Tech Briefs

A Systems Engineering Approach to Architecture Development

Architecture development often is conducted prior to system concept design when there is a need to determine the best-value mix of systems that works collectively in specific scenarios and time frames to accomplish a set of mission area objectives. Conducted prior to Pre-Phase A of the project lifecycle, the scope of architecture studies is broader and shallower than that of concept design studies conducted in Pre-Phase A. Results are used to advise senior planners on recommended capabilities and investment profiles for mission areas 15-25 years in the future.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Architecture, Life cycle analysis, Systems engineering

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Reconfigurable Chaos-Based Microchips

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed nonlinear chaos-based integrated circuits that enable computer chips to perform multiple functions with fewer transistors. These integrated circuits can be manufactured with off-the-shelf fabrication processes, and could lead to novel computer architectures that do more with less circuitry and fewer transistors.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Integrated circuits, Transistors, Fabrication

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Fuel Cell Power Management

This technique produces multiple voltages simultaneously from a single fuel cell stack, without the need for converters.An innovation from NASA Glenn Research Center increases the efficiency and versatility of fuel cell stacks for power generation. To meet the requirements of a fuel cell system, engineers have typically added direct-current-to-direct-current (DC-to-DC) converters that reduce the voltage produced at the ends of the fuel cell stack. This smaller voltage is then used to operate the valves, pumps, heaters, and electronics that make up the fuel cell system. However, adding DC-to-DC converters increases cost, reduces efficiency, adds to the system part count (which reduces reliability), and increases both the mass and volume of the fuel cell system. NASA's innovative technique features multiple power points that connect different numbers of cells in an electrical series, allowing the fuel cell stack to produce electrical power at multiple DC voltages simultaneously. This capability eliminates DC-to-DC converter electronics, thereby reducing cost and simplifying the system.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Voltage regulators, Electric power, Fuel cells

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Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water

Sandia National Laboratories researchers designed a cooling system for supercomputer centers that is expected to save four to five million gallons of water annually in New Mexico if installed at Sandia's computing center, and hundreds of millions of gallons nationally if the method is widely adopted. It is being tested at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which expects to save a million gallons annually. The system, built by Johnson Controls and called the Thermosyphon Cooler Hybrid System, cools like a refrigerator without the expense and energy needs of a compressor.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Computer software and hardware, Product development, Cooling, Refrigerants

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Transformable and Reconfigurable Entry, Descent, and Landing Systems and Methods

This technology can be used in human and robotic space missions, and small satellite retrieval missions.NASA has developed a game-changing deployable aeroshell concept for entry, descent, and landing (EDL) of large science and exploration-class payloads. The Adaptable, Deployable Entry Placement Technology (ADEPT) concept is a mechanically deployable semi-rigid aeroshell entry system capable of achieving low ballistic coefficient during entry suitable for a variety of planetary or Earth return missions. It leverages Ames expertise in Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) material and entry system design, development, and testing. The deployable decelerator systems offer a lighter-weight solution to current rigid, high-ballistic-coefficient aeroshells. The deployable feature of ADEPT allows each mission to utilize an entry system design that fits within existing launch vehicle systems, and later transforms into a low ballistic coefficient configuration for EDL. Consisting of rigid ribs and a TPS, deployment can be done for inspection in Earth orbit by extending the ribs and stretching the TPS in between (in a method similar to an opening umbrella), and thereby reducing the mission risk.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace, Aircraft structures, Entry, descent, and landing, Reusable launch vehicles and shuttles

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Three-Band Cloud and Precipitation Radar

After many years of use of Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) and CloudSat data, focus groups within the cloud and precipitation science community produced requirements for the next generation of missions. The first draft of Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystem mission requirements was formalized in 2009, snowfall observation requirements were documented in 2011, and recently the discussion for the definition of a mission concept called the Cloud and Precipitation Process Mission (CaPPM) has been initiated.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Architecture, Radar, Weather and climate

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High Speed Idle Engine Control Mode

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed an engine control mode that improves an engine's responsiveness to throttle commands during emergency landing conditions. The high speed idle (HSI) control mode increases the speed of the engine's fan and core shafts, allowing faster response and increased maneuverability during landing conditions when engines are in a low-power state. The innovation uses existing engine actuators to change the engine operating point to allow for faster engine response. Use of HSI increases fuel consumption, but it is anticipated to be used only in emergencies where the additional engine performance will help improve aircraft survivability.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace, Propulsion, Sensors and actuators, Engine control systems, Hazards and emergency management, Hazards and emergency operations, Entry, descent, and landing

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