Tech Briefs

Ice-Borehole Probe

The art of borehole imaging has been extended to deep, cold, wet, high-pressure environments. An instrumentation system has been developed for studying interactions between a glacier or ice sheet and the underlying rock and/or soil. Prior borehole imaging systems have been used in well-drilling and mineral-exploration applications and for studying relatively thin valley glaciers, but have not been used for studying thick ice sheets like those of Antarctica.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Alpha-Voltaic Sources Using Liquid Ga as Conversion Medium

These units would offer long life and high energy-conversion efficiency. A family of proposed miniature sources of power would exploit the direct conversion of the kinetic energy of a particles into electricity. In addition to having long operational lives, these sources are expected to operate with energy-conversion efficiencies from 70 to 90 percent.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Using Satellite Data in Weather Forecasting: I

The GOES Product Generation System (GPGS) is a set of computer codes and scripts that enable the assimilation of real-time Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) data into regional weather forecasting mathematical models. The GPGS can be used to derive such geophysical parameters as land surface temperature, the amount of precipitable water, the degree of cloud cover, the surface albedo, and the amount of insolation from satellite measurements of radiant energy emitted by the Earth and its atmosphere. GPGS incorporates a priori information (initial guesses of thermodynamic parameters of the atmosphere) and radiometric measurements from the geostationary operational environmental satellites along with mathematical models of physical principles that govern the transfer of energy in the atmosphere. GPGS solves the radiative-transfer equation and provides the resulting data products in formats suitable for use by weather-forecasting computer programs. The data-assimilation capability afforded by GPGS offers the potential to improve local weather forecasts ranging from 3 hours to 2 days — especially with respect to temperature, humidity, cloud cover, and the probability of precipitation. The improvements afforded by GPGS could be of interest to news media, utility companies, and other organizations that utilize regional weather forecasts.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Sensors for Using Times of Flight To Measure Flow Velocities

No calibrations are needed to use these thinfilm sensors. Thin-film sensors for measuring flow velocities in terms of times of flight are undergoing development. These sensors are very small and can be mounted flush with surfaces of airfoils, ducts, and other objects along which one might need to measure flows. Alternatively or in addition, these sensors can be mounted on small struts protruding from such surfaces for acquiring velocity measurements at various distances from the surfaces for the purpose of obtaining boundary-layer flow-velocity profiles.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Controlling Attitude of a Solar-Sail Spacecraft Using Vanes

A paper discusses a concept for controlling the attitude and thrust vector of a three-axis stabilized Solar Sail spacecraft using only four single degree of freedom articulated spar-tip vanes. The vanes, at the corners of the sail, would be turned to commanded angles about the diagonals of the square sail. Commands would be generated by an adaptive controller that would track a given trajectory while rejecting effects of such disturbance torques as those attributable to offsets between the center of pressure on the sail and the center of mass. The controller would include a standard proportional + derivative part, a feed forward part, and a dynamic component that would act like a generalized integrator. The controller would globally track reference signals, and in the presence of such control actuator constraints as saturation and delay, the controller would utilize strategies to cancel or reduce their effects. The control scheme would be embodied in a robust, nonlinear algorithm that would allocate torques among the vanes, always finding a stable solution arbitrarily close to the global optimum solution of the control effort allocation problem. The solution would include an acceptably small angle, slow limit-cycle oscillation of the vanes, while providing overall thrust vector pointing stability and performance.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Tool for Coupling a Torque Wrench to a Round Cable Connector

Torque is applied without offset. A tool makes it possible to couple a torque wrench to an externally knurled, internally threaded, round cable connector. The purpose served by the tool is to facilitate the tightening of multiple such connectors (or the repeated tightening of the same connector) to repeatable torques.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Excitations for Rapidly Estimating Flight-Control

Parameters Parameters are estimated, in nearly real time, from responses to these excitations. A flight test on an F-15 airplane was performed to evaluate the utility of prescribed simultaneous independent surface excitations (PreSISE) for real-time estimation of flight-control parameters, including stability and control derivatives. The ability to extract these derivatives in nearly real time is needed to support flight demonstration of intelligent flight-control system (IFCS) concepts under development at NASA, in academia, and in industry. Traditionally, flight maneuvers have been designed and executed to obtain estimates of stability and control derivatives by use of a post-flight analysis technique. For an IFCS, it is required to be able to modify control laws in real time for an aircraft that has been damaged in flight (because of combat, weather, or a system failure).

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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