Tech Briefs

Program Analyzes Radar Altimeter Data

A computer program has been written to perform several analyses of radar altimeter data. The program was designed to improve on previous methods of analysis of altimeter engineering data by (1) facilitating and accelerating the analysis of large amounts of data in a more direct manner and (2) improving the ability to estimate performance of radar-altimeter instrumentation and provide data corrections. The data in question are openly available to the international scientific community and can be downloaded from anonymous file-transfer-protocol (FTP) locations that are accessible via links from altimetry Web sites. The software estimates noise in range measurements, estimates corrections for electromagnetic bias, and performs statistical analyses on various parameters for comparison of different altimeters. Whereas prior techniques used to perform similar analyses of altimeter range noise require comparison of data from repetitions of satellite ground tracks, the present software uses a high-pass filtering technique to obtain similar results from single satellite passes. Elimination of the requirement for repeat-track analysis facilitates the analysis of large amounts of satellite data to assess subtle variations in range noise.

Posted in: Briefs, Software

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Format for Interchange and Display of 3D Terrain Data

Visible Scalable Terrain (ViSTa) is a software format for production, interchange, and display of three-dimensional (3D) terrain data acquired by stereoscopic cameras of robotic vision systems. ViSTa is designed to support scalability of data, accuracy of displayed terrain images, and optimal utilization of computational resources. In a ViSTa file, an area of terrain is represented, at one or more levels of detail, by coordinates of isolated points and/or vertices of triangles derived from a texture map that, in turn, is derived from original terrain images. Unlike prior terrain-image software formats, ViSTa includes provisions to ensure accuracy of texture coordinates.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software

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Power Transmission for Motion Control

While technology has advanced and there are many new ways to accomplish useful motion within particular applications, electric motors and gearheads are still the preferred and most popular choices for power transmission throughout commercial, industrial, and automation applications. Motors are the components that convert electrical power to useful mechanical power. Gearheads transform the mechanical rotary power to the desired combination of speed and torque if the motor cannot do so directly. Benefits of this combination include low cost, simplicity, reliability, and versatility.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Probe for Sampling of Interstitial Fluid From Bone

An apparatus characterized as both a membrane probe and a bone ultrafiltration probe has been developed to enable in vivo sampling of interstitial fluid in bone. The probe makes it possible to measure the concentration of calcium and other constituents of the fluid that may be relevant to bone physiology. The probe could be especially helpful in experimental studies of microgravitational bone loss and of terrestrial bone-loss disease states, including osteoporosis.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical

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Miniature Linear Actuator for Small Spacecraft

A report discusses the development of a kit of mechanisms intended for use aboard future spacecraft having masses between 10 and 100 kg. The report focuses mostly on two prototypes of one of the mechanisms: a miniature linear actuator based on a shape-memory-alloy (SMA) wire. In this actuator, as in SMA-wire actuators described previously in NASA Tech Briefs, a spring biases a moving part toward one limit of its stroke and is restrained or pulled toward the other limit of the stroke by an SMA wire, which assumes a slightly lesser or greater "remembered" length, depending on whether or not an electric current is applied to the wire to heat it above a transition temperature. Topics addressed in the report include the need to develop mechanisms like these, the general approach to be taken in designing SMA actuators, tests of the two prototypes of the miniature linear actuators,and improvements in the second prototype over the first prototype resulting in reduced mass and increased stroke. The report also presents recommendations for future development, briefly discusses problems of tolerances and working with small parts, states a need for better understanding of behaviors of SMAs, and presents conclusions.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Second-Generation Six-Limbed Experimental Robot

This robot is designed to be more agile and dexterous than its predecessor. The figure shows the LEMUR II—the second generation of the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR), which was described in "Six-Legged Ex- perimental Robot " (NPO-20897), NASA Tech Briefs,Vol.25, No.12 (December 2001), page 58. The LEMUR II incorporates a number of improvements, including new features, that extend its capabilities beyond those of its predecessor, which is now denoted the LEMUR I.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Development of Biomorphic Flyers

Autonomous flight control and navigation in small size is offered for planetary and terrestrial exploration applications. Biomorphic flyers have recently been demonstrated that utilize the approach described earlier in "Bio-Inspired Engineering of Exploration Systems" (NPO-21142), NASA Tech Briefs ,Vol.27, No.5 (May 2003), page 54, to distill the principles found in successful, nature-tested mechanisms of flight control. Two types of flyers are being built, corresponding to the imaging and shepherding flyers for a biomorphic mission described earlier in "Cooperative Lander-Surface/Aerial Microflyer Missions for Mars Exploration" (NPO-30286), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol.28, No.5 (May 2004), page 36. The common features of these two types of flyers are that both are delta-wing airplanes incorporating bio-inspired capabilities of control, navigation, and visual search for exploration. The delta-wing design is robust to ~40 G axial load and offers ease of stowing and packaging.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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