Tech Briefs

Optically Transparent Split-Ring Antennas for 1 to 10 GHz

Advantages include ultra-wide-band operation, miniaturization, and excellent impedance matching.

Split-ring antennas made from optically transparent, electrically conductive films have been invented for applications in which there are requirements for compact antennas capable of operation over much or all of the frequency band from 1 to 10 GHz. Primary examples of such applications include wireless local-area networks and industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) applications. These antennas can be conveniently located on such surfaces as those of automobile windows and display screens of diverse hand-held electronic units. They are fabricated by conventional printed-circuit techniques and can easily be integrated with solid-state amplifier circuits to enhance gain.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Windows and windshields, Amplifiers, Antennas, Integrated circuits, Wireless communication systems, Displays

Power-Amplifier Module for 145 to 165 GHz

This module represents the highest frequency solid-state power amplifier to date.

Figure 1. The Amplifier Is Packaged in a WR5 waveguide module, with electric-field-plane alumina probes to interface the chip to the waveguide, and bypass capacitors to suppress low-frequency oscillations. The module is compact and can easily be integrated into a test system or with wafer probes.

A power-amplifier module that operates in the frequency range of 145 to 165 GHz has been designed and constructed as a combination of (1) a previously developed monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) power amplifier and (2) a waveguide module. The amplifier chip was needed for driving a high-electron-mobility- transistor (HEMT) frequency doubler. While it was feasible to connect the amplifier and frequency-doubler chips by use of wire bonds, it was found to be much more convenient to test the amplifier and doubler chips separately. To facilitate separate testing, it was decided to package the amplifier and doubler chips in separate waveguide modules. Figure 1 shows the resulting amplifier module.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Amplifiers, Integrated circuits, Waveguides, Test procedures

Ice-Penetrating Robot for Scientific Exploration

A compact probe contains advanced power, instrumentation, navigation, control, and communication systems.

The cryo-hydro integrated robotic penetrator system (CHIRPS) is a partially developed instrumentation system that includes a probe designed to deeply penetrate the Europan ice sheet in a search for signs of life. The CHIRPS could also be used on Earth for similar exploration of the polar ice caps — especially at Lake Vostok in Antarctica. The CHIRPS probe advances downward by a combination of simple melting of ice (typically for upper, non-compacted layers of an ice sheet) or by a combination of melting of ice and pumping of meltwater (typically, for deeper, compacted layers). The heat and electric power for melting, pumping, and operating all of the onboard instrumentation and electronic circuitry are supplied by radioisotope power sources (RPSs) and thermoelectric converters energized by the RPSs. The instrumentation and electronic circuitry includes miniature guidance and control sensors and an advanced autonomous control system that has fault-management capabilities.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Weather and climate, Drilling, Robotics

Automated Design of Restraint Layer of an Inflatable Vessel

A Mathcad computer program largely automates the design and analysis of the restraint layer (the primary load-bearing layer) of an inflatable vessel that consists of one or more sections having cylindrical, toroidal, and/or spherical shape(s). A restraint layer typically comprises webbing in the form of multiple straps. The design task includes choosing indexing locations along the straps, computing the load at every location in each strap, computing the resulting stretch at each location, and computing the amount of undersizing required of each strap so that, once the vessel is inflated and the straps thus stretched, the vessel can be expected to assume the desired shape.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Elastomers, Fabrics, Gases, Tensile Strength, Restraint systems

TMS for Instantiating a Knowledge Base With Incomplete Data

A computer program that belongs to the class known among software experts as output truth-maintenance systems (output TMSs) has been devised as one of a number of software tools for reducing the size of the knowledge base that must be searched during execution of artificial-intelligence software of the rule-based inference engine type in a case in which data are missing. This program determines whether the consequences of activation of two or more rules can be combined without causing a logical inconsistency. For example, in a case involving hypothetical scenarios that could lead to turning a given device on or off, the program determines whether a scenario involving a given combination of rules could lead to turning the device both on and off at the same time, in which case that combination of rules would not be included in the scenario.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Artificial intelligence, Computer software and hardware, Product development

Simulating Flights of Future Launch Vehicles and Spacecraft

Marshall Aerospace Vehicle Representation in C (MAVERIC) is a computer program for generic, low-to-high-fidelity simulation of the flight(s) of one or more launch vehicle(s) or spacecraft. MAVERIC is designed to accommodate multi-staged vehicles, powered serially or in parallel, with multiple engines, tanks, and cargo elements. Engines can be of jet or conventional rocket types, using either liquid or solid propellants.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Computer simulation, Jet engines, Rocket engines, Launch vehicles, Spacecraft

Control Code for Bearingless Switched-Reluctance Motor

A computer program has been devised for controlling a machine that is an integral combination of magnetic bearings and a switched-reluctance motor. The motor contains an eightpole stator and a hybrid rotor, which has both (1) a circular lamination stack for levitation and (2) a six-pole lamination stack for rotation. The program computes drive and levitation currents for the stator windings with real-time feedback control. During normal operation, two of the four pairs of opposing stator poles (each pair at right angles to the other pair) levitate the rotor. The remaining two pairs of stator poles exert torque on the six-pole rotor lamination stack to produce rotation. This version is executable in a control-loop time of 40 μs on a Pentium (or equivalent) processor that operates at a clock speed of 400 MHz. The program can be expanded, by addition of logic blocks, to enable control of position along additional axes. The code enables adjustment of operational parameters (e.g., motor speed and stiffness, and damping parameters of magnetic bearings) through computer keyboard key presses.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Architecture, Computer software and hardware, Electronic control systems, Magnetic materials, Bearings

Machine Aided Indexing and the NASA Thesaurus

Machine Aided Indexing (MAI) is a Web-based application program for aiding the indexing of literature in the NASA Scientific and Technical Information (STI) Database. MAI was designed to be a convenient, fully interactive tool for determining the subject matter of documents and identifying keywords. The heart of MAI is a natural-language processor that accepts, as input, any user-supplied text, including abstracts, full documents, and Web pages. Within seconds, the text is analyzed and a ranked list of terms is generated. The 17,800 terms of the NASA Thesaurus serve as the foundation of the knowledge base used by MAI. The NASA Thesaurus defines a standard vocabulary, the use of which enables MAI to assist in ensuring that STI documents are uniformly and consistently accessible. Of particular interest to traditional users of the NASA Thesaurus, MAI incorporates a fully searchable thesaurus display module that affords wordsearch and hierarchy-navigation capabilities that make it much easier and less time-consuming to look up terms and browse, relative to lookup and browsing in older print and Portable Document Format (PDF) digital versions of the Thesaurus. In addition, because MAI is centrally hosted, the Thesaurus data are always current.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Internet, Data management, Terminology

Arbitrating Control of Control and Display Units

The ARINC 739 Switch is a computer program that arbitrates control of two multi-function control and display units (MCDUs) between (1) a commercial flight-management computer (FMC) and (2) NASA software used in research on transport aircraft. (MCDUs are the primary interfaces between pilots and FMCs on many commercial aircraft.) This program was recently redesigned into a software library that can be embedded in research application programs. As part of the redesign, this software was combined with software for creating custom pages of information to be displayed on a CDU. This software commands independent switching of the left (pilot’s) and right (copilot’s) MCDUs. For example, a custom CDU page can control the left CDU while the FMC controls the right CDU. The software uses menu keys to switch control of the CDU between the FMC or a custom CDU page. The software provides an interface that enables custom CDU pages to insert keystrokes into the FMC’s CDU input interface. This feature allows the custom CDU pages to manipulate the FMC as if it were a pilot.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Computer software and hardware, Flight management systems, Human machine interface (HMI)

Web-Based Software for Managing Research

aeroCOMPASS is a software system, originally designed to aid in the management of wind tunnels at Langley Research Center, that could be adapted to provide similar aid to other enterprises in which research is performed in common laboratory facilities by users who may be geographically dispersed. Included in aeroCOMPASS is Webinterface software that provides a single, convenient portal to a set of project- and test-related software tools and other application programs. The heart of aeroCOMPASS is a user-oriented document-management software subsystem that enables geographically dispersed users to easily share and manage a variety of documents. A principle of “write once, read many” is implemented throughout aeroCOMPASS to eliminate the need for multiple entry of the same information. The Web framework of aeroCOMPASS provides links to client-side application programs that are fully integrated with databases and server-side application programs. Other subsystems of aeroCOMPASS include ones for reserving hardware, tracking of requests and feedback from users, generating interactive notes, administration of a customer-satisfaction questionnaire, managing execution of tests, managing archives of metadata about tests, planning tests, and providing online help and instruction for users.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Electronic control systems, Internet, Human machine interface (HMI), Wind tunnel tests

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