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 : Software
Cloud Computing for Science Data Processing in Support of Emergency Response

In a crisis, up-to-date information is one of the most important commodities for decision-makers. Remote sensing data have been instrumental in regional scale damage detection and recovery progress monitoring after significant disasters. However, using remotely sensed...

Briefs : Information Technology
Simulating Images of a Rising or Setting Sun

This software simulates Sun images observed on the ground and from space with an easy-to-use analytical approach and with high accuracy. It is a simple, analytical approach with the accuracy of a rigorous, multilayer model. The existing analytical approach cannot predict when the image of the Sun is...

Briefs : Software
Partition Level Application Test for Orion (PLATO)

For Orion Exploration Flight Test One (EFT-1), the unit-under-test for flight software verification has been chosen as the entire integrated flight software load. At the time of this reporting, the unit test tool, while powerful, operates on very small units, usually classes. This leaves a...

Briefs : Lighting
Gallium Nitride Nanowire Tips Function as LEDs

A team of researchers has demonstrated that atomic force microscope (AFM) probe tips made from its near-perfect gallium nitride nanowires are superior in many respects to standard silicon or platinum tips in measurements of critical importance to microchip fabrication, nanobiotechnology, and other...

Briefs : Lighting
New Technique Makes LEDs Brighter, More Resilient

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new processing technique that makes light emitting diodes (LEDs) brighter and more resilient by coating the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) with a layer of phosphorus-derived acid.

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Compact Active Vibration Control System

This innovation consists of an analog controller, diamond-shaped patch actuator, and point sensors (such as accelerometers). The actuator is designed to couple to the flexural response of the structure in the same manner as a group of point sensors. This results in a co-located transducer pair. The signals...

Briefs : Motion Control
Deep Throttling Turbopump

Advancement in space exploration necessitates deep throttling of liquid cryogenic rocket engines. Both lunar and Martian robotic and human exploration require engines that can be deep throttled,can start and restart, have a long life, and require minimal maintenance. An engine that is capable of deep throttling at low...

Briefs : Motion Control
Analyzing Rollover Stability of Capsules With Airbags Using LS-Dyna

As NASA moves towards developing technologies needed to implement its new Exploration program, studies conducted for Apollo in the 1960s to understand the rollover stability of capsules landing are being revisited. Although rigid body kinematics analyses of the rollover behavior...

Briefs : Motion Control
Test Fixture for Isolation of Vibration Shaker from G-Loading

The first step in implementing the capability to test sensitive launch vehicle instruments in a combined environment has been completed. The test environment consists of specific vibration spectra induced under sustained Gs, using NASTAR’s ATFS-400 centrifuge. Fixtures allow...

Briefs : Motion Control
Rotary Series Elastic Actuator

In order to perform human-like movement, an actuator is placed at each degree of freedom (DOF) in a humanoid robot. Additionally, these actuators must be packaged in an arrangement that approximates human structure and appearance. In this innovation, a rotary actuator assembly incorporates a brushless DC motor, a...

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...