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 : Information Technology
Science Activity Planner for the MER Mission

The Maestro Science Activity Planner is a computer program that assists human users in planning operations of the Mars Explorer Rover (MER) mission and visualizing scientific data returned from the MER rovers. Relative to its predecessors, this program is more powerful and easier to use. This program...

 Briefs : Information Technology
UAVSAR Flight-Planning System

A system of software partly automates planning of a flight of the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) — a polarimetric synthetic-aperture radar system aboard an unpiloted or minimally piloted airplane. The software constructs a flight plan that specifies not only the intended flight...

 Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Templates for Deposition of Microscopic Pointed Structures

Templates for fabricating sharply pointed microscopic peaks arranged in nearly regular planar arrays can be fabricated by a relatively inexpensive technique that has recently been demonstrated. Depending on the intended application, a semiconducting, insulating, or metallic film could be...

 Briefs : Materials
Quench Crucibles Reinforced With Metal

Improved crucibles consisting mainly of metal-reinforced ceramic ampules have been developed for use in experiments in which material specimens are heated in the crucibles to various high temperatures, then quenched by, for example, plunging the crucibles into water at room temperature. A quench crucible of...

 Briefs : Materials
Adjustable Membrane Mirrors Incorporating G-Elastomers

Lightweight, flexible, large-aperture mirrors of a type being developed for use in outer space have unimorph structures that enable precise adjustment of their surface figures. A mirror of this type includes a reflective membrane layer bonded with an electrostrictive grafted elastomer...

 Briefs : Materials
High-Temperature Crystal-Growth Cartridge Tubes Made by VPS

Cartridge tubes for use in a crystal-growth furnace at temperatures as high as 1,600°C have been fabricated by vacuum plasma spraying (VPS). These cartridges consist mainly of an alloy of 60 weight percent molybdenum with 40 weight percent rhenium, made from molybdenum powder coated...

 Briefs : Materials
Hall-Effect Thruster Utilizing Bismuth as Propellant

A laboratory-model Hall-effect spacecraft thruster was developed that utilizes bismuth as the propellant. Xenon was used in most prior Hall-effect thrusters. Bismuth is an attractive alternative because it has a larger atomic mass, a larger electron- impact- ionization cross-section, and is...

 Briefs : Materials
Coated Glass for Transparent Heating Elements

Applying an electric current to specially coated glass results in radiant heat energy. This process creates a transparent heating element with near- uniform surface temperatures. Manufacturing the heating element requires an ordinary pane of float glass. A fluorine-doped tin oxide coating (SnO2:F)...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Deep-Sea Hydrothermal-Vent Sampler

An apparatus is being developed for sampling water for signs of microbial life in an ocean hydrothermal vent at a depth of as much as 6.5 km. Heretofore, evidence of microbial life in deep-sea hydrothermal vents has been elusive and difficult to validate. Because of the extreme conditions in these environments...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Mars Rocket Propulsion System

A report discusses the methane and carbon monoxide/LOX (McLOx) rocket for ascent from Mars as well as other critical space propulsion tasks. The system offers a specific impulse over 370 s — roughly 50 s higher than existing space-storable bio- propellants. Current Mars in-situ propellant production (ISPP)...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Two-Stage Passive Vibration Isolator

The design and testing of a structural system were implemented to hold the optics of the planned Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) at positions and orientations characterized by vibrational translation and rotation errors of no more than a few nanometers or a few milliarcseconds, respectively. Much of the...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Altimetry Using GPS-Reflection/Occultation Interferometry

A Global Positioning System (GPS)- reflection/occultation interferometry was examined as a means of altimetry of water and ice surfaces in polar regions. In GPS- reflection/occultation interferometry, a GPS receiver aboard a satellite in a low orbit around the Earth is used to determine...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Improved Thermal Design of a Compression Mold

A compression tool used to make 1-in. (2.5-cm) diameter disks of high-temperature polymers was designed to be shorter and of larger diameter than conventional tools to reduce heat loss to the surrounding air, thus making more efficient use of applied heat. This system is less sensitive to the amount...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Enhanced Pseudo-Waypoint Guidance for Spacecraft Maneuvers

An enhanced version of the scheme reported in “Pseudo-Waypoint Guidance for Proximity Spacecraft Maneuvers” (NPO-42753), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 6 (June 2007), page 73 was developed. To recapitulate: the scheme provides algorithms for guidance and control (G&C) of a...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Thermally Driven Josephson Effect

A concept is proposed of the thermally driven Josephson effect in superfluid helium. Heretofore, the Josephson effect in a superfluid has been recognized as an oscillatory flow that arises in response to a steady pressure difference between two superfluid reservoirs separated by an array of submicron-sized...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Determining Concentration of Nanoparticles From Ellipsometry

A method of using ellipsometry or polarization analysis of light in total internal reflection of a surface to determine the number density of gold nanoparticles on a smooth substrate has been developed. The method can be modified to enable determination of densities of sparse...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Gold Nanoparticle Labels Amplify Ellipsometric Signals

The ellipsometric method reported in the immediately preceding article was developed in conjunction with a method of using gold nanoparticles as labels on biomolecules that one seeks to detect. The purpose of the labeling is to exploit the optical properties of the gold nanoparticles in...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Perturbation Effects on a Supercritical C₇H₁₆/N₂ Mixing Layer

This report presents a computational-simulation study of effects of perturbation wavelengths and initial Reynolds numbers on the transition to turbulence of a heptane/nitrogen mixing layer at supercritical pressure. The governing equations for the simulations were the same as...

 Briefs : Information Technology
Schema for Spacecraft-Command Dictionary

An Extensible Markup Language (XML) schema was developed as a means of defining and describing a structure for capturing spacecraft command-definition and tracking information in a single location in a form readable by both engineers and software used to generate software for flight and ground systems. A...

 Briefs : Information Technology
Self-Adjusting Hash Tables for Embedded Flight Applications

A common practice in computer science to associate a value with a key is to use a class of algorithms called a hash-table. These algorithms enable rapid storage and retrieval of values based upon a key. This approach assumes that many keys will need to be stored immediately. A new set...

 Briefs : Information Technology
Efficient Algorithm for Rectangular Spiral Search

An algorithm generates grid coordinates for a computationally efficient spiral search pattern covering an uncertain rectangular area spanned by a coordinate grid. The algorithm does not require that the grid be fixed; the algorithm can search indefinitely, expanding the grid and spiral, as...

 Briefs : Information Technology
Algorithm-Based Fault Tolerance Integrated With Replication

In a proposed approach to programming and utilization of commercial off-the-shelf computing equipment, a combination of algorithm-based fault tolerance (ABFT) and replication would be utilized to obtain high degrees of fault tolerance without incurring excessive costs. The basic idea of...

 Briefs : Information Technology
Targeting and Localization for Mars Rover Operations

A design and a partially developed application framework were presented for improving localization and targeting for surface spacecraft. The program has value for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, and has been delivered to support the Mars Exploration Rovers as part of the latest version of...

 Briefs : Information Technology
Terrain-Adaptive Navigation Architecture

A navigation system designed for a Mars rover has been designed to deal with rough terrain and/or potential slip when evaluating and executing paths. The system also can be used for any off-road, autonomous vehicles. The system uses more sophisticated terrain analysis, but also converges to computational...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Combined GMSK Communications and PN Ranging

A document discusses a method by which GMSK (Gaussian minimum shift keying) modulation and a pseudonoise (PN) ranging signal may be combined. By isolating the in-phase and quadrature components after carrier lock, and extracting their low-pass and band-pass filtered components, there is enough...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Network-Attached Solid-State Recorder Architecture

A document discusses placing memory modules on the high-speed serial interconnect, which is used by a spacecraft’s computer elements for inter-processor communications, to allow all multiple computer system architectures to access the spacecraft data storage at the same time. Each memory board...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
System-Level Integration of Mass Memory

A report discusses integrating multiple memory modules on the high-speed serial interconnect (IEEE 1393) that is used by a spacecraft’s inter-module communications in order to ease data congestion and provide for a scalable, strong, flexible system that can meet new system-level mass memory...

 Briefs : Information Technology
An Efficient Reachability Analysis Algorithm

A document discusses a new algorithm for generating higher-order dependencies for diagnostic and sensor placement analysis when a system is described with a causal modeling framework. This innovation will be used in diagnostic and sensor optimization and analysis tools. Fault detection, diagnosis, and...

 Briefs : Materials
Method of Cross-Linking Aerogels Using a One-Pot Reaction Scheme

A document discusses a new, simplified method for cross-linking silica and other oxide aerogels, with a polymeric material to increase strength of such materials without adversely affecting porosity or low density. The usual process is long and arduous, requiring multiple washing...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Phase Matching of Diverse Modes in a WGM Resonator

Phase matching of diverse electromagnetic modes (specifically, coexisting optical and microwave modes) in a whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) resonator has been predicted theoretically and verified experimentally. Such phase matching is necessary for storage of microwave/terahertz and optical...

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