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

Automated Planning and Scheduling for a Robotic Vehicle

A software system generates sequences of commands for the operation of a robotic vehicle. The system was adapted to control Rocky 7, a semiautonomous instrumented vehicle of the "rover" type used in scientific exploration of Mars. The software system was developed by integrating two software systems reported in previous NASA Tech Briefs articles: Web Interface for Telescience (WITS) and Automated Scheduling and Planning Environment (ASPEN). WITS provides a high-level graphical interface, through which a user can specify scientific activities and locations by referencing to images of the environment of the robotic vehicle. ASPEN accepts the scientific goals specified by use of WITS, then reasons about the low-level activities and resources needed to attain these goals. ASPEN then generates an executable sequence of commands to perform the requested scientific observations; these include commands to travel to and/or between specified locations in order to arrive at locations where observations are to be performed. In generating the commands, ASPEN enforces flight rules and detects and resolves conflicts over resources by reordering scientific observations, adding required activities, and/or deleting low-priority observations. The further development of this software system is likely to include installation of the software in the rover itself to enable the rover to schedule its own activities, and thus to behave more autonomously.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Electronic control systems, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Electronic control systems, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles, Spacecraft
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Protective Shells for Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels

These laminated shells are lightweight, inexpensive, and removable.

White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) scientists have developed an energy-absorbing laminated shell that is a prototype of lightweight, inexpensive, and removable covers to shield and otherwise protect carbon-composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs). Although COPVs are superior to metal vessels in strength and weight savings, shielding and other protection are needed because COPVs are highly susceptible to damage by impacts.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Product development, Containers, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Composite materials
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Nonevaporable Getters To Maintain Vacuum in Sealed MEMS

Nonevaporable getters have been proposed for use in maintaining vacuum inside hermetically sealed microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) that rely on vacuum for proper operation. A vibratory microgyroscope is an example of such a MEMS. The proposed getters could also be used in such vacuum components as cathode-ray tubes, microwave tubes, conventional electron tubes, plasma display devices, particle accelerators and colliders, vacuum thermal insulation, ultrahigh-vacuum systems for processing semiconductors, x-ray tubes, lamps, and field-emission display devices.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Parts, Seals and gaskets
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Spherical-Coordinates Encoder Module

The spherical-coordinates encoder module (SCEM) is a relatively simple and inexpensive electromechanical apparatus for quickly and easily measuring three-dimensional offsets between objects at distances of the order of a few feet ( ≈1 m). The SCEM was developed specifically for measuring offsets between spacecraft payload trunnions and trunnion supports during ground-based payload-transfer operations; it could also be readily used, for example, to measure offsets to guide the maneuvering of large objects during the assembly of heavy machinery or structures. The SCEM eliminates the need for time-consuming, tedious, error-prone measurements by use of such tools as scales, tapes, and protractors, followed by equally tedious and error-prone manual calculations, manual recording of data, and verbal communication of data.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Measurements, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Assembling, Automation, Materials handling
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Improved Sensor Pills for Physiological Monitoring

Improved miniature biotelemetric units resembling large pills have been proposed for use in physiological monitoring of the gastrointestinal tract. The broad principles of design, operation, and inexpensive mass production of these sensor pills would be the same as those of the sensor patches described in the preceding article. Of course, the details of design and operation would differ because the patches and pills would be used in different locations and would sense different phenomena.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Bio-Medical, Medical, Architecture, Sensors and actuators, Telemetry, Architecture, Sensors and actuators, Telemetry, Body regions, Medical equipment and supplies
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Urine-Sample-Collection Device for Use on the Space Shuttle

The in-flight urine collection absorber (IUCA) is a Johnson Space Center (JSC) breakthrough. It features a lightweight, compact design and is easy to use for collection of urine samples by male and female space shuttle crewmembers. The IUCA is superior to currently available hardware for flight urine-sampling protocols that do not require measurement of sample volumes. In addition, its lightweight design makes it desirable for space flight, where weight is a prime concern. Its utility has been confirmed in tests employing stable isotopes (oxygen-18 and deuterium) conducted at JSC. These tests showed that the IUCA, which can be placed in either male or female urine-collection funnels of the shuttle-waste-collection system, outperforms the standard urine collection device (UCD). Although there is no apparent commercial use at this time, the IUCA will benefit the space program by increasing capabilities for research in life sciences research capabilities.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Bio-Medical, Medical, Fluids and secretions, Medical equipment and supplies, Test equipment and instrumentation, Lightweighting, Spacecraft
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AlGaN Photodiodes Respond to Ultraviolet C

Solar-blind photodetectors respond only to ultraviolet light at wavelengths shorter than those of the solar radiation that can penetrate atmosphere of the Earth. This wavelength range, traditionally defined as wavelengths

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Optics, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Optics
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Parallel 3D EMPIC Algorithm Using Nonorthogonal Grids

Electromagnetic particle-in-cell (EMPIC) codes provide a capability for numerically simulating the motions of electrically charged particles in electromagnetic fields, and hence have become standard software tools in plasma physics research. Most existing EMPIC codes are based on the use of orthogonal computational grids (Cartesian or cylindrical). The applicability of such codes is restricted to problems with simple geometries.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computer simulation, Mathematical models, Electromagnetic compatibility, Electromagnetic compatibility, Gases
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Parameterizing Shape Perturbations for Multidisciplinary Design Optimization

A recently developed method of parameterizing complex shapes that one seeks to optimize differs from prior such methods in two major respects: (1) instead of entirely parameterizing the shapes, one parameterizes only shape perturbations (deformations of initial or baseline shapes) and (2) the deformations are computed by soft-objects animation (SOA) algorithms commonly used in computer graphics. This method is suitable for multidisciplinary design-optimization processes, in which shapes of structures are optimized along with other aspects of design (e.g., aerodynamics). This method can be applied, for example, to the shapes of both exterior aerodynamic surfaces and internal structural components of aircraft.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, CAD / CAM / CAE, CAD, CAM, and CAE, Mathematical models, Optimization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization
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Low-Power, Fast Machine Vision System on a Single IC Chip

A versatile, ultrafast, low-power machine vision system in the form of a single integrated-circuit chip has been proposed for use in military targeting, industrial robotics, and other applications in which there are requirements for utilizing visual information in real time. The conceptual design of the system takes advantage of recent advances in the design of integrated image-sensor/processor circuits, electronic neural networks, microprocessors, submicron very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuits, and massively parallel computation. The system could be characterized as an eye/brain machine (EBM) because the conceptual design is intended to mimic basic functions of biological vision systems. The system would be programmable to perform vision processing at all levels analogous to those of vision processing in the human eye and brain. The system would be capable of computation at the rate of 1012 operations per second — about 100 times the rate achievable with state-of-the-art microcomputers and digital signal-processing chips.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Integrated circuits, Neural networks, Architecture, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Integrated circuits, Neural networks, Biomechanics
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