Tech Briefs

Software Searches for Better Spacecraft-Navigation Models

ADAPT is a computer program that searches for better mathematical models for spacecraft navigation. The task of tuning trajectory-determination models for interplanetary navigation is complex, requiring an intensive search of multiple dynamical and nondynamical models that yield trajectory solutions with minimal errors. By automating the search, ADAPT eases the task of human analysts and enables them to consider wider ranges of potential solutions. ADAPT uses genetic algorithms to search a range of relevant parameters in a userselected design space to arrive at values for those parameters that best fit the measured spacecraft-tracking data. The user’s guide for ADAPT reviews the theoretical basis of the program and presents two example applications. One example is that of selecting a solar-radiation model for the Mars Pathfinder (MPF) mission using MPF tracking data and an extended Kalman filter from prior spacecraft-navigation software. The second example is of the use of tracking data from the Stardust spacecraft mission combined with a pseudo-epoch-state batch filter and an empirical small-forces model to find improved impulse models for use during Stardust attitude adjustments.

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Software for Partly Automated Recognition of Targets

The Feature Analyst is a computer program for assisted (partially automated) recognition of targets in images. This program was developed to accelerate the processing of high-resolution satellite image data for incorporation into geographic information systems (GIS). This program creates an advanced user interface that embeds proprietary machine-learning algorithms in commercial image-processing and GIS software. A human analyst provides samples of target features from multiple sets of data, then the software develops a data-fusion model that automatically extracts the remaining features from selected sets of data. The program thus leverages the natural ability of humans to recognize objects in complex scenes, without requiring the user to explain the human visual recognition process by means of lengthy software. Two major subprograms are the reactive agent and the thinking agent. The reactive agent strives to quickly learn the user’s tendencies while the user is selecting targets and to increase the user’s productivity by immediately suggesting the next set of pixels that the user may wish to select. The thinking agent utilizes all available resources, taking as much time as needed, to produce the most accurate autonomous feature-extraction model possible.

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Real-Time, High-Frequency QRS Electrocardiograph

Signals indicative of ischemia or infarction can be identified in real time. An electronic system that performs real-time analysis of the low-amplitude, high-frequency, ordinarily invisible components of the QRS portion of an electrocardiographic signal in real time has been developed. Whereas the signals readily visible on a conventional electrocardiogram (ECG) have amplitudes of the order of a millivolt and are characterized by frequencies

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Analysis of Designs of Space Laboratories

A report presents a review of the development of laboratories in outer space, starting from the pioneering Skylab and Salyut stations of the United States and the former Soviet Union and progressing through current and anticipated future developments. The report includes textual discussions of space-station designs, illustrated with drawings, photographs, and tables. The approach taken in the review was not to provide a comprehensive catalog of each space laboratory and every design topic that applies to it, but, rather, to illustrate architectural precedents by providing examples that illustrate major design problems and principles to be applied in solving them. Hence, the report deemphasizes information from the most recent space-station literature and concentrates on information from original design reports that show how designs originated and evolved. The most important contribution of the review was the development of a methodology, called "units of analysis," for identifying and analyzing design issues from the perspectives of four broad domains: laboratory science, crew, modes of operations, and the system as a whole.

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Relatively Inexpensive Rapid Prototyping of Small Parts

Paper drawings and the associated delays in fabrication are eliminated. Parts with complex three-dimensional shapes and with dimensions up to 8 by 8 by 10 in. (20.3 by 20.3 by 25.4 cm) can be made as unitary pieces of a room- temperature- curing polymer, with relatively little investment in time and money, by a process now in use at Johnson Space Center. The process is one of a growing number of processes and techniques that are known collectively as the art of rapid prototyping. The main advantages of this process over other rapid-prototyping processes are greater speed and lower cost: There is no need to make paper drawings and take them to a shop for fabrication, and thus no need for the attendant paperwork and organizational delays. Instead, molds for desired parts are made automatically on a machine that is guided by data from a computer-aided design (CAD) system and can reside in an engineering office.

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Dry Process for Making Polyimide/Carbon-and-Boron-Fiber Tape

The tape has superior properties and can be used in automated tape placement. A dry process has been invented as an improved means of manufacturing composite prepreg tapes that consist of high- temperature thermoplastic polyimide resin matrices reinforced with carbon and boron fibers. Such tapes are used (especially in the aircraft industry) to fabricate strong, lightweight composite- material structural components. The inclusion of boron fibers results in compression strengths greater than can be achieved by use of carbon fibers alone.

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Modeling and Control of Aerothermoelastic Effects

This method makes it possible to design controls to compensate for aerothermoelasticity. Aerothermoelasticity comprises those aspects of the dynamics of an aircraft that are caused by flexibility and heating during flight. The concept of aerothermoelasticity is particularly important for hypersonic vehicles that operate at extremely high dynamic pressures. The design requirements for such vehicles often introduce long and thin fuselages subject to elastic bending in low- frequency vibrational modes. Furthermore, surface heating can significantly change the stiffness characteristics of these modes. These aerothermoelastic effects must be considered in the synthesis and analysis of control systems.

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