Tech Briefs

A comprehensive library of technical briefs from engineering experts at NASA and major government, university, and commercial laboratories covering all aspects of innovations in electronics, software, photonics, imaging, motion control, automation, sensors, test, materials, manufacturing, mechanical, and mechatronics.

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Low-Cost Backup RPOD System

Advanced Optical Systems, Inc. (AOS) developed a low-cost Rendezvous, Proximity Operations, and Docking (RPOD) system that has applications for the future NASA Orion vehicle. Docking operations between the space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) required the coordination of real-time sensor data...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Free-Space, Coupled, Multi- Element Detector for Deep Space Optical Communication

High-data-rate deep space optical communication (DSOC) links are desired by NASA and other space agencies to support future advanced science instruments, live high-definition (HD) video feeds, telepresence, and human exploration of Mars and beyond. Optical...

Briefs : Materials
Mechanical Carbon Materials for Aircraft Seal Applications

Modern mechanical carbon materials are being used in a wide variety of applications, including aircraft gear boxes, air turbine motor starters, and main shaft seals for both aircraft...

Briefs : Materials
Strong and Flexible Carbon Fiber Reinforced Phenolic Composites

A new class of phenolic and carbon-fiber-reinforced phenolic composites has been developed for thermal protection systems. The new materials have the advantage of being lightweight, strong, and tough, yet heat resistant and flexible. They retain excellent mechanical strength at high...

Briefs : Materials
Hybrid Laminate Composite for Harsh Environments and High-Performance Applications

A multi-functional composite laminate material has been developed for structural and thermal applications for use in durable cryogenic fuel tanks for transportation vehicles and/or in the construction of habitats. The technology focuses on aerogel and fiber...

Briefs : Materials
Surface-Modified Nanoparticles Made From High-Molecular-Weight Carboxylic Acids

An improved class of alumoxanes and a method of synthesizing them have been invented. Alumoxanes are aluminum oxy hydroxide particles that have been modified with compounds containing carboxylic acid groups. For typical applications in which alumoxanes are required...

Briefs : Materials
NASA PS400 High-Temperature Solid Lubricant Coating

NASA has an ongoing need for high-temperature solid lubricant coatings to reduce friction and wear in turbine engines, rocket engines, and other mechanical systems. Such lubricants must be thermally and chemically stable in air, vacuum, and reducing environments like hydrogen. Traditional...

Briefs : Materials
Triple Orthogonal Disk Polymer Discrete Space for Cryogenic Feedline Insulation

NASA vehicles using cryogenic propellants and systems need improved cryogenic storage and transfer, including insulation for cryogenic transfer/feed lines. Wrapped multi-layer insulation (WMLI) is an innovative, next-generation, high-performance multilayer insulation...

Briefs : Materials
Compliant Electrode and Composite Materials for Piezoelectric Wind and Mechanical Energy Conversion

Thin film, piezoelectric materials generate a small voltage whenever they are deformed, suggesting that they are suitable for tapping energy from freely available resources, such as the wind. Yet their low-energy production levels and lack of...

Briefs : Materials
Development of a Novel, Regenerable Microlith Catalytic Reactor for CO2 Reduction via Bosch Process

Utilization of CO2 to produce life support consumables, such as water and oxygen, offers a potential advance for NASA’s cabin atmosphere revitalization system and in-situ resources utilization concepts for long-term manned space...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
3D Motor for Multi-Axis Attitude Control on SmallSats

Preliminary data was recently provided for a reaction sphere prototype on NASA’s zero-gravity parabolic flight vehicle. Gyroscope telemetry indicates that reaction spheres were successfully commanded at 10- to 20-ms pulses during a handful of parabolas in each flight. This is the first...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Nanosatellite Launch Adapter System

NASA has developed a Nanosatellite Launch Adapter System (NLAS) that maximizes the efficiency of satellite launch missions. NLAS increases access to space while simplifying the integration process of miniature satellites, called nanosats or CubeSats, onto launch vehicles. While a complete NLAS consists of an...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
James Webb Space Telescope Microshutters Subsystem Project Thermal Chamber Ground Support Equipment Automated Control

An automated control system for the microshutter assembly (MSA) portion of the JWST MSS (James Webb Space Telescope Micro shutters Subsystem) was developed. This is a cryogenic device that operates at 35 K. Cooling down and...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Visual Environment for Remote Virtual Exploration (VERVE) v2

VERVE is a 3D visualization system that provides situational awareness, science analysis tools, and data understanding capabilities for robotics researchers and exploration science operations. VERVE includes telemetry views that show remote system status, and can be extended to support...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Optimal Alarm System Design and Implementation

An optimal alarm system can robustly predict a level-crossing event that is specified over a fixed prediction horizon. The code contained in this package provides the tools necessary to design an optimal alarm system for a simple stationary linear dynamic system driven by white Gaussian noise.

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Mars Science Laboratory Flight Software for Autonomous Drilling

One of the goals of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is to collect powderized samples from the interior of rocks and deliver them to onboard science instruments. This goal is achieved using the algorithms and software that control the drill hardware to produce a system that...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Morpheus Lander Vehicle Simulation/Vehicle Flight Software

The Morpheus simulation is a suite of software models that simulates the performance of a lander vehicle. The specific vehicle is a terrestrial lander used as a “vertical test bed” platform for developing technology, and proving hardware and software systems for use in space...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Risk-Aware Mars Rover Operation Tool with Autonomous Terrain Classifier and Path Planner

The greatest single source of risks for Mars rovers is terrain. These risks are currently managed by a labor-intensive process in which rover operators carefully examine the terrain and plan a path to avoid any potential hazards. This poses a challenge,...

Briefs : Aerospace
Robust, Optimal Subsonic Airfoil Shapes

This invention relates to the design of optimal shapes of airfoils, such as turbine blades, operating in subsonic flow regimes. An airfoil, such as a propeller blade or a turbine vane or blade (collectively referred to herein as an “airfoil”), may be used in a variety of environments, including...

Briefs : Aerospace
Merging and Spacing Software in the ACES Simulation

Merging and Spacing (M&S) in ACES is a software product written in the Java programming language that adds scheduling and management of flights into and out of an airport for the Airspace Concepts Evaluation System (ACES) simulation. ACES is a systems-level simulation that portrays NAS-wide...

Briefs : Aerospace
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Integration into the National Airspace System

NASA and other organizations have invested heavily in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research. UAVs can be flown in the National Airspace System (NAS) today, but only with special permission from the Federal Aviation Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Integration into the National...

Briefs : Aerospace
Data Server for Real-Time Display Interface

The purpose of this software is to decouple display and data interface functions by developing a central data server. By using the centralized data server, flight displays can be easily transferred between simulators and research airplanes without having to reprogram flight display graphics. Therefore,...

Briefs : Aerospace
Aircraft Wing Flap Noise-Reducing Fins

Two different modifications have been developed for the edges of aircraft wing flaps to reduce noise. Reactive Orthotropic Lattice Diffuser (ROLD) is a modification that consists of a honeycomb-like, interconnected structure added to the region of the flap that experiences the highest degree of...

Briefs : Aerospace
Direct Multiple Shooting Optimization with Variable Problem Parameters

Solving complex trajectory problems optimally is of vital importance to the success of future aerospace programs. Trajectory optimization research has been divided into two main categories: indirect methods and direct methods. Both methodologies have been tested and...

Briefs : Aerospace
Constructing Composite Response Surfaces for Aircraft

The design of aerodynamic components of aircraft, such as wings or engines, involves a process of obtaining the optimal component shape that can deliver the desired level of component performance, subject to various constraints, e.g., total weight or cost. Aerodynamic design can be formulated...

Briefs : Communications
Mars Relay CubeSat

When NASA and other agencies send landers to Mars and other planets, they rely on existing orbiters to relay the data during the critical entry, descent, and landing (EDL) phase. The current orbiters are aging and there...

Briefs : Communications
Digitally Steered Phased Antenna Array for GPS Applications

GPS signals are sparse and weak at high altitudes above the GPS constellation; this includes GEO and HEO orbit regimes. Spacecraft operating here need a high-sensitivity receiver capable of acquiring and tracking these weak signals throughout their orbits. Most space GPS receivers are...

Briefs : Communications
Broadband Circularly Polarized Antenna Array for Mars Rover Direct-to-Earth Communications

Mars rovers and other landers typically use UHF relay to return their science and engineering data to Earth. Direct-To-Earth (DTE) communications are typically used for commanding. If future UHF relay capability becomes diminished, Mars landers may be...

Briefs : Communications
Robust, Low-Density Parity- Check Decoder Design to Mitigate Pulsed Radio Frequency Interference

Low-Density Parity-Check (LDPC) codes are a class of forward error correction (FEC) linear block codes that provide near-capacity performance for power-efficient communications. Optimum decoding requires accurate combining ratio estimation to scale...

Briefs : Software
Ensemble

Success in mission operations relies on achieving consensus amongst a wide variety of personnel with diverse backgrounds and education. Previously, NASA missions relied on disparate tools with a variety of inconsistent interfaces. These tools greatly influence how members of the mission communicate with each other, increasing confusion...

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