Special Coverage

NASA Supercomputer Simulations Reveal 'Noisy' Aerodynamics
Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris
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

Customizable Recyclable Launch Packaging

NASA is developing a sustainable in-space manufacturing ecosystem by providing both the capability to create 3D printer filament from currently used packaging material as well as the development of new, high-performance packaging architectures created with materials that are well suited for use in 3D printing. NASA’s in-space manufacturing program supports Earth-based technology development to enable technologies and research on the International Space Station (ISS) and for deep space missions. In 2014, a 3D printer was installed and used successfully on the ISS, creating the first additively manufactured part in space. While additive manufacturing is a game-changing technology for in-space repairs and part formation, it still requires a plastic feedstock material to fabricate the printed parts. Without a recycling capability, long-duration and long-distance missions would require a large supply of feedstock that would either need to be stored onboard, taking up both mass and cargo space, or delivered in expensive resupply missions to enable the continued usage of the 3D printer.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Self-Lubricating Hard Coatings for Extreme Environments

NASA’ s space goals include a permanent presence on the Moon and an expedition to Mars. The success of habitats and vehicles on the Moon and Mars — and ultimately, of the human exploration of and permanent human presence on the Moon and Mars — is critically dependent on the correct and reliable operation of many moving mechanical assemblies. These harsh environments include severe dust, extreme cold and heat, and high vacuum, which make the use of liquid lubrication systems impractical. Potential threats common to both the Moon and Mars are low ambient temperatures, wide daily temperature swings (thermal cycling), solar flux, cosmic radiation, and large quantities of dust. The surface of Mars provides the additional challenges of dust storms, wind, and a carbon dioxide atmosphere. It is essential, therefore, to develop specialized mechanical components, such as bearings and gears, and to develop proper, long-life solid lubrication systems/coatings for each application.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Folding-Tube Deployable Solar Array

Future space missions incorporating solar electric propulsion (SEP) will require large solar arrays that are an order of magnitude larger than the current state of the art for deployable arrays. This invention is a structural concept for such an array, and was designed to enable large arrays that package compactly and are exceptionally lightweight.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Polymeric Thermal History Sensor

Items such as food and pharmaceuticals exposed over time to temperatures outside the specified range can pose a serious health risk. Determining the heat exposure history of these items is a key step in addressing these issues. In particular, there is a need for determining when an item has been exposed to specific temperatures, how long such exposures occurred, in what order they occurred, and the expected remaining shelf life of an item.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors
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An Upwind Parabolized Navier-Stokes Solver (UPS) for Supersonic and Hypersonic Flow Simulation, Version 6.1

The simulation of high-speed flow involves unique challenges such as the treatment of strong flow gradients associated with shock waves and expansion fans, as well as the modeling, at hypersonic speeds, of air chemistry effects. However, supersonic flow also produces the effect of limited zones of influence, which allows for single-sweep flow solution processes. The parabolized Navier-Stokes (PNS) equations are a modification of the equations of fluid flow that extend this inherently supersonic property into the subsonic portion of the boundary layer in viscous flows. Solution methods for systems that are hyperbolic/parabolic in a spatial direction can be obtained using a space-marching approach that can be an order of magnitude faster than using a time-marching method on the time-dependent Navier-Stokes equations.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Multi-Fidelity Simulator (MFS)

Many next-generation air traffic algorithms may be formed by learning algorithms or dynamic programming techniques. These techniques form their solutions through iterative methods where the efficacy of a proposed solution needs to be evaluated for every round of iteration. In complex air traffic scenarios, often the only way to evaluate a proposed solution is to simulate the impact of the solution in an air traffic simulator. Such a simulator has to be fast enough to allow for many rounds of iteration. In addition, the simulator will have to be modular enough to allow modules to be created that simulate a portion of the airspace in detail.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace
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Using Aerial Towing to Study Sonic Booms

Researchers at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) recently completed a study of the feasibility of aerial towing an unpiloted, sub-scale vehicle to supersonic flight conditions to examine the sonic boom that is produced — or, preferably, not produced.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace
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Vented Launch Vehicle Adapter for a Manned Spacecraft With “Pusher” Launch Abort System

A Launch Vehicle Adapter (LVA) was developed that provides a structural interface between a Commercial Crew Vehicle (CCV) Crew Module/Service Module Spacecraft (CM/SM) and an expendable launch vehicle. It also provides a means to control the exhaust plume from a pusher type launch abort system integrated into the Service Module.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Delayed Latching Mechanism

Uncontrolled and rapid movement of equipment and people through security gates has been a major problem for security personnel. In situations pertaining to facility security, it is desirable to delay the passage of a person through an entrance or an exit for a small interval of time, such as several seconds or up to a minute. Often, authorization to proceed is provided by an electronic signal to unlock the passageway. Such electronic signals are initiated remotely by a person in authority, such as a guard in a control room viewing a security camera, or a person who verifies the identity of the requester through a two-way audio connection.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Efficient Two-Dimensional Solution Methods for the Navier-Stokes Equations

ARC2D is a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) program for two-dimensional airfoil and simply connected geometries. The program uses implicit finite-difference techniques to solve two-dimensional Euler equations and Navier-Stokes equations. It is based on the Beam and Warning implicit approximate factorization algorithm in generalized coordinates, in a variety of block or diagonal forms. The methods are either time-accurate (e.g., dual-time-stepping or Runge-Kutta methods) or accelerated non-time-accurate steady-state schemes. The evolution of the solution through time is physically realistic; good solution accuracy is dependent on mesh spacing and boundary conditions.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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