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

Software Accelerates and Standardizes Procurement by NASA

Virtual Procurement Office (VPO) is a Web-based application program designed for use by procurement professionals throughout NASA. Prior to the development of VPO, each of the 700+ NASA procurement pro- fessionals had to spend much time searching numerous locations on-line and off-line for the various software tools and other resources necessary to complete each procurement task. VPO accelerates and standardizes the work of these professionals by giving them accurate and efficient means for gaining access to all relevant on-line resources that support the procurement process. The resources include (1) rules (e.g., Federal Acquisition Regulations); (2) samples (e.g., prior procurement documents that might be useful as guides); and (3) “build tools” — application software, forms, and document templates that should be used to complete procurement tasks. In order to provide a familiar interface, VPO was structured following the matrix format of NASA Form 1098, Checklist for Contract Award File Content. Each row on the matrix represents a possible step in the contracting process, e.g., market research or acquisition plan. For each row on the matrix, VPO provides a column with the capability to include “rules,” “samples,” “build tool,” and “status.”

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Internet, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Internet, Logistics, Standardization

Software for Managing a Health and Environmental Database

Health and Environ- mental Resource System (HERS) is a relational-database computer program with a graphical user interface that assists members of an envi- ronmental health organization in the collection, analysis,
and reporting of data pertaining to industrial hygiene, radiation health, environmental sanitation, control of pollution, management of construction, management of hazardous materials, and administration. Prior to the development of HERS, most of the data were stored, variously, in paper files or in non-relational computer files accessible by only one user. Consequently, there was no easy way to perform comprehensive assessments of risk, and reporting was jeopardized by inconsistency and unavailability of data. HERS is designed for a multiuser environment and provides for interactive management of data as well as robust tracking and scheduling of tasks. Webbased application programs to be linked with HERS are being developed to enable the exchange of data with customers and with employees in the field. Also under development is a capability for importing data from a geographical information system so that HERS data can be linked to map locations: All the data about a location shown on a map will be accessible by clicking on a mouse.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Environmental testing, Human machine interface (HMI), Medical, health, and wellness, Data management

GUI Software for Managing Router Configuration Files

Cisco IOS Manager (CIOSMAN) is a computer program that generates a graphical user interface for managing configuration files for an Internet-Protocol router. [In this context, “IOS” signifies the Cisco Internet- working Operating System and “router” signifies a system of computer-network switching hardware and software.] Heretofore, the management of configuration files has been difficult, time-consuming, and error-prone because (1) the files tend to be large and complex, especially when they contain large access control lists (ACLs); and (2) it has been necessary to update the files by manual text editing. CIOSMAN includes routines for analyzing master configuration files or a router configuration dump (to show a running configuration) and for manipulating of specific interfaces and ACLs via point-and-click selection. A multiform capability enables the user to navigate among forms without backing out of a previously chosen form. Changes in interface or ACL information are validated before they are applied to the affected database. There is an option for compiling and updating a file: this option provides all the commands needed to apply a change to an ACL on line via either an integrated or a separate Telnet application program.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Architecture, Communication protocols, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Internet, Architecture, Communication protocols, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Internet, Human machine interface (HMI)

Making Audible Alarms More Noticeable in Noisy Environments

An improved method of generating audible alarms has been invented for stressful environments in which there may be consid- erable background noise and where the intended recipients of the alarms also need to pay att- ention to sounds other than the alarms. An aircraft cockpit is a typical example of such an environment. This method does not rely on a sustained loud alarm to attract attention because a loud alarm can be gratuitously startling and can mask other sounds that also demand attention. Instead, this method comprises the following elements: (1) The initial alert and subsequent reminders are given via short bursts of synthesized stereophonic signals with a spectrum sufficiently distinct from the noise spectrum to be noticeable. (2) Using pairs of earphones or loudspeakers to implement the stereophony, the alarm signal is made to appear to rapidly alternate between arrival from two different directions. (3) The alarm signal can be supplemented via stereophonic manipulation of background- noise signals.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Safety critical systems, Safety critical systems, Noise, Sound quality, Noise, Sound quality

Clamps for Testing Cable Shields and Connector Shells

Connector test clamps (CTCs) are clamping electrical connectors designed for use in testing electrical continuity from the backshell of a connector at one end of a shielded electrical cable, through the cable shield, to the backshell at the other end of the cable. CTCs increase the reliability of testing of shielded electrical cables beyond that achievable with alligator clips (for which suitable attachment points often cannot be found). Each CTC consists of a conductive jaw mounted onto a manually operated ratcheting clamp that can be released by finger pressure on a lever. CTCs can be made with jaws of various sizes and shapes to fit a variety of connector shells or applications. Each CTC is machined to allow connection of a standard banana-jack-tipped test lead. Once the CTC is clamped into place, one end of the test lead is inserted into the jaw and the other into any type of test equipment required. CTCs can be utilized in any application where a standard alligator clip is not sufficient.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Connectors and terminals, Electric cables, Connectors and terminals, Electric cables, Fittings, Test equipment and instrumentation

Remote Sense Helps Power Sources Accurately Simulate Batteries and Charger Operation

The results are fewer false failure indications, more accurate device calibration, reduced product returns, and higher profitability.

During development and production, cell phones and other portable devices must be tested and calibrated with a power source that accurately simulates battery operation. To avoid erroneous calibration and false failure indications in devices under test (DUTs), this generally requires a source with special characteristics. Besides low ripple and noise, it should be able to simulate different output impedances associated with various battery chemistries, charge states, and charger operation. Key features are remote sensing of load voltage, a variable compensation feedback loop, and superior open-loop response to load transients (see figure). The ability to detect an open sense lead also is desirable to avoid test set-up problems and potential DUT and test equipment damage.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Calibration, Computer simulation, Batteries, Electronic equipment, Batteries, Electronic equipment, Test equipment and instrumentation

Methods and Software for Mining Data in Context

The Perilog methods and software provide a suite of data-mining tools. Perilog retrieves and organizes data from any sequence of terms that are contextually associated (e.g., text, music, genetic sequences). Perilog data mining includes: (1) keyterm-in-context search; (2) flexible, model-based phrase search; (3) model-based phrase generation; and (4) narrative-based phrase discovery. The methods and software measure the degree of contextual association for large numbers of paired terms to produce models that capture the structures of the sequences of terms. Perilog compares these models to a query model, develops a ranking, and presents the results of the search to the user. It can also extract phrases from the sequences. Perilog was originally designed to support the Aviation Safety Reporting System, which NASA operates for the Federal Aviation Administration. In that application it produced, from a database of tens of thousands of documents, the first quantitative evidence of situational relationships between reported commercial aviation incidents and a specific type of aviation accident. Perilog can be used to mine databases for any type of information.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Mathematical models, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Human machine interface (HMI), Data management

Beacon-Based Exception Analysis for Multimissions

Automated diagnosis is advanced using several novel signal processing approaches.

BEAM is a method of real-time, automated analysis and diagnosis applicable to a broad class of complex electromechanical systems, including spacecraft, aircraft, and process-control systems. Some aspects of its operation were described in “Reusable Software for Autonomous Diagnosis of Complex Systems” (NPO-20803), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 26, No. 3 (March 2002), page 33. Presented here is an expanded overview of the method, outlining its components and their function.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Sensors and actuators, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Sensors and actuators

Generalized Pre-Processor for Block and Convolutional Codes

The design could be simplified by taking advantage of the structures of the codes.

A generalized data processor, proposed for use in the reception of binaryphase-shift-keyed (BPSK) radio signals, provides preliminary estimates of the block and convolutionally encoded symbols that are meant to be con- veyed by the BPSK modulation. In a process denoted information-reduced maximum a posteriori (MAP) phase estimation, an estimate of the instantaneous symbol (and thus of the instantaneous phase modulation) is used to reduce the amount of randomness and information by converting the received modulated carrier to an approximation of an unmodulated carrier. The resulting partially recon- structed carrier is then fed as input to a MAP phase estimator to improve phasetracking performance. The basic principles of information-reduced MAP phase estimation were described in somewhat more detail in “Information-Reduced Carrier Synchronization for Coded PSK Operation at Low-SNR” (NPO-20261), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 22, No. 10 (October 1998), page 64.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Architecture, Communication protocols, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Cryptography, Architecture, Communication protocols, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Cryptography

Improved Transponder for Earth/Spacecraft Communication

This transponder utilizes advanced digital signal-processing techniques.

A prototype of a relatively inexpensive S-band transponder has been developed for use aboard a spacecraft as part of a NASA space- craft tracking and data network (STDN). The transponder design incorporates recent advances in digital processing of received radio signals. Notable features of the design include flexibility in the choice of operating modes and “smart” acquisition of signals. The transponder design could also be adapted to military ground-based satellite communications and tracking and to commercial Earth/satellite communication systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Radio equipment, Satellite communications, Wireless communication systems, Radio equipment, Satellite communications, Wireless communication systems, Spacecraft

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