Tech Briefs

Coding for Communication Channels With Dead-Time Constraints

Novel coding schemes may offer significant advantages in some applications. Coding schemes have been designed and investigated specifically for optical and electronic data-communication channels in which information is conveyed via pulse-position modulation (PPM) subject to dead-time constraints. These schemes involve the use of errorcorrecting codes concatenated with codes denoted constrained codes. These codes are decoded using an interactive method.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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System for Better Spacing of Airplanes En Route

Deviations from preferred trajectories can be reduced. An improved method of computing the spacing of airplanes en route, and software to implement the method, have been invented. The purpose of the invention is to help air-traffic controllers minimize those deviations of the airplanes from the trajectories preferred by their pilots that are needed to make the airplanes comply with miles-in-trail spacing requirements (defined below). The software is meant to be a modular component of the Center-TRACON Automation System (CTAS) (TRACON signifies "terminal radar approach control"). The invention reduces controllers’ workloads and reduces fuel consumption by reducing the number of corrective clearances needed to achieve conformance with specified flow rates, without causing conflicts, while providing for more efficient distribution of spacing workload upstream and across air-traffic-control sectors.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Algorithm for Training a Recurrent Multilayer Perceptron

An improved algorithm has been devised for training a recurrent multilayer perceptron (RMLP) for optimal performance in predicting the behavior of a complex, dynamic, and noisy system multiple time steps into the future. [An RMLP is a computational neural network with self-feedback and cross-talk (both delayed by one time step) among neurons in hidden layers]. Like other neural-network-training algorithms, this algorithm adjusts network biases and synaptic-connection weights according to a gradientdescent rule. The distinguishing feature of this algorithm is a combination of global feedback (the use of predictions as well as the current output value in computing the gradient at each time step) and recursiveness. The recursive aspect of the algorithm lies in the inclusion of the gradient of predictions at each time step with respect to the predictions at the preceding time step; this recursion enables the RMLP to learn the dynamics. It has been conjectured that carrying the recursion to even earlier time steps would enable the RMLP to represent a noisier, morecomplex system.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences

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Electrodeionization Using Microseparated Bipolar Membranes

Low concentrations of ions do not inhibit further removal of ions. An electrochemical technique for deionizing water, now under development, is intended to overcome a major limitation of prior electrically–based waterpurification techniques. The limitation in question is caused by the desired decrease in the concentration of ions during purification: As the concentration of ions decreases, the electrical resistivity of the water increases, posing an electrical barrier to the removal of the remaining ions. In the present technique, this limitation is overcome by use of electrodes, a flow-field structure, and solid electrolytes configured to provide conductive paths for the removal of ions from the water to be deionized, even when the water has already been purified to a high degree.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Safer Electrolytes for Lithium-Ion Cells

A number of nonvolatile, low-flammability liquid oligomers and polymers based on aliphatic organic carbonate molecular structures have been found to be suitable to be blended with ethylene carbonate to make electrolytes for lithium-ion electro- chemical cells. Heretofore, such electrolytes have often been made by blending ethylene carbonate with volatile, flammable organic carbonates. The present nonvolatile electrolytes have been found to have adequate conductivity (about 2 mS/cm) for lithium ions and to remain liquid at temperatures down to —5 °C. At normal charge and discharge rates, lithiumion cells containing these nonvolatile electrolytes but otherwise of standard design have been found to operate at current and energy densities comparable to those of cells now in common use. They do not perform well at high charge and discharge rates — an effect probably attributable to electrolyte viscosity. Cells containing the nonvolatile electrolytes have also been found to be, variously, nonflammable or at least self-extinguishing. Hence, there appears to be a basis for the development of safer high-performance lithium-ion cells.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Analyzing Dynamics of Cooperating Spacecraft

A software library has been developed to enable high-fidelity computational simulation of the dynamics of multiple spacecraft distributed over a region of outer space and acting with a common purpose. All of the modeling capabilities afforded by this software are available independently in other, separate software systems, but have not previously been brought together in a single system. A user can choose among several dynamical models, many high-fidelity environment models, and several numerical-integration schemes. The user can select whether to use models that assume weak coupling between spacecraft, or strong coupling in the case of feedback control or tethering of spacecraft to each other. For weak coupling, spacecraft orbits are propagated independently, and are synchronized in time by controlling the step size of the integration. For strong coupling, the orbits are integrated simultaneously. Among the integration schemes that the user can choose are Runge-Kutta Verner, Prince-Dormand, Adams-Bashforth- Moulton, and Bulirsh-Stoer. Comparisons of performance are included for both the weak- and strong-coupling dynamical models for all of the numerical integrators. The library was designed for ease of integration with high-fidelity environment models already in use in the Flight Dynamics Analysis Branch, which is one of seven institutional support branches within the Mission Engineering and Systems Analysis Division at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software

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Spacecraft Attitude Maneuver Planning Using Genetic Algorithms

A key enabling technology that leads to greater spacecraft autonomy is the capability to autonomously and optimally slew the spacecraft from and to different attitudes while operating under a number of celestial and dynamic constraints. The task of finding an attitude trajectory that meets all the constraints is a formidable one, in particular for orbiting or fly-by spacecraft where the constraints and initial and final conditions are of time-varying nature. This approach for attitude path planning makes full use of a priori constraint knowledge and is computationally tractable enough to be executed onboard a spacecraft. The approach is based on incorporating the constraints into a cost function and using a Genetic Algorithm to iteratively search for and optimize the solution. This results in a directed random search that explores a large part of the solution space while maintaining the knowledge of good solutions from iteration to iteration. A solution obtained this way may be used "as is" or as an initial solution to initialize additional deterministic optimization algorithms. A number of representative case examples for time-fixed and time-varying conditions yielded search times that are typically on the order of minutes, thus demonstrating the viability of this method. This approach is applicable to all deep space and planet Earth missions requiring greater spacecraft autonomy, and greatly facilitates navigation and science observation planning.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software

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