Tech Briefs

Flight Operations Analysis Tool

Flight Operations Analysis Tool (FLOAT) is a computer program that partly automates the process of assessing the benefits of planning spacecraft missions to incorporate various combinations of launch vehicles and payloads (see figure). Designed primarily for use by an experienced systems engineer, FLOAT makes it possible to perform a preliminary analysis of trade-offs and costs of a proposed mission in days, whereas previously, such an analysis typically lasted months. FLOAT surveys a variety of prior missions by querying data from authoritative NASA sources pertaining to 20 to 30 mission and interface parameters that define space missions. FLOAT provides automated, flexible means for comparing the parameters to determine compatibility or the lack thereof among payloads, spacecraft, and launch vehicles, and for displaying the results of such comparisons. Sparseness, typical of the data available for analysis, does not confound this software. FLOAT effects an iterative process that identifies modifications of parameters that could render compatible an otherwise incompatible mission set.The Database Overview shows current and future capabilities.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Computer software and hardware, Systems engineering, Launch vehicles


Improvement in Visual Target Tracking for a Mobile Robot

In an improvement of the visual-targettracking software used aboard a mobile robot (rover) of the type used to explore the Martian surface, an affine-matching algorithm has been replaced by a combination of a normalized-cross- correlation (NCC) algorithm and a template-image- magnification algorithm. Although neither NCC nor template-image magnification is new, the use of both of them to increase the degree of reliability with which features can be matched is new. In operation, a template image of a target is obtained from a previous rover position, then the magnification of the template image is based on the estimated change in the target distance from the previous rover position to the current rover position (see figure). For this purpose, the target distance at the previous rover position is determined by stereoscopy, while the target distance at the current rover position is calculated from an estimate of the current pose of the rover. The template image is then magnified by an amount corresponding to the estimated target distance to obtain a best template image to match with the image acquired at the current rover position.Turn-in-Place Experiments show beginning image (left) and end image (right) after 80° rover rotation. As the rover turns, the mast camera turns in the opposite direction to point to the target.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Mathematical models, Imaging and visualization, Robotics


Software for Simulating Air Traffic

Future Air Traffic Management Concepts Evaluation Tool (FACET) is a system of software for performing computational simulations for evaluating advanced concepts of advanced air-traffic management. FACET includes a program that generates a graphical user interface plus programs and databases that implement computational models of weather, airspace, airports, navigation aids, aircraft performance, and aircraft trajectories. Examples of concepts studied by use of FACET include aircraft self-separation for free flight; prediction of air-traffic-controller workload; decision support for direct routing; integration of spacecraftlaunch operations into the U.S. national airspace system; and traffic-flow-management using rerouting, metering, and ground delays. Aircraft can be modeled as flying along either flight-plan routes or great-circle routes as they climb, cruise, and descend according to their individual performance models. The FACET software is modular and is written in the Java and C programming languages. The architecture of FACET strikes a balance between flexibility and fidelity; as a consequence, FACET can be used to model system- wide airspace operations over the contiguous U.S., involving as many as 10,000 aircraft, all on a single desktop or laptop computer running any of a variety of operating systems. Two notable applications of FACET include: (1) reroute conformance monitoring algorithms that have been implemented in one of the Federal Aviation Administration’s nationally deployed, real-time, operational systems; and (2) the licensing and integration of FACET with the commercially available Flight Explorer, which is an Internetbased, real-time flight-tracking system.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Simulation and modeling, Computer software and hardware, Air traffic control


Automated Vectorization of Decision-Based Algorithms

Virtually all existing vectorization algorithms are designed to only analyze the numeric properties of an algorithm and distribute those elements across multiple processors. This advances the state of the practice because it is the only known system, at the time of this reporting, that takes high-level statements and analyzes them for their decision properties and converts them to a form that allows them to automatically be executed in parallel. The software takes a high-level source program that describes a complex decision-based condition and rewrites it as a disjunctive set of component Boolean relations that can then be executed in parallel. This is important because parallel architectures are becoming more commonplace in conventional systems and they have always been present in NASA flight systems. This technology allows one to take existing condition-based code and automatically vectorize it so it naturally decomposes across parallel architectures.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Mathematical models, Architecture, Computer software and hardware, Performance upgrades


Grayscale Optical Correlator Workbench

Grayscale Optical Correlator Workbench (GOCWB) is a computer program for use in automatic target recognition (ATR). GOCWB performs ATR with an accurate simulation of a hardware grayscale optical correlator (GOC). This simulation is performed to test filters that are created in GOCWB. Thus, GOCWB can be used as a stand-alone ATR software tool or in combination with GOC hardware for building (target training), testing, and optimization of filters. The software is divided into three main parts, denoted filter, testing, and training. The training part is used for assembling training images as input to a filter. The filter part is used for combining training images into a filter and optimizing that filter. The testing part is used for testing new filters and for general simulation of GOC output. The current version of GOCWB relies on the mathematical software tools from MATLAB binaries for performing matrix operations and fast Fourier transforms. Optimization of filters is based on an algorithm, known as OT-MACH, in which variables specified by the user are parameterized and the best filter is selected on the basis of an average result for correct identification of targets in multiple test images.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Computer simulation, Mathematical models, Optics


“One-Stop Shopping” for Ocean Remote-Sensing and Model Data

OurOcean Portal 2.0 (http:// is a software system designed to enable users to easily gain access to ocean observation data, both remote-sensing and in-situ, configure and run an Ocean Model with observation data assimilated on a remote computer, and visualize both the observation data and the model outputs. At present, the observation data and models focus on the California coastal regions and Prince William Sound in Alaska. This system can be used to perform both real-time and retrospective analyses of remote-sensing data and model outputs. OurOcean Portal 2.0 incorporates state-of-the-art information technologies (IT) such as MySQL database, Java Web Server (Apache/Tomcat), Live Access Server (LAS), interactive graphics with Java Applet at the Client site and MatLab/GMT at the server site, and distributed computing. OurOcean currently serves over 20 real-time or historical ocean data products. The data are served in pre-generated plots or their native data format. For some of the datasets, users can choose different plotting parameters and produce customized graphics. OurOcean also serves 3D Ocean Model outputs generated by ROMS (Regional Ocean Model System) using LAS. The Live Access Server (LAS) software, developed by the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is a configurable Web-server program designed to provide flexible access to geo-referenced scientific data. The model output can be views as plots in horizontal slices, depth profiles or time sequences, or can be downloaded as raw data in different data formats, such as NetCDF, ASCII, Binary, etc. The interactive visualization is provided by graphic software, Ferret, also developed by PMEL. In addition, OurOcean allows users with minimal computing resources to configure and run an Ocean Model with data assimilation on a remote computer. Users may select the forcing input, the data to be assimilated, the simulation period, and the output variables and submit the model to run on a backend parallel computer. When the run is complete, the output will be added to the LAS server for user to retrieve and examine the results.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Computer simulation, Remote sensing, Data management, Marine vehicles and equipment


State Analysis Database Tool

The State Analysis Database Tool software establishes a productive environment for collaboration among software and system engineers engaged in the development of complex interacting systems. The tool embodies State Analysis, a model-based system engineering methodology founded on a state-based control architecture (see figure). A state represents a momentary condition of an evolving system, and a model may describe how a state evolves and is affected by other states. The State Analysis methodology is a process for capturing system and software requirements in the form of explicit models and states, and defining goal-based operational plans consistent with the models. Requirements, models, and operational concerns have traditionally been documented in a variety of system engineering artifacts that address different aspects of a mission’s lifecycle. In State Analysis, requirements, models, and operations information are State Analysis artifacts that are consistent and stored in a State Analysis Database. The tool includes a back-end database, a multi-platform front-end client, and Web-based administrative functions. The tool is structured to prompt an engineer to follow the State Analysis methodology, to encourage state discovery and model description, and to make software requirements and operations plans consistent with model descriptions.The State-Based Control Architecture is the foundation of the present software.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Architecture, Computer software and hardware, Collaboration and partnering, Systems engineering


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