Tech Briefs

Multispectral Imager With Improved Filter Wheel and Optics

“Dead” time is reduced substantially, relative to prior systems of the same type.

Figure 1 schematically depicts an improved multispectral imaging system of the type that utilizes a filter wheel that contains multiple discrete narrow-band-pass filters and that is rotated at a constant high speed to acquire images in rapid succession in the corresponding spectral bands. The improvement, relative to prior systems of this type, consists of the measures taken to prevent the exposure of a focal-plane array (FPA) of photodetectors to light in more than one spectral band at any given time and to prevent exposure of the array to any light during readout. In prior systems, these measures have included, variously the use of mechanical shutters or the incorporation of wide opaque sectors (equivalent to mechanical shutters) into filter wheels. These measures introduce substantial “dead” times into each operating cycle — intervals during which image information cannot be collected and thus incoming light is wasted. In contrast, the present improved design does not involve shutters or wide opaque sectors, and it reduces dead times substantially.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Imaging and visualization, Optics
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Compensation for Phase Anisotropy of a Metal Reflector

A multilayer dielectric coating would introduce an opposing phase anisotropy.

A method of compensation for the polarization-dependent phase anisotropy of a metal reflector has been proposed. The essence of the method is to coat the reflector with multiple thin alternating layers of two dielectrics that have different indices of refraction, so as to introduce an opposing polarization- dependent phase anisotropy.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Metals
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Integral Radiator and Storage Tank

Weight and volume are reduced.

A simplified, lightweight system for dissipating heat of a regenerative fuel- cell system would include a heat pipe with its evaporator end placed at the heat source and its condenser end integrated into the wall of the regenerative fuel cell system gas-storage tanks. The tank walls act as heat-radiating surfaces for cooling the regenerative fuel cell system. The system was conceived for use in outer space, where radiation is the only physical mechanism available for transferring heat to the environment. The system could also be adapted for use on propellant tanks or other large-surface-area structures to convert them to space heat-radiating structures.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Fuel cells, Storage, Radiators
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Integrated Hardware and Software for No-Loss Computing

Computations on parallel processors can continue, even if one processor fails.

When an algorithm is distributed across multiple threads executing on many distinct processors, a loss of one of those threads or processors can potentially result in the total loss of all the incremental results up to that point. When implementation is massively hardware distributed, then the probability of a hardware failure during the course of a long execution is potentially high. Traditionally, this problem has been addressed by establishing checkpoints where the current state of some or part of the execution is saved. Then in the event of a failure, this state information can be used to recompute that point in the execution and resume the computation from that point.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Computer software and hardware
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Decision-Tree Formulation With Order-1 Lateral Execution

Some decision trees can be transformed into objects executable by simple table lookups.

A compact symbolic formulation enables mapping of an arbitrarily complex decision tree of a certain type into a highly computationally efficient multidimensional software object. The type of decision trees to which this formulation applies is that known in the art as the Boolean class of balanced decision trees. Parallel lateral slices of an object created by means of this formulation can be executed in constant time — considerably less time than would otherwise be required.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Computer software and hardware
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GIS Methodology for Planning Planetary-Rover Operations

A document describes a methodology for utilizing image data downlinked from cameras aboard a robotic ground vehicle (rover) on a remote planet for analyzing and planning operations of the vehicle and of any associated spacecraft. Traditionally, the cataloging and presentation of large numbers of downlinked planetary-exploration images have been done by use of two organizational methods: temporal organization and correlation between activity plans and images. In contrast, the present methodology involves spatial indexing of image data by use of the computational discipline of geographic information systems (GIS), which has been maturing in terrestrial applications for decades, but, until now, has not been widely used in support of exploration of remote planets. The use of GIS to catalog data products for analysis is intended to increase efficiency and effectiveness in planning rover operations, just as GIS has proven to be a source of powerful computational tools in such terrestrial endeavors as law enforcement, military strategic planning, surveying, political science, and epidemiology. The use of GIS also satisfies the need for a map-based user interface that is intuitive to rover-activity planners, many of whom are deeply familiar with maps and know how to use them effectively in field geology.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Imaging and visualization, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles
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Optimal Calibration of the Spitzer Space Telescope

A document discusses the focal-plane calibration of the Spitzer Space Telescope by use of the instrument pointing frame (IPF) Kalman filter, which was described in “Kalman Filter for Calibrating a Telescope Focal Plane” (NPO-40798), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 30, No. 9 (September 2006), page 62. To recapitulate: In the IPF Kalman filter, optimal estimates of both engineering and scientific focal-plane parameters are obtained simultaneously, using data taken in each focal-plane survey activity. The IPF Kalman filter offers greater efficiency and economy, relative to prior calibration practice in which scientific and engineering parameters were estimated by separate teams of scientists and engineers and iterated upon each other. In the Spitzer Space Telescope application, the IPF Kalman filter was used to calibrate 56 frames for precise telescope pointing, estimate >1,500 parameters associated with focal-plane mapping, and process calibration runs involving as many as 1,338 scientific image centroids. The final typical survey calibration accuracy was found to be 0.09 arc second. The use of the IPF Kalman filter enabled a team of only four analysts to complete the calibration processing in three months. An unanticipated benefit afforded by the IPF Kalman filter was the ability to monitor health and diagnose performance of the entire end-to-end telescope- pointing system.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Calibration, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Automated Detection of Events of Scientific Interest

A report presents a slightly different perspective of the subject matter of “Fusing Symbolic and Numerical Diagnostic Computations” (NPO-42512), which appears elsewhere in this issue of NASA Tech Briefs. Briefly, the subject matter is the X-2000 Anomaly Detection Language, which is a developmental computing language for fusing two diagnostic computer programs — one implementing a numerical analysis method, the other implementing a symbolic analysis method — into a unified event-based decision analysis software system for realtime detection of events. In the case of the cited companion NASA Tech Briefs article, the contemplated events that one seeks to detect would be primarily failures or other changes that could adversely affect the safety or success of a spacecraft mission. In the case of the instant report, the events to be detected could also include natural phenomena that could be of scientific interest. Hence, the use of X-2000 Anomaly Detection Language could contribute to a capability for automated, coordinated use of multiple sensors and sensor-output-data-processing hardware and software to effect opportunistic collection and analysis of scientific data.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Mathematical analysis, Computer software and hardware
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Representation-Independent Iteration of Sparse Data Arrays

An approach is defined that describes a method of iterating over massively large arrays containing sparse data using an approach that is implementation independent of how the contents of the sparse arrays are laid out in memory. What is unique and important here is the decoupling of the iteration over the sparse set of array elements from how they are internally represented in memory. This enables this approach to be backward compatible with existing schemes for representing sparse arrays as well as new approaches. What is novel here is a new approach for efficiently iterating over sparse arrays that is independent of the underlying memory layout representation of the array. A functional interface is defined for implementing sparse arrays in any modern programming language with a particular focus for the Chapel programming language. Examples are provided that show the translation of a loop that computes a matrix vector product into this representation for both the distributed and not-distributed cases. This work is directly applicable to NASA and its High Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS) program that JPL and our current program are engaged in. The goal of this program is to create powerful, scalable, and economically viable high-powered computer systems suitable for use in national security and industry by 2010. This is important to NASA for its computationally intensive requirements for analyzing and understanding the volumes of science data from our returned missions.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Computer software and hardware
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Mission Operations of the Mars Exploration Rovers

A document describes a system of processes involved in planning, commanding, and monitoring operations of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. The system is designed to minimize command turnaround time, given that inherent uncertainties in terrain conditions and in successful completion of planned landed spacecraft motions preclude planning of some spacecraft activities until the results of prior activities are known by the ground-based operations team. The processes are partitioned into those (designated as tactical) that must be tied to the Martian clock and those (designated strategic) that can, without loss, be completed in a more leisurely fashion. The tactical processes include assessment of downlinked data, refinement and validation of activity plans, sequencing of commands, and integration and validation of sequences. Strategic processes include communications planning and generation of long-term activity plans. The primary benefit of this partition is to enable the tactical portion of the team to focus solely on tasks that contribute directly to meeting the deadlines for commanding the rover’s each sol (1 sol = 1 Martian day) — achieving a turnaround time of 18 hours or less, while facilitating strategic team interactions with other organizations that do not work on a Mars time schedule.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Autonomous vehicles, Spacecraft
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