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 : Physical Sciences
Mass Spectrometry of Spacecraft Contamination Using the Direct Analysis in Real-Time Ion Source

Mass spectrometry is presented as a powerful tool for the analysis of spacecraft contamination when coupled to the Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) ionization source. DART technology is based on soft ionization and desorption using metastable...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Application of a Physics-Based Stabilization Criterion to Flight System Thermal Testing

This innovation consists of a procedure and set of equations that allows thermal balance steady-state temperatures to be predicted hours before the balance is reached based on current temperature and rate-of-change measurements. This will allow tests to run...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Battery Fault Detection with Saturating Transformers

A monitoring network has been created that can be added to a battery consisting of many parallel cells. This network allows the health of individual cells, as measured by the current that they produce under load, to be monitored. If one or more cells are producing less current than the others,...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Digitally Controlled, 12-V Precision Current Source for Extreme-Temperature Operation

Many control applications require precision, high-voltage-capable stimulus current drivers for sensor excitation. In particular, a requirement for a stimulus driver that can be primarily integrated into a motor feedback signal conditioning ASIC (application...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Scandate Cathode for High-Power, Long-Life Electric Space Propulsion

Scandate cathodes are able to produce about 20 times the emission of conventional all-tungsten cathodes at the same temperature. Conversely, they operate at about 200 °C lower temperature for the same emission. Scandate cathodes have been studied since at least the 1960s....

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Hybrid Force/Stress Amplified Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting Transducer System

This innovation uses an active materials-based force-amplified mechanism and advanced piezoelectric materials for more efficient energy harvesting from mechanical shock and vibration. The harvested energy is stored in rechargeable batteries. The hybrid force/stress...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Improved Battery Health Monitoring

Battery health monitoring is an emerging technology field that seeks to predict the remaining useful life (RUL) of battery systems before they run out of charge. Such predictive measures require interpretation of large amounts of battery status data within a Bayesian prognostic framework.

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Space Modem GMSK Modulator

A high-rate GMSK (Gaussian Minimum Shift Keying) modulator was developed for space operation. Currently, multi-user modems are under development, and the GMSK modulator provides a way of packing more users within a space environment, especially for Mars exploration.

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Tailored 3D Fiber Architecture to Improve CVI Processing

An improvement has been made to the infiltration of 3D woven and 3D braided preforms that will lead to the manufacture of CMC (ceramic matrix composite) and C–C (carbon-carbon) composites based on 3D fiber architectures that have low residual porosity and smaller void sizes. Tailoring...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D Microwave Print Head System for Melting Materials

There is a need to develop an efficient method for processing lunar regolith in support of future missions to colonize the Moon. A system for heating lunar regolith (“moon soil”) using microwaves for processing has been developed. It relies on an enhanced heating effect based on a large...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Novel Chemistry for Deposition of MgF2 Thin Films

Magnesium fluoride (MgF2) thin films are useful for many different optics applications. In particular, they are useful for ultraviolet anti-reflective and protective coatings. However, in the far UV, one needs a very small, controllable amount of material to get the best optical...

Briefs : Materials
The Flexibility of ITO Films in Electronic Coating Applications

ITO is a doped metal oxide semiconductor that combines two properties that usually are mutually exclusive in most materials: optical transparency and electrical conductivity. It is critical to understand the importance of this combination of optical transparency and electrical...

Briefs : Materials
Electride Mediated Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy

A new sensor substrate supports Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy. A ceramic electride is demonstrated to provide surface enhanced Raman scattering. This provides a sensitive method for monitoring the chemistry and electronic environment at the electride surface. The electride, an ionic...

Briefs : Materials
Patterned Carbon Nanotube Arrays for Displays

Multi-colored electronic displays that are dynamically reconfigurable require substantial electrical power and are limited in the amount of fine detail provided by the physical size of the light sources. For example, where phosphor elements are used, as in a television screen or computer monitor, the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Pneumatic Sample Acquisition and Transfer System

Sampling, sample handling, and sample transfer to lander platforms of in situ exploration missions involve great technical challenges. These challenges are even harder to address when the planetary bodies have extreme environments. For example, Venus has an ambient temperature of around 460 °C,...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Brine Residual in Containment

Improvements in brine water recovery are critical to advancing NASA’s goals for human exploration of space. Water recovery systems must minimize the need for new supplies of clean water by closing the water loop. To accomplish this, water losses must be minimized or eliminated. A major loss of water is the brine...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Locking Orifice Retaining Nut

Fluid flow systems often require orifices to control pressure drop or flow rate. These orifices are often retained in bolted housings that require seals and introduce potential leak points into the system.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Hybrid Mechanical Electrostatic Actuator for Deformable Mirrors

A hybrid mechanical/electrostatic force actuator has been developed for use in deformable mirror applications. Some deformable mirrors, designed to correct errors in optical systems, use electrostatic forces between the flexible mirror surface and a backplane to control the shape of...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Reconfigurable Structural Joint

This technique allows for rapid joining of reconfigurable structures. Currently, permanent structural joints are made in factory settings or in situ. However, reconfigurable structures require appropriate structural joints that must be made in situ, and must join/disjoin without inflicting any damage on the...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Lithium-Ion Battery Technologies with High Energy Density

There is a need to advance the development of high energy density batteries, along with other efficient alternative energy sources. The need for batteries having a higher energy capacity, versus a lower weight, is simple to understand when stated in a battery’s Watt hour per kilogram...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Low-Cost Communications Concept for Smallsats: Opportunistic MSPA

Multiple Spacecraft Per Antenna (MSPA) techniques have been used for well over a decade to increase the efficient utilization of ground network assets while decreasing the antenna fees allocated to the missions. In the Deep Space Network’s traditional MSPA service, two missions...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Spatial Standard Observer

This invention relates to the devices and methods for the measurement and/or for the specification of the perceptual intensity of a visual image, or the perceptual distance between a pair of images. Grayscale test and reference images are processed to produce test and reference luminance images. A luminance filter...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Use of Selective Oxidation Catalyst for Amperometric Sensing Electrode

A modified oxidation catalyst material can be used to build a carbon-monoxide-sensing electrode for amperometric sensors to overcome the typical cross-sensitivity of these sensors toward hydrogen. The technology will have applications in the emerging hydrogen fuel cell...

Briefs : Software
NASA Experiment Designer: A Tool for Running Scientific Workflows

The NASA Experiment Designer (NED) is a client-server application that enables end-to-end support for driving long-running scientific computer simulations such as climate and weather models. The tool provides a friendly, single point of entry for configuring parameters associated...

Briefs : Software
SensorWeb Campaign Manager API Client

This software was designed to automate delivery of tasking requests to a central queue, enabling integrated observation scenarios across multiple assets. It is a JAVA code application that enables machine-to-machine access between a client platform and the Campaign Manager application program interface (API)...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Simple Subset Wizard

The Simple Subset Wizard (SSW) was developed for the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) to simplify the myriad ways of ordering or obtaining subsets of satellite data from EOSDIS’ different data centers. It provides a simple, coherent interface to a variety of subsetters at ten of the centers. The...

Briefs : Software
Kameleon-Plus: Data Access, Interpolation, and Fieldline Tracing Library for Space Weather Simulation Data

This library provides an abstraction layer that an end user can access, interpolate, and perform fieldline integration for space weather simulation data. Normally, accessing and interpolating space weather simulation data requires knowledge...

Briefs : Software
Software for Lossless Data Compression

Lossless data compression has been employed in space to reduce communication bandwidth requirements for onboard storage for more than 15 years. A widely used space compression standard is the recommendation published by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems (CCSDS). The standard describes a...

Briefs : Software
Asynchronous Message Service (AMS) Software Libraries

This software implements the protocols described in the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) publication CCSDS 735.1-B-1. The purpose of the protocols is to enable the exchange of messages among a group of applications. The protocols provide several mechanisms for message...

Briefs : Software
Software for Executing International Standard CCSDS 123B

Advanced remote-sensing instruments in recent years often employ multiple wavelengths for maximal science return. Many of them comprise hundreds to over a thousand spectral bands. These instruments multiply the data volume and stress the communication bandwidth. With previously deployed...

Technology Leaders