Technologies

Coating Technology – An advanced coating being tested aboard the International Space Station for use on satellite components could also help NASA solve how to keep the Moon's irregularly shaped dust grains from adhering to virtually everything they touch, including astronauts’ spacesuits. Goddard technologists originally created the coating to help “bleed off” the buildup of electrical charges that can destroy spacecraft electronics. Atomic layer deposition was used to apply super-thin films of indium tin oxide onto dry pigments of paint. Once mixed, the paint could then be coated on radiators and other spacecraft components to help mitigate the buildup of electrical charges. Astronauts carry their own charge and, as the Apollo missions proved, will attract dust as they rove about the Moon. Because NASA has eyed the Moon's southern pole for possible human habitation, it's especially important that NASA develop efficient ways to dissipate these charges.

Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) – The SAM instrument suite takes up more than half the science payload onboard the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. SAM is made up of three different instruments — a mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph, and tunable laser spectrometer — that search for and measure organic chemicals and light elements associated with life such as hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. As samples of drilled rock or scooped soil are heated within SAM, components within them vaporize and are piped to the different instruments.

Algorithms to Identify Patterns in Data – Instead of programming a computer to carry out every task it needs to do, machine learning can equip ground- or space-based computer processors with algorithms that, like humans, learn from data, finding and recognizing patterns and trends but faster, more accurately, and without bias. Scientists could use machine learning to analyze the petabytes of data NASA has already collected over the years, extracting new patterns and new correlations and eventually leading to new science discoveries. Goddard engineers and scientists are researching applications including how machine learning could help make real-time crop forecasts, locate wildfires and floods, identify instrument anomalies, and find suitable landing sites for a robotic craft.

Robotic Tool Stowage – Goddard developed RiTS, a robotic tool storage system for critical robot tools that attaches to the outside of the International Space Station. The “robot hotel” provides heat and physical protection from radiation and micrometeroids — tiny, highspeed objects hurtling through space. Its thermal system maintains ideal temperatures for instruments, helping them stay functional.

LiDAR Signal Processing – Scanning LiDARs generate a huge amount of raw digital data that must be processed as quickly as possible in order to generate 3D imagery in real time. In order to accomplish this task for the next-generation 3D scanning LiDAR known as the Goddard Reconfigurable Solid-state Scanning LiDAR (GRISSLi), Goddard developed a FPGA module capable of processing an arbitrary number of waveforms rapidly and in parallel. This innovation allows a system to process an almost limitless number of received laser pulses for LiDAR applications in real time and is limited only by available FPGA resources.

Fabrication for Lab-on-a-Chip Devices – Designed to collect and separate amino acids to find the building blocks of life on other planets, Goddard's fabrication technology could be essential to many other lab-on-a-chip or microfluidic applications. A microchannel chip was created from a silicon bottom wafer and Pyrex top wafer anodically bonded. Specialized microbeads with specific structure and surface chemistry are placed along the channels. Different species of analyte molecules will interact more strongly with the column chemistry and will therefore take longer to traverse the column, i.e., have a longer retention time. In this way, the channels separate molecular species based on their chemistry.

The RiTS robotic tool storage system flight unit that will be installed on the exterior of the International Space Station. (NASA)

Flow and Temperature Sensor – Goddard developed a sensor for micro-analytical systems that measures in real time the flow rate and temperature of the liquid being sampled. The system sensors measure flow rates in the nanoliter-per-minute range and at temperatures from >150 ϒC down to -80 ϒC. The sensor is small enough to be used in lab-on-a-chip applications.

Gear Bearings – This technology combines gear and bearing functions into a single unit that significantly improves gear drives across the board for electrical, internal combustion, and turbine motors. The gear bearing design incorporates rifletrue anti-backlash, improved thrust bearing performance, and phase-tuning techniques for superior low speed reduction. Because it combines gear and bearing functions, it reduces weight, number of parts, size, and cost, while also increasing load capacity and performance.

Printable Chemical Nanosensor – A printable nanosensor and leads were developed using 3D printing techniques on a silicon daughter board that can be connected to a self-contained pre-amp PCB. The sensor contains a graphene sensor array and a PCB with pre-amplifier circuit connected to the daughter board with mechanical clips and also wire-bonded together. The sensor increases the sensitivity of gas sensors, enabling detection of ppb level concentration (and possibly single molecules).

Lotus Coating – Goddard's formulation is a Lotus leaf-like nano-textured dust mitigation coating. Originally developed to address a large-scale problem of dust accumulation and contamination in dusty space environments — such as the Moon, Mars, comets, asteroids, and other planetary bodies — the coating can be used for other space applications and aeronautical applications as well as Earth-based ground applications. The Lotus Coating is a lightweight passive coating that also has super-hydrophobic properties and can prevent a variety of particles, liquids, or ice from sticking to the coated surface.

Microgap cooling technology allows NASA to effectively cool tightly packed instrument electronics and other spaceflight gear. (NASA/Franklin Robinson)

Search and Rescue Beacon – Goddard has developed emergency beacons as well as the ground and flight systems that support them for a wide variety of applications. Second-generation emergency beacons offer users improved accuracy and quicker response times. Artemis astronauts returning from the Moon will be the first users of these beacons, which will be commercially available to the general public in the coming years. In collaboration with NASA Johnson, specialized Advanced Next-Generation Emergency Locator (ANGEL) beacons were developed using the second-generation technology for astronaut life vests. A prototype device is being tested on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can hone in on the beacons. In addition to proving the direction-finding technology, these tests will demonstrate how UAVs may be used in search and rescue operations.

Microgap Cooling of Electronics – Goddard's microgap cooling technology allows NASA to effectively cool tightly packed instrument electronics and other spaceflight gear. The technology is unaffected by weightlessness and could be used on a future spaceflight mission. It not only removes large amounts of heat but also carries out the job in low- and high-gravity environments with nearly identical results.

Heat generated by tightly packed electronics is removed by flowing a coolant through embedded, rectangular-shaped microchannels within or between heat-generating devices. As the coolant flows through these tiny gaps, it boils on the heated surfaces, producing vapor. This two-phase process offers a higher rate of heat transfer, which keeps high-power devices cool and less likely to fail due to overheating.

Technology Transfer

The Goddard Strategic Partnerships Office forges innovative partnerships that link the center's internal inventors with corporations, startups, universities, and other government agencies. For more information, contact the office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 301-286-5810.