Tech Briefs

Smartphone Video Guidance Sensor

The need arose to apply the state determination algorithms developed for the Advanced Video Guidance Sensor autonomous rendezvous and docking (AR&D) sensor onto a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), smartphone-based platform to create a lower-mass, lower-cost sensor for small satellite and CubeSat applications. Prior techniques used for state determination suffer one or more of the following problems: large mass, large volume, high cost, or computationally intensive calculations.

Posted in: Briefs, Tech Briefs, Sensors

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Stackable Form-Factor Peripheral Component Interconnect Device and Assembly

Applications include fault-tolerant computing systems, high-speed data acquisition, embedded servers, and intelligent transportation systems. The invention is a design for a peripheral component interconnect (PCI) local bus controller and target in a PC/104-Plus form-factor. The design uses a flash-based field programmable gate array (FPGA) to provide immediate functionality from power-on to avoid delay after power is applied. It can be reprogrammed from connectors directly on the board, and is able to both receive and drive the clock for system and local peripherals, allowing it to function as either a PCI bus host controller or PCI target device interface. Fully compliant with the PC/104-Plus specification, the design has associated schematics and Gerber files in a vendor-ready state. The design was developed to support ongoing research in fault-tolerant computing systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Self-Healing Wire Insulation

Microcapsules release healant that repairs minor cuts, nicks, and abrasions. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is seeking commercial partners for licensing or further development of a novel high-performance, flexible, low-melt polyimide film with self-healing properties. The self-healing properties of the film are provided by embedded microcapsules containing a solvent-soluble polyimide. When cut or otherwise damaged, these capsules release their contents, which dissolve and heal the damaged area.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Vibration Damping Circuit Card Assembly

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a particle impact damper (NASA damper) that can be used in circuit card assemblies to reduce vibrations encountered during space vehicle launch. The damper, filled with high-density metallic beads, is attached to printed circuit boards (PCBs) and printed wiring assemblies (PWAs) to dissipate vibrations and improve component reliability and robustness. Testing has demonstrated an order-of-magnitude reduction in observed peak vibration response, and dramatic improvement in circuit component life span. The NASA technology provides simple and inexpensive vibration reduction for sensitive heritage or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics in applications where the vibration environment is either severe or exceeding its original design envelope. The technology can benefit heritage hardware in a wide range of applications as a retrofitted upgrade, or can be incorporated into the design of new circuit cards.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Development of a Metallic Bilayer Liftoff Mask

A large variety of cryogenic detectors need to be fabricated on thin dielectric membranes in order to have high signal-to-noise attributes. Unfortunately, many of the etching processes used to define the detectors can roughen or even completely dissolve the membranes. These types of membrane damage degrade the detector performance and limit fabrication yield.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Residual Mode Filters

NASA has developed a unique control algorithm and synthesis method that uses a system’s output to modify control inputs to cause the system to track a reference model or a fixed value in the presence of unmodeled system dynamics, varying operating environments, and unpredictable disturbances. The unique feature of this algorithm is the ability to instantaneously adapt the system according to its output, rejecting persistent disturbances, and ultimately improving the system’s performance. This makes the controller ideally suited for applications where there are unknown modeling parameters or uncertain operating environments. Many aerospace systems must function in unknown or highly variable environments. This technology allows the system to achieve its objectives in these types of unpredictable environments. In comparison to current adaptive controller technologies, the addition of residual mode filters allows operation when flexible modes are present that could inhibit the controller. This is especially useful for systems where initial modeling is costly, or the fidelity of existing system models is low.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation

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Probabilistic Surface Characterization for Safe Landing Hazard Detection and Avoidance (HDA)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a probabilistic algorithm for hazard detection and avoidance (HDA) that robustly handles sensor noise. Conventional surface characterization methods use fixed hazard thresholds to determine hazardous landing locations; these thresholds are set lower than lander tolerances to compensate for sensor noise, but this leads to excessive false alarms and significantly reduces the number of safe locations. JPL’s probabilistic method seamlessly combines the distance to nearest hazard and the local roughness, and incorporates the presence of navigation errors to determine the probability that a given location is a safe landing site. This innovative algorithm enables onboard hazard detection and avoidance to increase the probability of safe landing and allow landings in more scientifically interesting but challenging sites.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation

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