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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Swan Seal

This seal features dual sealing capabilities: a face seal and an axial seal. The name swan seal is derived from its cross section, which resembles a swan. Most injector designs require fuel to be delivered from an inlet fitting, through a feed arm, to the injector tip. Temperature variation from the inlet to the tip, from the cool fuel...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Piezoelectric Actuated Valve for Operation in Extreme Conditions

The extreme conditions on Venus (460 °C and 92 atm) prevent the use of any of the existing science instruments outside of the lander. To transfer a sample into the lander, a pneumatic mechanism was conceived that could bring sample powder into the lander. The mechanism is...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
A Field-Reconfigurable Manipulator for Rovers

Robotic technologies will be deeply involved in any future human mission to the Moon. Prior to human arrival, robots will survey and explore the lunar surface, establish infrastructure, and assemble and test habitat modules. Once humans have arrived, the robots must be able to assist human...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Lightweight, Flexible, Freezable Heat Pump/Radiator for EVA Suits

For space exploration missions that may require extended stays and extensive extra-vehicular activity (EVA) operations, the temperature control system must be lightweight, rugged, non-venting, and repairable in space.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Cryogenic Balloon End Fitting Seal

Typical lighter-than-air vehicles utilizing a superpressure design such as balloons, aerostats, or blimps, have one or more fittings attached to the gas containment skin that can serve as load attachment points or inflation/vent ports. These fittings are often sealed to the skin with a silicone gasket and a...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Advanced Composite Thrust Chambers for In-Space Propulsion

Radiation-cooled, bipropellant thrust chambers are being used for in-space propulsion. To increase the performance of radiation-cooled engines, improved chamber materials are needed that will allow higher operating conditions (pressure and temperature), better resistance to oxidation,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Integrally Woven Fiber Architecture for Composite Turbine Blades

Composite turbine blades are currently fabricated by laying up multiple layers of fibers in the form of either unidirectional prepregs or thin woven cloth. Composites formed in this manner have poor through-thickness strength. It is also difficult, if not impossible, to form...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Assembly and Packaging to Mass-Produce Carbon Nanotube Vacuum Microdevices and Circuits

Field-emission electron sources using carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are being targeted for low-power vacuum microelectronic applications for harsh-environment operation (high temperature, pressure, and corrosive atmosphere). While CNTs have demonstrated excellent...

Briefs : Materials
High-Efficiency, Easy-to-Manufacture Engineered Nanomaterials for Thermoelectric Applications

Stated generally, reducing the dimensionality of bulk-scale thermoelectric (TE) materials is theoretically and practically understood to be a viable route for maintaining/increasing phonon scattering, and maintaining/increasing electrical conductivity...

Briefs : Materials
Refractory Open-Cell Foam Fuel Matrix for High-Efficiency Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

A tricarbide foam fuel material has been developed that can operate at temperatures near 3,000 °C, without substantial hydrogen erosion, while providing highly efficient heat transfer to the coolant or propellant. A tricarbide foam fuel matrix of zirconium...

Briefs : Materials
Hydrazine Absorbent/Detoxification Pad

A new chemistry was developed for existing hydrazine absorbent/detoxification pads. Enhancements include faster reaction rates, weight reduction, a color change that indicates spill occurrence, and another color change that indicates successful hydrazine degradation. The previous spill control pad, using...

Briefs : Materials
Nanotechnology Approach to Lightweight, Multifunctional Polyethylene Composite Materials

Of several ideas being pursued by NASA for the reduction of radiation dosage to astronauts, the use of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)-based composite materials for both radiation shielding and micrometeorite shielding appears to be...

Briefs : Materials
Electrostrictive Polymers

A new class of electroactive polymeric blend materials has been created that offers both sensing and actuation dual functionality. The blend is comprised of two components where one has sensing capability, and the other has actuating capability. These innovative materials provide significant field-induced strain, high...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
COVE: A CubeSat Payload Processor

The COVE (CubeSat Onboard processing Validation Experiment) Payload Processor is JPL’s first on-orbit demonstration with the Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGA (field-programmable gate array). The electronics payload is designed to provide a platform for advanced data processing applications while conforming to CubeSat...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Dynamic Range Enhancement of High-Speed Data Acquisition Systems

The innovation is a technique to overcome hardware limitations of common high-speed data acquisition systems in order to be able to measure electronic signals with high dynamic range, wide bandwidth, and high frequency.

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
HALT Technique to Predict the Reliability of Solder Joints in a Shorter Duration

The Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) process subjects test articles to accelerated combined environments of thermal, dynamic, voltage, and current to find weak links in a given product design. The technique assesses fatigue reliability of electronic packaging...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
GaN Schottky Diode-Based Frequency Multiplier

State-of-the-art GaAs Schottky diode technology, which is being used for local oscillators (LOs) in heterodyne receivers and transmitters for radar applications, has limitations in terms of power-handling capabilities. That makes it difficult to generate necessary LO power to drive multi-pixel...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Steady-State Thermal Test Methodology

This innovation provides the following thermal properties data from a single steady-state test run: the effective thermal conductivity value (ke) for the full temperature difference, and multiple thermal conductivity values (λ) for intermediate temperatures. The test specimen (or material) is...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Silicon Carbide Power Processing Unit for Hall Effect Thrusters

A high-efficiency, rad-hard, 3.5-kW SiC power supply was developed for the power processing unit (PPU) of Hall effect thrusters. This work specifically targets the design of a PPU power supply for the HiVHAC (High Voltage Hall Accelerator) thruster. The PPU power supply under...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Intensity-Calibrated Hydrogen Flame Spectrum

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses large quantities of liquid hydrogen and has expended significant effort in the development, testing, installation, and maintenance of hydrogen fire detectors based on ultraviolet, near-infrared, mid-infrared, and/or far-infrared flame...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Exciting and Detecting Electromagnetic Energy in a High-Temperature Microwave Cavity

There is a need to perform accurate, high-temperature, complex dielectric constant measurements at microwave frequencies on materials, such as those on the surface of Venus (surface temperature 460 °C). One approach is to excite and detect a TE10n...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Hollow aErothermal Ablation and Temperature (HEAT) Sensor for Tracking Isotherm Through TPS Material

The Hollow aErothermal Ablation and Temperature (HEAT) sensor is a multifunction sensor designed to track an isotherm by making an independent transient measurement at a defined location in the sensor that is equal to the temperature at which its...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Hydrogen Measurement in a Cryogen Flow Stream Reduces Waste of Helium

The purpose of this research was to develop an improved method for measuring hydrogen concentrations in a cryogen flow stream to minimize helium waste during the purge process. Currently, this type of measurement is performed manually with a sniffer, and involves obtaining...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Noncontact DC and AC Magnetostrictive Current Sensor

At the time of this reporting, there have been no effective methods of monitoring current in conductors in space without breaking the circuit or making contact with the conductor. In space, reliability rules all designs, and breaking a circuit to insert a sensor to monitor current would reduce...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Method and Apparatus for Determining Propellant Mass in Microgravity by Capacitance Measurements

Propellant mass gauging in microgravity has posed a challenge for decades. Various methods have been applied, including ultrasonic, capacitance probes, point level sensors, thermal detectors (thermistors, thermocouples, etc.), Michelson...

Briefs : Information Technology
Computer Modeling for Generation of Synthetic Radio Reflection-Transmission Tomography (RRTT) Data

Numerical algorithms capable of generating synthetic radio tomography data (reflection transmission data) for asteroids, comets, and other near-Earth orbits (NEOs) were developed. Future missions to main asteroid belt objects, NEOs, and other small...

Briefs : Information Technology
Designing Planning Information for Automation into PRL

Automation and autonomy are key elements in realizing the vision for space exploration. The NASA Exploration Technology Development Program (ETDP) has been developing several core autonomy capabilities, one of which is called a procedure representation language (PRL). PRL can be...

Briefs : Information Technology
The OCO-2 Level 2 Retrieval Algorithm

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) strives for trace gas observations with unprecedented accuracy and precision. This requires a retrieval algorithm with many major improvements over existing retrieval software in the representation of the transfer of solar radiation through the atmosphere and instrument,...

Briefs : Information Technology
Ionospheric Slant TEC Analysis Using GNSS-Based Estimation (IonoSTAGE)

As signals emitted by global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) propagate toward users on or near the surface of the Earth, they experience delay due to the presence of charged particles in the ionosphere. Currently, ionospheric delay is the largest source of GNSS...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Preparation, Planning, and Concept Demo of a Technique to Find ≈7-to-10-m Near Earth Asteroids

A paper describes a new technique designed to increase significantly the sensitivity for finding and tracking small, dim, and fast-moving near Earth asteroids (NEAs). The technique relies on a combined use of a novel data processing approach and a...

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