Tech Briefs

Airport Remote Tower Sensor Systems

Better weather information will be available for guiding approaches and landings. Networks of video cameras, meteorological sensors, and ancillary electronic equipment are under development in collaboration among NASA Ames Research Center, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These networks are to be established at and near airports to provide real-time information on local weather conditions that affect aircraft approaches and landings.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Embedded Sensors for Measuring Surface Regression

Electrical-resistance measurements are translated into real-time material thickness and surface regression data for hybrid fuels, solid propellants, and ablative materials. The development and evaluation of new hybrid and solid rocket motors requires accurate characterization of the propellant surface regression as a function of key operational parameters. These characteristics establish the propellant flow rate and are prime design drivers affecting the propulsion system geometry, size, and overall performance. There is a similar need for the development of advanced ablative materials, and the use of conventional ablatives exposed to new operational environments. The Miniature Surface Regression Sensor (MSRS) was developed to serve these applications. It is designed to be cast or embedded in the material of interest and regresses along with it. During this process, the resistance of the sensor is related to its instantaneous length, allowing the real-time thickness of the host material to be established. The time derivative of this data reveals the instantaneous surface regression rate.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Range-Measuring Video Sensors

Distances would be measured by three-dimensional triangulation. Optoelectronic sensors of a proposed type would perform the functions of both electronic cameras and triangulation- type laser range finders. That is to say, these sensors would both (1) generate ordinary video or snapshot digital images and (2) measure the distances to selected spots in the images. These sensors would be well suited to use on robots that are required to measure distances to targets in their work spaces. In addition, these sensors could be used for all the purposes for which electronic cameras have been used heretofore.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Miniature Housings for Electronics With Standard Interfaces

A family of general-purpose miniature housings has been designed to contain diverse sensors, actuators, and drive circuits plus associated digital electronic readout and control circuits. Each housing fits within an envelope having dimensions of about 2-1.4 by 1-3.4 by 1.2 in. (about 5.7 by 4.4 by 1.3 cm). Each housing can be secured to a mating carrier by use of screws or epoxy; this mounting scheme helps the housings and their contents to withstand severe vibrations and ensures thermal conduction for dissipation of heat generated during operation of the contained circuitry. The circuits contained in the housings communicate with the external world via standard RS-485 interfaces. Multiple units comprising housings and their contents can easily be electrically connected together in a daisychain arrangement, within which individual units are addressable via the RS-485 bus. Hence, a single master computer connected to the bus can program, or read data from, any or all such units. Examples of such units include small motor drives, programmable thermostats, data loggers, and programmable controllers. There are numerous potential uses for these units in medical equipment, automotive electronics, manufacturing equipment, and robots.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Receiver Would Control Phasing of a Phased-Array Antenna

Peaks and nulls would be aimed to optimize reception. In a proposed digital signal-processing technique, a radio receiver would control the phasing of a phased-array antenna to aim the peaks of the antenna radiation pattern toward desired signal sources while aiming the nulls of the pattern toward interfering signal sources. The technique was conceived for use in a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, for which the desired signal sources would be GPS satellites and typical interference sources would be terrestrial objects that cause multipath propagation. The technique could also be used to optimize reception in spread spectrum cellular-telephone and military communication systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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Modern Design of Resonant Edge-Slot Array Antennas

Better antennas can be designed at lower cost. Resonant edge-slot (slotted-waveguide) array antennas can now be designed very accurately following a modern computational approach like that followed for some other microwave components. This modern approach makes it possible to design superior antennas at lower cost than was previously possible.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Simplified Optics and Controls for Laser Communications

A document discusses an architecture of a spaceborne laser communication system that provides for a simplified control subsystem that stabilizes the line of sight in a desired direction. 

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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