Special Coverage

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines

MRO DKF Post-Processing Tool

This software tool saves time and reduces risk by automating two labor-intensive and error- prone post-processing steps required for every DKF [DSN (Deep Space Network) Keyword File] that MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) produces, and is being extended to post-process the corresponding TSOE (Text Sequence Of Events) as well. The need for this post- processing step stems from limitations in the seq-gen modeling resulting in incorrect DKF generation that is then cleaned up in post-processing.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Telemetry, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Telemetry, Performance upgrades, Reliability, Reliability, Spacecraft
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Rig Diagnostic Tools

Rig Diagnostic Tools is a suite of applications designed to allow an operator to monitor the status and health of complex networked systems using a unique interface between Java applications and UNIX scripts. The suite consists of Java applications, C scripts, VxWorks applications, UNIX utilities, C programs, and configuration files. The UNIX scripts retrieve data from the system and write them to a certain set of files. The Java side monitors these files and presents the data in user-friendly formats for operators to use in making troubleshooting decisions. This design allows for rapid prototyping and expansion of higher-level displays without affecting the basic data-gathering applications. The suite is designed to be extensible, with the ability to add new system components in building block fashion without affecting existing system applications. This allows for monitoring of complex systems for which unplanned shutdown time comes at a prohibitive cost.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Architecture, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Electronic equipment, Architecture, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Electronic equipment, Diagnostics
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MRO Sequence Checking Tool

The MRO Sequence Checking Tool program, mro_check, automates significant portions of the MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) sequence checking procedure. Though MRO has similar checks to the ODY’s (Mars Odyssey) Mega Check tool, the checks needed for MRO are unique to the MRO spacecraft.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Automation, Reliability, Reliability, Spacecraft
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Science Activity Planner for the MER Mission

The Maestro Science Activity Planner is a computer program that assists human users in planning operations of the Mars Explorer Rover (MER) mission and visualizing scientific data returned from the MER rovers. Relative to its predecessors, this program is more powerful and easier to use. This program is built on the Java Eclipse open-source platform around a Web-browser- based user-interface paradigm to provide an intuitive user interface to Mars rovers and landers.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Flight management systems, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Flight management systems, Human machine interface (HMI), Performance upgrades, Spacecraft
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UAVSAR Flight-Planning System

A system of software partly automates planning of a flight of the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) — a polarimetric synthetic-aperture radar system aboard an unpiloted or minimally piloted airplane. The software constructs a flight plan that specifies not only the intended flight path but also the setup of the radar system at each point along the path.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Flight management systems, Radar, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Flight management systems, Radar, Unmanned aerial vehicles
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Templates for Deposition of Microscopic Pointed Structures

These structures can be used as field emitters in plasma television screens.

Templates for fabricating sharply pointed microscopic peaks arranged in nearly regular planar arrays can be fabricated by a relatively inexpensive technique that has recently been demonstrated. Depending on the intended application, a semiconducting, insulating, or metallic film could be deposited on such a template by sputtering, thermal evaporation, pulsed laser deposition, or any other suitable conventional deposition technique. Pointed structures fabricated by use of these techniques may prove useful as photocathodes or field emitters in plasma television screens. Selected peaks could be removed from such structures and used individually as scanning tips in atomic force microscopy or mechanical surface profiling.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Microscopy, Microscopy, Fabrication
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Quench Crucibles Reinforced With Metal

Specimens can be quenched rapidly, without cracking ampules.

Improved crucibles consisting mainly of metal-reinforced ceramic ampules have been developed for use in experiments in which material specimens are heated in the crucibles to various high temperatures, then quenched by, for example, plunging the crucibles into water at room temperature. A quench crucible of the traditional type intended to be supplanted by the improved crucibles consists mainly of a ceramic or graphite ampule inside a metal cartridge, with a gap between the metal and the cartridge, as shown on the left side of the figure.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Containers, Ceramics, Metals, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Adjustable Membrane Mirrors Incorporating G-Elastomers

Lightweight, flexible, large-aperture mirrors of a type being developed for use in outer space have unimorph structures that enable precise adjustment of their surface figures. A mirror of this type includes a reflective membrane layer bonded with an electrostrictive grafted elastomer (G-elastomer) layer, plus electrodes suitably positioned with respect to these layers. By virtue of the electrostrictive effect, an electric field applied to the G-elastomer membrane induces a strain along the membrane and thus causes a deflection of the mirror surface. Utilizing this effect, the mirror surface figure can be adjusted locally by individually addressing pairs of electrodes.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Mirrors, Calibration, Electronic control units, Electronic control units, Elastomers
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High-Temperature Crystal-Growth Cartridge Tubes Made by VPS

Mechanical properties and maximum useful temperature exceed those of tungsten-alloy tubes.

Cartridge tubes for use in a crystal-growth furnace at temperatures as high as 1,600°C have been fabricated by vacuum plasma spraying (VPS). These cartridges consist mainly of an alloy of 60 weight percent molybdenum with 40 weight percent rhenium, made from molybdenum powder coated with rhenium. This alloy was selected because of its high melting temperature (≈2,550°C) and because of its excellent ductility at room temperature. These cartridges are intended to supplant tungsten/nickel-alloy cartridges, which cannot be used at temperatures above ≈1,300°C.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Fabrication, Manufacturing equipment and machinery, Spraying, Alloys, Heat resistant materials
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Hall-Effect Thruster Utilizing Bismuth as Propellant

A laboratory-model Hall-effect spacecraft thruster was developed that utilizes bismuth as the propellant. Xenon was used in most prior Hall-effect thrusters. Bismuth is an attractive alternative because it has a larger atomic mass, a larger electron- impact- ionization cross-section, and is cheaper and more plentiful.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Propellants, Spacecraft fuel, Rocket engines, Performance tests
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