodologies have been implemented as part of a continuing effort to improve weather forecasting in support of operations of the U.S. space program. The models, methodologies, and results of the evaluations also have potential value for commercial users who could benefit from tailoring their operations and/or marketing strategies based on accurate predictions of local weather.

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Aerodynamic Design Using Neural Networks

The amount of computation needed to optimize a design is reduced. The design of aerodynamic components of aircraft, such as wings or engines, involves a process of obtaining the most optimal component shape that can deliver the desired level of component performance, subject to various constraints, e.g., total weight or cost, that the component must satisfy. Aerodynamic design can thus be formulated as an optimization problem that involves the minimization of an objective function subject to constraints.

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