Special Coverage

Lightweight, Flexible Thermal Protection System for Fire Protection
High-Precision Electric Gate for Time-of-Flight Ion Mass Spectrometers
Polyimide Wire Insulation Repair System
Distributed Propulsion Concepts and Superparamagnetic Energy Harvesting Hummingbird Engine
Wet Active Chevron Nozzle for Controllable Jet Noise Reduction
Magnetic Relief Valve
Active Aircraft Pylon Noise Control System
Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management

Integrating Terrain Maps Into a Reactive Navigation Strategy

Traversability of terrain is taken into account as an integral part of navigation. An improved method of processing information for autonomous navigation of a robotic vehicle across rough terrain involves the integration of terrain maps into a reactive navigation strategy. Somewhat more precisely, the method involves the incorporation, into navigation logic, of data equivalent to regional traversability maps. The terrain characteristic is mapped using a fuzzy-logic representation of the difficulty of traversing the terrain. The method is robust in that it integrates a global path-planning strategy with sensor-based regional and local navigation strategies to ensure a high probability of success in reaching a destination and avoiding obstacles along the way. The sensor-based strategies use cameras aboard the vehicle to observe the regional terrain, defined as the area of the terrain that covers the immediate vicinity near the vehicle to a specified distance a few meters away. The method at an earlier stage of development was described in “Navigating a Mobile Robot Across Terrain Using Fuzzy Logic” (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 27, No. 2 (February 2003), page 5a. A recent update on the terrain classification stage of the method was reported in “Quantifying Traversability of Terrain for a Mobile Robot” (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 29, No. 7 (July 2005), page 56. To recapitulate: The basic building blocks of the method are three behaviors that focus on successively smaller spatial scales and are integrated (in the sense of blended) through gains or weighting factors to generate speed and steering commands. The weighting factors are generated by fuzzy logic rules that take account of the current status of the vehicle.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences


Adaptive Modeling Language and Its Derivatives

Modeling language enables automation of the entire product development cycle.Adaptive Modeling Language (AML), developed by TechnoSoft, Inc., is the underlying language of an object-oriented, multidisciplinary, knowledge-based engineering framework. TechnoSoft is a leading provider of object-oriented modeling and simulation technology used for commercial and defense applications. AML offers an advanced modeling paradigm with an open architecture, enabling the automation of the entire product development cycle, integrating product configuration, design, analysis, visualization, production planning, inspection, and cost estimation.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences


Tantalum-Based Ceramics for Refractory Composites

Compositions can be graded from porous substrates to impervious outer layers. A family of tantalum-based ceramics has been invented as ingredients of high-temperature composite insulating tiles. These materials are suitable for coating and/or permeating the outer layers of rigid porous (foamlike or fibrous) ceramic substrates to (1) render the resulting composite ceramic tiles impervious to hot gases and (2) enable the tiles to survive high heat fluxes at temperatures that can exceed 3,000 °F (≈1,600 °C). Originally intended for use on the future space exploration vehicles, insulating tiles made with these materials may also be useful in terrestrial applications (e.g., some industrial processes) in which there are requirements to protect against flows of hot, oxidizing gases.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials


Microsphere Insulation Panels

Thermal performance and lifetime exceed those of foam insulation. Microsphere insulation panels (MIPs) have been developed as lightweight, long lasting replacements for the foam and vacuum-jacketed systems heretofore used for thermally insulating cryogenic vessels and transfer ducts. Whether preformed or applied in place, foam insulation deteriorates fairly rapidly: on cryogenic transfer lines, it has a life expectancy of about three years. Vacuum-jacketed insulation is expensive and heavy. For both foam and vacuum-jacketed insulation, intensive maintenance is necessary to keep performance at or near its original level. Relative to a polyurethane foam insulation panel, a comparable MIP offers greater thermal performance and longer service life at approximately the same initial cost.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials


Single-Wall Carbon Nanotube Anodes for Lithium Cells

Capacities are greater than those of graphite anodes. In recent experiments, highly purified batches of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) have shown promise as superior alternatives to the graphitic carbon-black anode materials heretofore used in rechargeable thin-film lithium power cells. The basic idea underlying the experiments is that relative to a given mass of graphitic carbon-black anode material, an equal mass of SWCNTs can be expected to have greater lithium-storage and charge/discharge capacities. The reason for this expectation is that whereas the microstructure and nanostructure of a graphitic carbon black is such as to make most of the interior of the material inaccessible for intercalation of lithium, a batch of SWCNTs can be made to have a much more open microstructure and nanostructure, such that most of the interior of the material is accessible for intercalation of lithium. Moreover, the greater accessibility of SWCNT structures can be expected to translate to greater mobilities for ion-exchange processes and, hence, an ability to sustain greater charge and discharge current densities.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials


Fastener Options for Clinching Into Stainless

Differing stainless hardness levels and degrees of corrosion resistance can complicate fastener selection. Designers often turn to self-clinching fasteners when they need a practical method to provide threads in thin metal sheets. The fasteners install permanently, reduce hardware, and promote thinner and lighter designs. In stainless applications, though, designers may run into some particularly hard choices. A prevalent misconception is that all stainless self-clinching fasteners will perform as intended in all stainless sheets. But, the relative hardness of the fastener and sheet looms as an overriding influence, because self-clinching requires that the fastener always be harder than its host sheet. In general, installation of self-clinching fasteners is accomplished by pressing the fastener into place in a properly sized drilled or punched hole. This process causes displaced sheet material (softer than the fastener) to cold-flow into a specially designed annular recess in the shank or pilot of the fastener, permanently locking the fastener in place.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics


Integral Flexure Mounts for Metal Mirrors for Cryogenic Use

These mounts are compact and relatively inexpensive. Semi-kinematic, six-degree-of-freedom flexure mounts have been incorporated as integral parts of metal mirrors designed to be used under cryogenic conditions as parts of an astronomical instrument. The design of the mirrors and their integral flexure mounts can also be adapted to other instruments and other operating temperatures. In comparison with prior kinematic cryogenic mirror mounts, the present mounts are more compact and can be fabricated easily using Ram-EDM (electrical discharge machining) process.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics


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