Tech Briefs

Green Monopropellant Secondary Payload Propulsion System

Small satellites, launched as secondary payloads, are increasingly being fielded. Advances in liquid rocket propulsion that enhance the on-orbit maneuverability, increase the on-orbit life, and decrease the time between identified need for and deployment of such spacecraft are of great value. Replacing the nearly ubiquitous yet toxic hydrazine propellant with AF-M315E produces higher specific impulse and density specific impulse, resulting in improved overall velocity change capability and increased on-orbit life.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Liquid propellants, Spacecraft fuel, Foams, Ignition systems, Satellites, Spacecraft
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Highly Porous and Mechanically Strong Ceramic Oxide Aerogels

These materials provide improved environmental durability and elasticity for aerospace and terrestrial applications.

NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC) has developed and produced ultra-lightweight polymer cross-linked aerogels (X-Aerogels). These mechanically robust, highly porous, low-density materials are three times denser than native aerogels, but more than 100 times stronger. Aerogels are ultra-lightweight glass foams with extremely small pores (on the order of 10 to 50 nanometers). These materials are extremely good thermal insulators, with R values ranging from 2 to 10 times higher than polymer foams. Unlike multilayer insulation, aerogels do not require a high vacuum to maintain their low thermal conductivity, and can function as good thermal insulators at ambient pressure. In addition, they are good electrical insulators and have low refractive indices, both approaching values close to air. Aerogels are also excellent vibration-damping materials. Traditional aerogels, however, suffer fragility and poor environmental durability.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Ceramics, Conductivity, Foams, Lightweight materials, Materials properties, Polymers
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AutoSurvey™ Software System

The U.S. Navy has developed a software system that optimizes the collection of data for hydrographic surveys. The autonomous survey system, called AutoSurvery, is an easy-to-implement, real-time adaptive software system for the collection of swath-type data that minimizes survey time while maintaining data quality and ensuring the desired coverage.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Computer software and hardware, Data acquisition and handling, Sensors and actuators, Defense industry, Marine vehicles and equipment
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Unleashing RAPID

The Routing Application for Parallel computation of Discharge (RAPID, here) is a river routing model. Given surface and groundwater inflow to rivers, this model can compute the flow and volume of water everywhere in river networks made out of many thousands of reaches. The design of RAPID allows it to be adapted to any river network, if given basic connectivity information. RAPID uses a matrix version of the Muskingum method, and has an automated parameter estimation procedure that allows finding optimal model parameters based on available gauge measurements.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Computer simulation, Cartography, Computer software and hardware, Water
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Authenticated Sensor Interface Device

Researchers at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) have developed a device to read data, encrypt the information, and distribute it electronically to multiple locations, providing a one-way data pathway that segregates each destination to prevent cross-party data manipulation. Previous “data diode” devices employ computer-based communication channels such as fiber-connected data cards between the sender and receiver. No integrated data authentication is performed, and data is sensitive to external attack and manipulation.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Cyber security, Data acquisition and handling, Data exchange, Sensors and actuators
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Robust, Highly Efficient Oxygen-Carbon Monoxide Cogeneration System

This system can be used for greenhouse gas reduction, and in the steel, medical, and welding industries.

Oxygen, water, and fuel are of paramount importance to human life. As a leading concept, the solid-oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) is a very powerful technology, especially in aiding NASA's endeavors to pursue extraterrestrial exploration missions. This work focused on developing a robust, long-life SOEC technology that efficiently cogenerates oxygen and CO fuel directly from CO2, and is superior to the state-of-the-art Oxygen-Generation System (OGS) technologies. The principal objective of the project was to develop the system to support Mars exploration missions as part of In-Situ Resource Utilization. The key problem characteristics were the SOEC performance and longevity under various operating conditions. The prior art was built on a thick electrolyte-supported SOEC using precious metals as electrodes. Due to the nature of SOEC operating mechanisms, high pressures may build up at the interfaces of the positive electrode and the electrolyte, resulting in electrode delamination and long-term stability issues. The state-of-the-art SOEC technology also faced the scaling up and stack sealing issues.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Carbon dioxide, Life support systems, Research and development, Oxygen
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Asymmetric Dielectric Elastomer Composite Material

This material has applications in artificial muscle and hearts, physical therapy/rehab devices, morphing aircraft, robotics, and sensors.

This electronic active material converts a voltage input to a mechanical force and mechanical displacement output. As compared to prior dielectric elastomer (DE) systems, the material has reduced electrode spacing, which lowers significantly the required operating voltage. In addition, the inclusion of a combination of conducting and/or non-conducting reinforcing fibers greatly enhances the strength of the material, without weight penalty.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Voltage regulators, Composite materials, Elastomers, Fibers
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Multi-Functional Annular Fairing for Coupling Launch Abort Motor to Space Vehicle

An efficient aerodynamic shape reduces drag and enables increased payload and mass to orbit.

NASA's Langley Research Center has designed a Multifunctional Boost Protective Cover (MBPC) for a Launch Abort System (LAS). In the event of a crewed launch, the innovation provides a redundant means of saving the crew, and for an unmanned launch, it provides the means for recovering a very expensive, sensitive, and/or dangerous payload. In addition, costs are reduced by minimizing insurance premiums and costly delays to fabricate new, complex satellite systems in the event of a failed launch. NASA is seeking development partners and potential licensees.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Fairings, Active safety systems, Launch vehicles, Spacecraft
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Flame Holder System

Potential applications include jet engine simulation, and torches for forging, casting furnaces, and pottery kilns.

NASA's Langley Research Center is seeking to improve upon stock stainless steel flame holders. Researchers at NASA Langley have developed a new ceramic design with a service temperature of 4000 °F. The combination of high strength and high temperature capability, and a twist lock mounting method to the steel burner, sets this flame holder apart from existing technology.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Ceramics, Heat resistant materials, Steel, Nozzles, Rocket engines
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In-Situ Load System for Calibrating and Validating Aerodynamic Properties of Scaled Aircraft in Ground-Based Aerospace Testing Applications

ILS improves testing accuracy, repeatability, time in tunnel, and many aspects of the calibration process.

The in-situ load system (ILS) provides the ground-testing community with a comprehensive tool that permits system-level calibration and validation of force measurement systems in a test-like environment. It was developed to improve testing accuracy, repeatability, time in tunnel, and many aspects of the calibration process. The key innovations are that ILS enables a system calibration (rather than independent subsystem and component calibrations) by using the one-force-vector calibration approach and a statistically defensible estimate total force measurement uncertainty. ILS may be applied in any wind tunnel facility, private or government.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Test & Measurement, Calibration, Test equipment and instrumentation, Wind tunnel tests, Aerodynamics
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