Special Coverage


Hands-Free Control Interfaces for an Extravehicular Jetpack

This hands-free approach could be applicable to other robotic interfaces requiring six-DOF control inputs. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas To enable the human mobility necessary to effectively explore near-Earth asteroids and deep space effectively, a new extravehicular activity (EVA) jetpack is under development. The new design leverages knowledge and experience gained from the current astronaut rescue device, the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER). Whereas the primary goal for a rescue device is to return the crew to a safe haven, in-space exploration and navigation requires an expanded set of capabilities. To accommodate the range of tasks astronauts may be expected to perform while utilizing the jetpack, it was desired to research a hands-free method of control. This hands-free control method would enable astronauts to command their motion while transporting payloads and conducting two-handed tasks.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Sensors


Artificial Immune System-Based Approach for Air Combat Maneuvering

The primary motivation for this research is to enable unmanned aircraft with intelligent maneuvering capabilities. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California A high level of autonomy is desired for future unmanned combat systems because lethality and survivability can be improved with much less communication bandwidth than would be necessary for preprogrammed or remotely operated systems. However, there are a number of technical challenges that must be addressed prior to implementation.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Simulation Software


Rule-Based Analytic Asset Management for Space Exploration Systems (RAMSES)

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems have applications in tracking and managing small shipping containers and packages in the commercial supply chain. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi Human space systems, such as the International Space Station (ISS) and future planned missions to the lunar surface and beyond, require the crew’s ability to locate and manage the physical resources that are required for use to achieve mission objectives. However, the large number of assets, ranging from expensive, specialized equipment, to food, water, and medical consumables for the crew is an overwhelming management problem. These assets are stored in numerous containers that are sometimes nested within other containers, frequently removed from one container and placed in another location, consumed, and/or used, and then discarded. Additionally, sometimes the containers themselves are moved. The challenge is to track and manage these assets so that the crew can readily locate items and ground controllers can identify when there is a need to provide sufficient resupply for the mission.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Machinery & Automation, Robotics


Design for Improving the Flatness of Solar Sails

An optically flat solar sail could be useful in optical communication and solar energy applications. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California This work describes a discontinuous or segmented mirror whose overall flatness is less dependent on the limited tension that can be supplied by the booms. A solar sail is a large, nominally flat sheet of extremely thin reflectorized film rigidly attached to a spacecraft, enabling propulsion via solar radiation pressure. Rip-stop fibers embedded in the backside of the film — with diameters ≈100× the thickness of the film — are commonly used to arrest tear propagation, which can easily occur in the handling and/or deployment of these gossamer-thin structures. Typically, the thin film or membrane that is the sail is systematically folded to enable both volumetrically compact transportation to space and mechanized deployment. It is the aggressive folding and creasing of the thin film that limits the ultimate flatness that can be achieved.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Solar Power


Reactionless Drive Tube Sampling Device and Deployment Method

Springs and a counter-mass create a powerful and stable sampling device. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A sampling device and a deployment method were developed that allow collection of a predefined sample volume from up to a predefined depth, precise sampling site selection, and low impact on the deploying spacecraft. This device is accelerated toward the sampled body, penetrates the surface, closes a door mechanism to retain the sample, and ejects a sampling tube with the sample inside. At the same time the drive tube is accelerated, a sacrificial reaction mass can be accelerated in the opposite direction and released in space to minimize the momentum impact on the spacecraft. The energy required to accelerate both objects is sourced locally, and can be a spring, cold gas, electric, or pyrotechnic. After the sample tube is ejected or extracted from the drive tube, it can be presented for analysis or placed in a sample return capsule.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Motors & Drives


Nozzle Heat Flux Gauge

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama This innovation is a tungsten-rhenium gauge that can be placed into an aft exit cone of a rocket motor. It will measure heat flux with time for the full duration of the RSRM (reusable solid rocket motor) nozzle environment with equal response time.

Posted in: Briefs, Measuring Instruments


Rotary-Hammer Core Sample Acquisition Tool

This tool can be used for drilling in construction, mining, or scientific research applications. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California NASA is developing technologies to enable in situ analysis and sample acquisition from planetary bodies. Missions to these diverse locations require autonomous, highly customizable, reliable tools. A tool capable of core generation, capture, and transfer, and customizable for different missions, would be very valuable.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP