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

Dedicated Deployable Aerobraking Structure

A dedicated deployable aerobraking structure concept was developed that significantly increases the effective area of a spacecraft during aerobraking by up to a factor of 5 or more (depending on spacecraft size) without substantially increasing total spacecraft mass. Increasing the effective aerobraking area of a spacecraft (without significantly increasing spacecraft mass) results in a corresponding reduction in the time required for aerobraking. For example, if the effective area of a spacecraft is doubled, the time required for aero-braking is roughly reduced to half the previous value. The dedicated deployable aerobraking structure thus enables significantly shorter aerobraking phases, which results in reduced mission cost, risk, and allows science operations to begin earlier in the mission.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Braking systems, Product development, Spacecraft
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Portable Health Algorithms Test System

A document discusses the Portable Health Algorithms Test (PHALT) System, which has been designed as a means for evolving the maturity and credibility of algorithms developed to assess the health of aerospace systems. Comprising an integrated hardware-software environment, the PHALT system allows systems health management algorithms to be developed in a graphical programming environment, to be tested and refined using system simulation or test data playback, and to be evaluated in a real-time hardware-in-the-loop mode with a live test article.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Hardware-in-the-loop, Mathematical models, Avionics, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Avionics, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Vehicle health management
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Technique for Performing Dielectric Property Measurements at Microwave Frequencies

A paper discusses the need to perform accurate dielectric property measurements on larger sized samples, particularly liquids at microwave frequencies. These types of measurements cannot be obtained using conventional cavity perturbation methods, particularly for liquids or powdered or granulated solids that require a surrounding container. To solve this problem, a model has been developed for the resonant frequency and quality factor of a cylindrical
microwave cavity containing concentric cylindrical samples. This model can then be inverted to obtain the real and imaginary dielectric constants of the material of interest.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Mathematical models, Measurements, Containers, Materials properties, Test procedures
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Dr. William Ko, Aerospace Engineer, Engineering Directorate, Aerostructures Branch, Dryden Flight Research Center

Dr. William Ko joined NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in 1977 after receiving a PhD in aeronautics from California Institute of Technology and conducting research at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. An accomplished scientist and inventor, he is credited with developing a number of mathematical theories critical to advancing the state-of-the-art in aerospace structural mechanics including the Blatz-Ko Constitutive Law for hyper-elastic materials, the Ko Flight Structure Aging Theory for fatigue life predictions, and the Ko Displacement Theory for structural shape predictions. The Ko Displacement Theory is currently being used at NASA Dryden to develop sophisticated fiber optic shape sensing technology that could one day give aircraft wings the ability to alter their shape in flight.

Posted in: Who's Who
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Dr. William Ko, Aerospace Engineer, Engineering Directorate, Aerostructures Branch, Dryden Flight Research Center

Dr. William Ko joined NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in 1977 after receiving a PhD in aeronautics from California Institute of Technology and conducting research at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. An accomplished scientist and inventor, he is credited with developing a number of mathematical theories critical to advancing the state-of-the-art in aerospace structural mechanics including the Blatz-Ko Constitutive Law for hyper-elastic materials, the Ko Flight Structure Aging Theory for fatigue life predictions, and the Ko Displacement Theory for structural shape predictions. The Ko Displacement Theory is currently being used at NASA Dryden to develop sophisticated fiber optic shape sensing technology that could one day give aircraft wings the ability to alter their shape in flight.

Posted in: Podcasts
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Controlling Robotics Precisely With Haptic Technology

Robots are capable of very precise motion, but must be guided with precision in order to fulfill their potential. Consider the task of guiding a robotic surgeon’s arm to suture a wound or insert a catheter. A human surgeon, with all his or her knowledge and experience, is required to practice where to probe, cut, or sew before he or she can develop the necessary skills to make a clean suture with the right degree of tension at the right depth or an incision of the right depth. In contrast, a robotic surgeon’s arm can move more consistently and accurately than that of the best human surgeon.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Calibration, Medical equipment and supplies, Surgical procedures, Robotics
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Control System Safely Moves a Robot During Invasive Neurosurgery

Robotic devices have been used in the medical industry for more than 40 years. Despite the advantages, researchers have faced unique challenges in developing effective, safe robotics applications for medical use. In contrast with industrial applications in which robots operate in work cells where human staff is not permitted to enter, robots in the medical field must operate in direct contact with the patient and medical staff; therefore, the safety requirements are considerably more complex and restrictive than in industrial situations.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Automation, Robotics, Surgical procedures, Robotics
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Progress in Development of the Axel Rovers

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Progress has been made in the development of a family of robotic land vehicles having modular and minimalist design features chosen to impart a combination of robustness, reliability, and versatility. These vehicles at earlier stages of development were described in two previous NASA Tech Briefs articles: “Recon figurable Exploratory Robotic Vehicles” (NPO-20944), Vol. 25, No. 7 (July 2001), page 56; and “More About Reconfigurable Exploratory Robotic Vehicles” (NPO-30890), Vol. 33, No. 8 (August 2009), page 40. Conceived for use in exploration of the surfaces of Mars and other remote planets, these vehicles could also be adapted to terrestrial applications, including exploration of volcanic craters or other hostile terrain, military re connaissance, in spection of hazardous sites, and searching for victims of earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, or mining accidents. In addition, simplified versions of these vehicles might be marketable as toys.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Product development, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles, Military vehicles and equipment, Rescue and emergency vehicles and equipment, Spacecraft
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Compact, Lightweight Servo-Controllable Brakes

Compact, lightweight servo-controllable brakes capable of high torques are being developed for incorporation into robot joints. A brake of this type is based partly on the capstan effect of tension elements, which is described by the well known equation

Th/Tl = eμβ,

where Th is the higher tension at one end and Tl is the lower tension at the other end of a rope, belt, chain, or other tension element that is wrapped around a capstan so as not to slip; β is the total wrap angle in radians; and μ is the coefficient of friction between the capstan and the tension element. For example, a tension-multiplication factor of the order of 106 can be achieved by wrapping several turns of steel wire around a steel capstan. Heretofore, the capstan effect has been exploited in wound-spring clutches that operate in an on-or-off fashion. In a brake of the type under development, a controllable intermediate state of torque is reached through on/off switching at a high frequency.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Braking systems, Robotics
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Robotic Arm Manipulator Using Active Control for Sample Acquisition and Transfer, and Passive Mode for Surface Compliance

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

A robotic arm that consists of three joints with four degrees of freedom (DOF) has been developed. It can carry an end-effector to acquire and transfer samples by using active control and comply with surface topology in a passive mode during a brief surface contact. The three joints are arranged in such a way that one joint of two DOFs is located at the shoulder, one joint of one DOF is located at the elbow, and one joint of one DOF is located at the wrist. Operationally, three DOFs are moved in the same plane, and the remaining one on the shoulder is moved perpendicular to the other three for better compliance with ground surface and more flexibility of sample handling. Three out of four joints are backdriveable, making the mechanism less complex and more cost effective.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Electronic control units, Electronic control units, Robotics, Test equipment and instrumentation
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