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

Improved Gas Filling and Sealing of an HC-PCF

Compact hermetic joint is formed to seal connectorized all-fiber gas reference cell.

An improved packaging approach has been devised for filling a hollow-core photonic-crystal fiber (HC-PCF) with a gas, sealing the HC-PCF to retain the gas, and providing for optical connections and, optionally, a plumbing fitting for changing or augmenting the gas filling. Gas-filled HC-PCFs can be many meters long and have been found to be attractive as relatively compact, lightweight, rugged alternatives to conventional gas-filled glass cells for use as molecular-resonance frequency references for stabilization of lasers in some optical-metrology, lidar, optical-communication, and other advanced applications. Prior approaches to gas filling and sealing of HC-PCFs have involved, variously, omission of any attempt to connectorize the PCF, connectorization inside a vacuum chamber (an awkward and expensive process), or temporary exposure of one end of an HC-PCF to the atmosphere, potentially resulting in contamination of the gas filling. Prior approaches have also involved, variously, fusion splicing of HC-PCFs with other optical fibers or other termination techniques that give rise to Fresnel reflections of about 4 percent, which results in output intensity noise.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Fiber optics, Fiber optics, Gases, Refractory materials, Reliability, Reliability

Thermal Spray Formation of Polymer Coatings

This innovation forms a sprayable polymer film using powdered precursor materials and an in-process heating method. This device directly applies a powdered polymer onto a substrate to form an adherent, mechanically-sound, and thickness-regulated film. The process can be used to lay down both fully dense and porous, e.g., foam, coatings. This system is field-deployable and includes power distribution, heater controls, polymer constituent material bins, flow controls, material transportation functions, and a thermal spray apparatus.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Polymers

Embedded Computing Options Meet Rugged Industrial Requirements

While industrial applications typically require high levels of reliability, availability, ruggedness, and longevity, there often is a set of unique system requirements dependent upon the specific goals of the system. For instance, an industrial automation application may call for a particular I/O interface or the ability to support custom control software.

Posted in: Articles, Electronics & Computers, Automation

Making More-Complex Molecules Using Superthermal Atom/Molecule Collisions

Atoms adsorbed on cold surfaces react with energetic impinging atoms.

A method of making more-complex molecules from simpler ones has emerged as a by-product of an experimental study in outer-space atom/ surface collision physics. The subject of the study was the formation of CO2 molecules as a result of impingement of O atoms at controlled kinetic energies upon cold surfaces onto which CO molecules had been adsorbed. In this study, the O/CO system served as a laboratory model, not only for the formation of CO2 but also for the formation of other compounds through impingement of rapidly moving atoms upon molecules adsorbed on such cold interstellar surfaces as those of dust grains or comets. By contributing to the formation of increasingly complex molecules, including organic ones, this study and related other studies may eventually contribute to understanding of the origins of life.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Carbon dioxide, Fabrication, Test procedures

Image Sensors Provide Mission-Critical Data for Space Flight

Kodak CCD image sensors
Eastman Kodak, Image Sensor Solutions
Rochester, NY

Kodak digital technology was used on the Space Shuttle Discovery, which was launched on May 28, to capture critical images and help safeguard the well-being of shuttle astronauts during re-entry back to Earth. The image sensors are a key component of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), an inflight imaging system attached to the end of a 50-foot robotic arm used by shuttle astronauts to scan the underside of the orbiter for possible damage before landing.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Imaging, Sensors, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Sensors and actuators, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Sensors and actuators, Data management, Spacecraft

Image of Spacecraft Landing on Mars Captured by Image Sensors

e2v CCD image sensors
e2v technologies plc
Elmsford, NY

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is currently on Mars using the probe’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument to gather data on the planet’s climate, composition, and surface features. On May 25, 2008, e2v CCD image sensors incorporated into the HiRISE captured an image of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander suspended from its parachute, as the lander successfully arrived on Mars. This is the first time a spacecraft has captured an image of another spacecraft landing on a planetary body. HiRISE normally points downwards, but the whole orbiter was tilted up in order to capture the image of the lander as it approached Mars.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Imaging, Sensors, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft

NASA Awards 2007 Software of the Year

Software from Jet Propulsion Laboratory for detecting planets outside our solar system, and from Ames Research Center for defining safety margins for fiery spacecraft re-entries have been named co-winners of the 2007 NASA Software of the Year Award.

The NASA Software of the Year competition was initiated in 1994, and rewards outstanding software developed by the agency. The competition is sponsored by the NASA Chief Engineer, with technical support from NASA’s In ventions and Contributions Board. For more information on the 2007 winners and runners-up, click here.

Posted in: Articles, Software, Calibration, Design processes, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Optics, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Optics, Product development

Lunar Science Instrumentation: Understanding and Characterizing the Moon Through Challenging Measurements

NASA lunar robotic science missions support the high-priority goals identified in the 2007 National Research Council report, The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon: Final Report (National Academies Presses, 2007). Future missions will characterize the lunar exosphere and surface environment; field-test new equipment, technologies, and approaches for performing lunar science; identify landing sites and emplace infrastructure to support robotic and human exploration; demonstrate and validate heritage systems for exploration missions; and provide operational experience in the harsh lunar environment.

Posted in: NASA Tech Needs

Improved Silica Aerogel Composite Materials

Shrinkage and cracking are greatly reduced.

A family of aerogel-matrix composite materials having thermal-stability and mechanical-integrity properties better than those of neat aerogels has been developed. Aerogels are known to be excellent thermal- and acoustic-insulation materials because of their molecular-scale porosity, but heretofore, the use of aerogels has been inhibited by two factors:

Their brittleness makes processing and handling difficult. They shrink during production and shrink more when heated to high temperatures during use. The shrinkage and the consequent cracking make it difficult to use them to encapsulate objects in thermal-insulation materials.
Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Composite materials, Materials properties

Dr. Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS Principal Investigator, Ames Research Center

LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite), which will travel to the moon aboard the launch vehicle for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), will test for the presence of water beneath the lunar surface by crashing a pair of heavy impactors into one of the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s South Pole. The impact will create a plume of debris that can be analyzed for the presence of water using specialized instruments. Dr. Anthony Colaprete, who is an expert on the Martian climate system, is principal investigator for the LCROSS mission.

Posted in: Who's Who

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