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

Compact, Lightweight, Athermal, Nanocomposite Telescopes with Freeform Optics

Small space missions such as CubeSats frequently require telescopes with highly sophisticated optical systems that are also low in mass and cost. The very limited spacecraft volume and mass limits also preclude adjustments to maintain critical alignment with change in temperature. Existing systems, especially those that employ folded optical paths with freeform optics, are expensive to fabricate. The optics, and support and metering structures, are also heavy due to the use of high-density material such as glass, aluminum, or nickel.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics

TiBor Skin Composite Coatings

TiBor Skin is a two-part technology that creates toughened, corrosion- and wear-resistant composite structures. The technology consists of coatings or surface materials for application on metals, plus methods of applying these materials. It also provides methods of integrating the applied coatings with their substrates to form composite structures, the surfaces of which wear and corrode at rates much lower than those currently experienced in the industry.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

Airborne Sense-and-Avoid Radar Panel

This lightweight, low-cost antenna could be used on unmanned vehicles in security and disaster response efforts, communications, aerial mapping, and aerial surveillance.

Although unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have proven increasingly useful in a variety of applications, their widespread usage within the National Airspace System is limited because of regulatory restrictions on their access to shared airspace.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace

Connectors Link Data Networks for Orion and Industry

Data network connectors on Orion find uses in aviation, oil and gas, and trains.

Spinoff is NASA's annual publication featuring successfully commercialized NASA technology. This commercialization has contributed to the development of products and services in the fields of health and medicine, consumer goods, transportation, public safety, computer technology, and environmental resources.

Posted in: Articles, Electronics & Computers

Robust Mesh Update Method for Grid Motion Problems

Over the past several decades, one class of problems in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) that has undergone substantial development involves movement of the fluid domain boundary. The problem class exists when the fluid domain boundary is either explicitly time-dependent, or is known a priori and determined as part of a flow solution in a coupled fashion. Free-surface fluid-structure interaction and forced-motion flows are typical of problems in this class. More specifically, as a boundary moves, a CFD mesh simulating the fluid dynamics can experience mesh cell distortion to the point of cell collapse, thereby rendering the CFD mesh meaningless.

Posted in: Briefs, Software

Aircraft Engine Exhaust Nozzle System for Jet Noise Reduction

This technology decreases noise in aircraft that have engines mounted above the wing, tail, or fuselage.

A system of nozzles and pylons that redistributes jet exhaust noise sources upstream to reduce jet noise has been developed. Certain aircraft configurations install the propulsion engines above the wing or tail surfaces, or above the fuselage, or in some cases above the structure that is a blend of the wing and body or hybrid wing body aircraft. In these aircraft configurations, reducing noise propagation to the community below is possible by using the aircraft as an acoustic shield for the sources associated with the engine. The more difficult engine noises to be shielded are from the jet exhaust because they are typically distributed downstream, the equivalent of several engine nozzle diameters. This innovation redistributes jet exhaust upstream to reduce noise.

Posted in: Briefs, Aeronautics, Aerospace

Plasma-Assisted Catalytic Reverse Water Gas Shift Reactor

For improving CO2 conversions for a low-temperature CO2 methanation process, a mechanism of using reverse water gas shift (RWGS) reaction as an intermediate step to generate the more reactive CO species for the methanation process was developed. The challenge was to achieve useful conversions of RWGS reaction (CO2 to CO by hydrogenation) at low temperatures (200-300 °C), which is not possible with conventional catalytic reactors. Achieving useful conversions (up to ~50%) is not possible at the desired temperature window of 200-300 °C with a conventional catalytic reactor due to equilibrium limitations of the endothermic RWGS reactor.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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

Self-Lubricating Hard Coatings for Extreme Environments

These coatings demonstrated substantial 1 to 2 orders of magnitude improvement in wear resistance.

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

Folding-Tube Deployable Solar Array

This structural concept was designed for large arrays that package compactly and are exceptionally lightweight.

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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