Special Coverage

Iodine-Compatible Hall Effect Thruster
Precision Assembly of Systems on Surfaces (PASS)
Development of a Novel Electrospinning System with Automated Positioning and Control Software
2016 Create The Future Design Contest Open For Entries
Clamshell Sampler
Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitter
Deployable Extra-Vehicular Activity Platform (DEVAP) for Planetary Surfaces
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Software for Automated Generation of Cartesian Meshes

Cart3D is a collection of computer programs for generating Cartesian meshes [for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and other applications] in volumes bounded by solid objects. Aspects of Cart3D at earlier stages of development were reported in “Robust and Efficient Generation of Cartesian Meshes for CFD” (ARC-14275), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 23, No. 8 (August 1999), page 30. The geometric input to Cart3D comprises surface triangulations like those commonly generated by computer- aided-design programs. Complexly shaped objects can be represented as assemblies of simpler ones. Cart3D deletes all portions of such an assembled object that are not on the exterior surface. Intersections between components are preserved in the resulting triangulation. A tie-breaking routine unambiguously resolves geometric degeneracies. Then taking the intersected surface triangulation as input, the volume mesh is generated through division of cells of an initially coarse hexahedral grid. Cells are subdivided to refine the grid in regions of increased surface curvature and/or increased flow gradients. Cells that become split into multiple unconnected regions by thin pieces of surface are identified.

Posted in: Software, Briefs, TSP

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Optics Program Modified for Multithreaded Parallel Computing

A powerful high-performance computer program for simulating and analyzing adaptive and controlled optical systems has been developed by modifying the serial version of the Modeling and Analysis for Controlled Optical Systems (MACOS) program to impart capabilities for multithreaded parallel processing on computing systems ranging from supercomputers down to Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) personal computers. The modifications included the incorporation of OpenMP, a portable and widely supported application interface software, that can be used to explicitly add multithreaded parallelism to an application program under a shared-memory programming model. OpenMP was applied to parallelize raytracing calculations, one of the major computing components in MACOS. Multithreading is also used in the diffraction propagation of light in MACOS based on p-threads [POSIX Thread, (where “POSIX” signifies a portable operating system for UNIX)]. In tests of the parallelized version of MACOS, the speedup in ray-tracing calculations was found to be linear, or proportional to the number of processors, while the speedup in diffraction calculations ranged from 50 to 60 percent, depending on the type and number of processors. The parallelized version of MACOS is portable, and, to the user, its interface is basically the same as that of the original serial version of MACOS.

Posted in: Photonics, Software, Briefs, TSP

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Using a Quadtree Algorithm To Assess Line of Sight

A matched pair of computer algorithms determines whether line of sight (LOS) is obstructed by terrain. These algorithms were originally designed for use in conjunction with combat-simulation software in military training exercises, but could also be used for such commercial purposes as evaluating lines of sight for antennas or determining what can be seen from a “room with a view.” The quadtree preparation algorithm operates on an array of digital elevation data and only needs to be run once for a terrain region, which can be quite large. Relatively little computation time is needed, as each elevation value is considered only one and one-third times. The LOS assessment algorithm uses that quadtree to answer LOS queries. To determine whether LOS is obstructed, a piecewise-planar (or higher-order) terrain skin is computationally draped over the digital elevation data. Adjustments are made to compensate for curvature of the Earth and for refraction of the LOS by the atmosphere. Average computing time appears to be proportional to the number of queries times the logarithm of the number of elevation data points. Accuracy is as high as is possible for the available elevation data, and symmetric results are assured. In the simulation, the LOS query program runs as a separate process, thereby making more random-access memory available for other computations.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Task Description Language

Task Description Language (TDL) is an extension of the C++ programming language that enables programmers to quickly and easily write complex, concurrent computer programs for controlling real-time autonomous systems, including robots and spacecraft. TDL is based on earlier work (circa 1984 through 1989) on the Task Control Architecture (TCA). TDL provides syntactic support for hierarchical task-level control functions, including task decomposition, synchronization, execution monitoring, and exception handling. A Java-language-based compiler transforms TDL programs into pure C++ code that includes calls to a platform-independent task-control-management (TCM) library. TDL has been used to control and coordinate multiple heterogeneous robots in projects sponsored by NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It has also been used in Brazil to control an autonomous airship and in Canada to control a robotic manipulator.

Posted in: Briefs

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Close-Call Action Log Form

“Close Call Action Log Form” (“CCALF”) is the name of both a computer program and a Web-based service provided by the program for creating an enhanced database of close calls (in the colloquial sense of mishaps that were avoided by small margins) assigned to the Center Operations Directorate (COD) at Johnson Space Center. CCALF provides a single facility for on-line collaborative review of close calls. Through CCALF, managers can delegate responses to employees. CCALF utilizes a pre-existing e-mail system to notify managers that there are close calls to review, but eliminates the need for the prior practices of passing multiple e-mail messages around the COD, then collecting and consolidating them into final responses: CCALF now collects comments from all responders for incorporation into reports that it generates. Also, whereas it was previously necessary to manually calculate metrics (e.g., numbers of maintenance-work orders necessitated by close calls) for inclusion in the reports, CCALF now computes the metrics, summarizes them, and displays them in graphical form. The reports and all pertinent information used to generate the reports are logged, tracked, and retained by CCALF for historical purposes.

Posted in: Briefs

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Tool for Ranking Research Options

Enhanced, Partially Redundant Emergency Notification System The Johnson Space Center Emergency Notification System (JENS) software utilizes pre-existing computation and communication infrastructure to augment a prior variable-tone, siren-based, outdoor alarm system, in order to enhance the ability to give notice of emergencies to employees working in multiple buildings. The JENS software includes a component that implements an administrative Web site. Administrators can grant and deny access to the administrative site and to an originator Web site that enables authorized individuals to quickly compose and issue alarms. The originator site also facilitates maintenance and review of alarms already issued. A custom client/server application program Cov ToC + – ? ? A Intro NASA Tech Briefs, December 2005 47 For Free Info Visit http://info.ims.ca/5294-731 enables an originator to notify every user who is logged in on a Microsoft Windows-based desktop computer by means of a pop-up message that interrupts, but does not disrupt, the user’s work. Alternatively or in addition, the originator can send an alarm message to recipients on an e-mail distribution list and/or can post the notice on an internal Web site. An alarm message can consist of (1) text describing the emergency and suggesting a course of action and (2) a replica of the corresponding audible outdoor alarm.

Posted in: Briefs

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Architecture for Verifiable Software

Verifiable MDS Architecture (VMA) is a software architecture that facilitates the construction of highly verifiable flight software for NASA’s Mission Data System (MDS), especially for smaller missions subject to cost constraints. More specifically, the purpose served by VMA is to facilitate aggressive verification and validation of flight software while imposing a minimum of constraints on overall functionality. VMA exploits the state-based architecture of the MDS and partitions verification issues into elements susceptible to independent verification and validation, in such a manner that scaling issues are minimized, so that relatively large software systems can be aggressively verified in a cost-effective manner.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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