Tech Briefs

Inflatable Emergency Atmospheric-Entry Vehicles

Ballutes would act as inexpensive, lightweight atmospheric decelerator "lifeboats." In response to the loss of seven astronauts in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, large, lightweight, inflatable atmospheric-entry vehicles have been proposed as means of emergency descent and landing for persons who must abandon a spacecraft that is about to reenter the atmosphere and has been determined to be unable to land safely. Such a vehicle would act as an atmospheric decelerator at supersonic speed in the upper atmosphere,and a smaller, central astronaut pod could then separate at lower altitudes and parachute separately to Earth.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Lightweight Deployable Mirrors With Tensegrity Supports

Extremely lightweight, deployable structures could be made by assembling tensegrity modules. The upper part of Figure 1 shows a small-scale prototype of a developmental class of lightweight, deployable structures that would support panels in precise alignments. In this case, the panel is hexagonal and supports disks that represent segments of a primary mirror of a large telescope. The lower part of Figure 1 shows a complete conceptual structure containing multiple hexagonal panels that hold mirror segments.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Small Active Radiation Monitor

This is a significant advancement over the passive dosimeters that presently monitor astronaut exposure to radiation.A device, named small active radiation monitor, allows on-orbit evaluations during periods of increased radiation, after extravehicular activities, or at predesignated times for crews on such long-duration space missions as on the International Space Station. It also permits direct evaluation of biological doses, a task now performed using a combination of measurements and potentially inaccurate simulations. Indeed the new monitor can measure a full array of radiation levels, from “soft” x-rays to “hard” galactic cosmic-ray particles. With refinement, it will benefit commercial (nuclear power-plant workers, airline pilots, medical technicians, physicians/dentists, and others) and military personnel as well as the astronauts for whom thermoluminescent dosimeters are inadequate.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement

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Portable Electromyograph

Signals from 16 differential EMG electrodes can be recorded for 8 hours.A portable electronic apparatus records electromyographic (EMG) signals in as many as 16 channels at a sampling rate of 1,024 Hz in each channel. The apparatus (see figure) includes 16 differential EMG electrodes (each electrode corresponding to one channel) with cables and attachment hardware, reference electrodes, an input/output-and-power-adapter unit, a 16-bit analog-to-digital converter, and a hand-held computer that contains a removable 256-MB flash memory card. When all 16 EMG electrodes are in use, full-bandwidth data can be recorded in each channel for as long as 8 hours. The apparatus is powered by a battery and is small enough that it can be carried in a waist pouch.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement

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Part 1 of a Computational Study of a Drop-Laden Mixing Layer

This first of three reports on a computational study of a drop-laden temporal mixing layer presents the results of direct numerical simulations (DNS) of well-resolved flow fields and the derivation of the large-eddy simulation (LES) equations that would govern the larger scales of a turbulent flow field. The mixing layer consisted of two counterflowing gas streams, one of which was initially laden with evaporating liquid drops. The gas phase was composed of two perfect gas species, the carrier gas and the vapor emanating from the drops, and was computed in an Eulerian reference frame, whereas each drop was tracked individually in a Lagrangian manner. The flow perturbations that were initially imposed on the layer caused mixing and eventual transition to turbulence. The DNS database obtained included transitional states for layers with various liquid mass loadings. For the DNS, the gas-phase equations were the compressible Navier-Stokes equations for conservation of momentum and additional conservation equations for total energy and species mass. These equations included source terms representing the effect of the drops on the mass, momentum, and energy of the gas phase. From the DNS equations, the expression for the irreversible entropy production (dissipation) was derived and used to determine the dissipation due to the source terms. The LES equations were derived by spatially filtering the DNS set and the magnitudes of the terms were computed at transitional states, leading to a hierarchy of terms to guide simplification of the LES equations. It was concluded that effort should be devoted to the accurate modeling of both the subgridscale fluxes and the filtered source terms, which were the dominant unclosed terms appearing in the LES equations.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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Selected Papers on Protoplanetary Disks

Three papers present studies of thermal balances, dynamics, and electromagnetic spectra of protoplanetary disks, which comprise gas and dust orbiting young stars. One paper addresses the reprocessing, in a disk, of photons that originate in the disk itself in addition to photons that originate in the stellar object at the center. The shape of the disk is found to strongly affect the redistribution of energy. Another of the three papers reviews an increase in the optical luminosity of the young star FU Orionis. The increase began in the year 1936 and similar increases have since been observed in other stars. The paper summarizes astronomical, meteoric, and theoretical evidence that these increases are caused by increases in mass fluxes through the inner portions of the protoplanetary disks of these stars. The remaining paper presents a mathematical-modeling study of the structures of protostellar accretion disks, with emphasis on limits on disk flaring. Among the conclusions reached in the study are that (1) the radius at which a disk becomes shadowed from its central stellar object depends on radial mass flow and (2) most planet formation has occurred in environments unheated by stellar radiation.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

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Module for Oxygenating Water Without Generating Bubbles

No bubbles were observed at any of the test flow rates. A module that dissolves oxygen in water at concentrations approaching saturation, without generating bubbles of oxygen gas, has been developed as a prototype of improved oxygenators for water-disinfection and water-purification systems that utilize photocatalyzed redox reactions. Depending on the specific nature of a water-treatment system, it is desirable to prevent the formation of bubbles for one or more reasons: (1) Bubbles can remove some organic contaminants from the liquid phase to the gas phase, thereby introducing a gastreatment problem that complicates the overall water-treatment problem; and/or (2) in some systems (e.g., those that must function in microgravity or in any orientation in normal Earth gravity), bubbles can interfere with the flow of the liquid phase.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

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