Tech Briefs

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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
Compact, Lightweight Servo-Controllable Brakes

Compact, lightweight servo-controllable brakes capable of high torques are being developed for incorporation into robot joints. A brake of this type is based partly on the capstan effect of tension elements, which is described by the well known equation

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Robotic Arm Manipulator Using Active Control for Sample Acquisition and Transfer, and Passive Mode for Surface Compliance

A robotic arm that consists of three joints with four degrees of freedom (DOF) has been developed. It can carry an end-effector to acquire and transfer samples by using active control and comply with surface topology in a...

Briefs: Energy
Most wind farms consist of horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWTs), but an alternative paradigm for wind energy extraction is found in vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) designs. A single spatially-isolated VAWT has a significantly lower power coefficient.
Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
In recent years, better stabilizer formulations for ethylene vinyl-acetate have been developed, giving more confidence in the long-term stability of PV packaging materials. Because of this, some manufacturers have stopped using Ce-doped glass. National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers studied Ce-free glass.
Briefs: Physical Sciences

Sensors for monitoring surface wear and/or temperature without need for wire connections have been developed. Excitation and interrogation of these sensors are accomplished by means of a...

Briefs: Physical Sciences

The optical pointing sensor provides a means of directly measuring the relative positions of JPL’s Formation Control Testbed (FCT) vehicles without communication. This innovation is a steerable infrared (IR)...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping
Processing Nanostructured Sensors Using Microfabrication Techniques

Standard microfabrication techniques can be implemented and scaled to help assemble nanoscale microsensors. Currently nanostructures are often deposited onto materials primarily by adding them to a solution, then applying the solution in a thin film. This results in random...

Briefs: Physical Sciences
Radio-Frequency Tank Eigenmode Sensor for Propellant Quantity Gauging

Although there are several methods for determining liquid level in a tank, there are no proven methods to quickly gauge the amount of propellant in a tank while it is in low gravity or under low-settling thrust conditions where propellant sloshing is an issue. Having the...

Briefs: Physical Sciences

A high-temperature optical sensor (see Figure 1) has been developed that can operate at temperatures up to 1,000 °C. The sensor development process consists of two parts: packaging of a fiber Bragg grating...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers

A circuit topology has been designed to guarantee the output of intrinsically safe power for the operation of electrical devices in a hazardous environment. This...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers

Mechanical squeezing has been found to alter the frequency tuning of a whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) optical resonator that has an elliptical shape and is made of lithium niobate. It...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers
Configurable Multi-Purpose Processor

Advancements in technology have allowed the miniaturization of systems used in aerospace vehicles. This technology is driven by the need for next-generation systems that provide reliable, responsive, and cost-effective range operations while providing increased capabilities such as simultaneous mission...

Briefs: Software
Automated Computer Access Request System

The Automated Computer Access Request (AutoCAR) system is a Web-based account provisioning application that replaces the time-consuming paper-based computer-access request process at Johnson Space Center (JSC). AutoCAR combines rules-based and role-based functionality in one application to provide a...

Briefs: Software
Range Safety for an Autonomous Flight Safety System

The Range Safety Algorithm software encapsulates the various constructs and algorithms required to accomplish Time Space Position Information (TSPI) data management from multiple tracking sources, autonomous mission mode detection and management, and flight-termination mission rule evaluation....

Briefs: Software
Fast and Easy Searching of Files in Unisys 2200 Computers

A program has been written to enable (1) fast and easy searching of symbolic files for one or more strings of characters, dates, or numerical values in specific fields or columns and (2) summarizing results of searching other fields or columns. Intended for use in Unisys 2200-series...

Briefs: Software
Parachute Drag Model

DTV-SIM is a computer program that implements a mathematical model of the flight dynamics of a missile-shaped drop test vehicle (DTV) equipped with a multistage parachute system that includes two simultaneously deployed drogue parachutes and three main parachutes deployed subsequently and simultaneously by use of pilot...

Briefs: Software
Evolutionary Scheduler for the Deep Space Network

A computer program assists human schedulers in satisfying, to the maximum extent possible, competing demands from multiple spacecraft missions for utilization of the transmitting/receiving Earth stations of NASA’s Deep Space Network. The program embodies a concept of optimal scheduling to...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Modular, lightweight, fully equipped buildings comprising hybrids of rigid and inflatable structures can be assembled on Earth and then transported to and deployed on the Moon for use...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping
More About N₂O-Based Propulsion and Breathable-Gas Systems

A concept was evaluated of using nitrous oxide as (1) a monopropellant in thrusters for space suits and spacecraft and (2) a source of breathable gas inside space suits and spacecraft, both by exploiting the controlled decomposition of N2O into N2 and...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Ultrasonic/sonic rotary-hammer drill (USRoHD) is a recent addition to the collection of apparatuses based on ultrasonic/sonic drill corer (USDC). As described below, the USRoHD has several features, not...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Lunar Soil Particle Separator

The Lunar Soil Particle Separator (LSPS) beneficiates soil prior to in situ resource utilization (ISRU). It can improve ISRU oxygen yield by boosting the concentration of ilmenite, or other iron-oxide-bearing materials found in lunar soils, which can substantially reduce hydrogen reduction reactor size, as well as...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

The planned Mars Science Laboratory mission requires inlet funnels for channeling unconsolidated powdered samples from the sampling and sieving...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

The Picosat and Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Systems Engineering (PAUSE) project is developing balloon-borne instrumentation systems as aerobots for scientific exploration of remote planets and for...

Briefs: Materials
Exfoliated Graphite Nano-Reinforcements With Surface Modifications to Improve Dispersability

Exfoliated graphite nanoflakes are a potential low-cost source of nano-reinforcement for making polymer composites with unique properties. The chemical nature of the graphitic surface leads to a low-surface energy as produced. This makes the nanoflakes...

Briefs: Materials
MicroGel® for Passivation of Pigment Degradation

MicroGel® is a unique, highly porous xero-gel silica formed using sol-gel techniques. The starting materials used are designed per guidance from molecular dynamic calculations, and are made up of mixed alkali silicates rather than normally used single alkali silicates that are gelled with...

Briefs: Materials

A method was developed of synthesizing agglutinates as components of simulated Lunar regolith. The method is needed for further development of Lunar-exploration capabilities...

Briefs: Physical Sciences
Fuel-Cell Power Source Based on Onboard Rocket Propellants

The use of onboard rocket propellants (dense liquids at room temperature) in place of conventional cryogenic fuel-cell reactants (hydrogen and oxygen) eliminates the mass penalties associated with cryocooling and boil-off. The high energy content and density of the rocket propellants...

Briefs: Physical Sciences

In the polar regions of the Moon, some areas within craters are permanently shadowed from solar illumination and can drop to temperatures of 100 K or lower. These...

Briefs: Physical Sciences

With this high-resolution imaging radar system, coherent illumination in the 576-to-589-GHz range and phase-sensitive detection are implemented in an all-solid-state design based on...

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