NASA research articles from Innovation Toronto
- ‘Deep Web Search’ May Help Scientists – May 24, 2015
- New spacesuit tech simulates gravity on a personal scale – May 12, 2015
- Ten-Engine Electric Plane Completes Successful Flight Test – May 6, 2015
- Warp Speed? NASA May Have Made a Breakthrough for Galactic Travel – May 2, 2015
- New Desktop Application Has Potential to Increase Asteroid Detection, Now Available to Public – March 23, 2015
- Looking at the Future Electric Aircraft – March 21, 2015
- New NASA Space Cowboy Successfully Deploys Its ‘Lasso’ – March 6, 2015
- Technology Innovations Spin NASA’s SMAP into Space – January 3, 2015
- Nasa emails spanner to space station – December 23, 2014
- Meet The “Swarmies”- Robotics Answer to Bugs – August 28, 2014
- NASA Engineer Set to Complete First 3-D-Printed Space Cameras – August 24, 2014
- Revolutionary Microshutter Technology Hurdles Significant Challenges – August 4, 2014
- Astronauts to Test Free-Flying “Housekeeper” Robots – July 21, 2014
- Space-tested Robot Inspires New Medicine and Manufacturing Uses – June 27, 2014
- First Broadband Wireless Connection…to the Moon?! – May 23, 2014
- Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt – May 13, 2014
- NASA and Planetary Resources Sign Agreement to Crowdsource Asteroid Detection
- NASA Kepler Results Usher in a New Era of Astronomy
- Esa and NASA Stumped by Cosmic Mystery
- NASA Wants An Open Competition for a Mars 2020 Rover
- NASA Rover Prototype Set To Explore Greenland Ice Sheet
- Detecting Heartbeats in Rubble: DHS and NASA Team up to Save Victims of Disasters
- NASA Spacecraft Embarks on Historic Journey Into Interstellar Space
- NASA visualizes asteroid capture plan
- After a Fire, Before a Flood: NASA’s Landsat Directs Restoration to At-Risk Areas
- NASA’s Quest for Green Rocket Fuel Passes Big Test
- NASA, Industry Test “3D Printed” Rocket Engine Injector
- NASA’s OPALS to Beam Data From Space Via Laser
- NASA’s Polar Robotic Ranger Passes First Greenland Test
- NASA’s NEXT ion thruster runs five and a half years nonstop to set new record
- NASA Announces Asteroid Grand Challenge
- NASA Tests Radio for Unmanned Aircraft Operations
- Why NASA Just Spent $125,000 To Fund A 3D Pizza Printer Prototype
- Google and NASA Snap Up Quantum Computer D-Wave Two
- NASA Successfully Launches Three Smartphone Satellites – Lowest Cost Satellites Ever
- NASA’s proposed asteroid-snaring mission would ride on Glenn ion engines
- NASA wants to tow an asteroid to the moon: senator
- Petitioners Urge White House to Reverse NASA Outreach Cuts
- NASA’s First Laser Communication System Integrated, Ready for Launch
- How NASA’s Giant New Space Telescope Will Make Life On Earth Better
- NASA announces new CubeSat space mission candidates
- NASA Curiosity Rover Collects First Martian Bedrock Sample
- Robotic Satellite Servicing with NASA and CSA
- NASA Beams Mona Lisa to Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the Moon
- NASA’s NEXT ion thruster clocks up continuous operation world record
- NASA Investigates Use of ‘Trailblazing’ Material for New Sensors
- NASA’s Space Launch System Using Futuristic Technology to Build the Next Generation of Rockets
- NASA examines hybrid solar-electric propulsion for manned space missions
- NASA working on refueling satellites
- NASA’s Ironman-Like Exoskeleton Could Give Astronauts, Paraplegics Improved Mobility and Strength
- Warp drive looks more promising than ever in recent NASA studies
- NASA Starts Work on Real Life Star Trek Warp Drive
- An advance toward a flu-fighting nasal spray
- Aerospace Engineer’s Supersonic, Futuristic Flying Wing Design Wins Prestigious NASA Grant
- New NASA Mission to Take First Look Deep Inside Mars
- NASA’s ‘Mighty Eagle’ Robotic Prototype Lander Flies Again at Marshall
- The Inside Story on How NASA Invented Curiosity’s Insane Landing System
- NASA’s first new spacesuit in 20 years is its own airlock
- NASA is accepting proposals for the 2012 Summer of Innovation project
- NIKE, NASA Just Do It, Partner on Waste
- NASA investigates sending CubeSats to Phobos and back
- NASA’s AR headset lets pilots see through fog
- NASA and GM develop power-assisted Robo-Glove
- NASA begins Robotic Refueling Mission experiment
- The Miraculous NASA Breakthrough That Could Save Millions of Lives
- NASA aircraft inspires what could be the world’s first zero-gravity roller coaster
- NASA studying solar-electric propulsion for “space tugboat”
- Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS
- NASA charters suborbital research flights aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
- NASA announces world’s biggest-ever rocket to take man to Mars and beyond
- Google partners with NASA to sponsor Green Flight Challenge
- Nasal spray vaccine could prevent type 1 diabetes
- Invention of Effective Nasal Vaccines could be Possible
- NASA Light Technology Reduces Cancer Patients Painful Side Effects
- NASA’s Solar Shield to mitigate damage to power grid from solar storms
- Electric Icarus: NASA Designs a One-Man Stealth Plane
- NASA Puts the “Green” in Its Other Mission: Developing Revolutionary, Energy-Efficient Airplanes
- NASA Demonstrates Tsunami Prediction System
- James Cameron Sending 3-D Cameras to Mars with Next NASA Rover
- First images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
- NASA, GM Take Giant Leap in Robotic Technology
- Stellar deal: NASA awards $2 million to X PRIZE winners for helping develop a lunar lander
- Tech titans gather to make winners of the ‘Oscars of science’ into instant millionaires
- The secret beauty of the world wide web
- How Photon Torpedoes Will Mark An End To The Energy Crisis
- Sunfriend UV wristband encourages healthy sun exposure without sunscreen
- Futuristic water-recycling shower cuts bills by over $1,000
- This Starship Enterprise Of The Sea Will Launch Its Exploration In 2016
- The Future Of Collaboration Is About Looking Backwards
- My God, Man! XPRIZE Unveils Medical Tricorder Teams
- Historic Demonstration Proves Laser Communication Possible
- United Nations to Adopt Asteroid Defense Plan
- Intercepting asteroids to avoid Armageddon
- Stanford drones open way to new world of coral research
- UCSD students test fire 3D-printed metal rocket engine
- Fecal transplant pill knocks out recurrent C. diff infection, study shows
- Lasers key to UAH team’s asteroid defense system
- Nanoparticle vaccine offers better protection
- Ardulab provides open source platform for space experiments
- Scientists closer to universal flu vaccine after pandemic “natural experiment”
- Welcome To The Solution Economy
- Snake robot on Mars?
- Upgrade to Mars rovers could aid discovery on more distant worlds
- Space Laser To Prove Increased Broadband Possible
- From Cancer Treatment to Ion Thruster: The Newest Little Idea for Nanosat Micro Rockets
- SpiderFab: Process for On-Orbit Construction of Kilometer-Scale Apertures
- Space Station Astronauts to Test 3-D Printing in Microgravity
- 3-D Printing On Demand Is Now Available From Your Friendly Neighborhood Geek
- Sniffing Out New Strategies in the Fight against Alzheimer’s Disease
- Global Sea Level Rise Dampened by Australia Floods
- Electromagnetic space propulsion
- Spaceflight alters bacterial social networks
- Microsatellites: What Big Eyes They Have
- Robot Brain Surgery: Robot uses steerable needles to treat brain clots
- Global Water Shortages Grow Worse but Nations Have Few Answers
- Scientists Develop Early-Warning System for Alzheimer’s Disease
- Station Astronauts Remotely Control Planetary Rover From Space
- New Approach to Treating Venomous Snakebites Could Reduce Global Fatalities
- How Skype Became The Ultimate Free Teaching Tool
- Faster Than the Speed of Light?
- Power for seaports may be the next job for hydrogen fuel cells
- Hydrogen generators are being eyed as the key to a renewable energy future.
- Tooling Up for the World’s Largest Space Launch System
- Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover
- Satellites Show Shrinking Aquifers in Drought-Stricken Areas
- Hypersonic missiles: Speed is the new stealth
- Aging Mars rover makes new water discoveries
- Lasers Can Influence Cloud Formation and Thunderstorms in Lab, Experiment Shows
- Scientists Coax Brain to Regenerate Cells Lost in Huntington’s Disease in Mouse Model
- Solar-Powered Wheelchair Wins World Cerebral Palsy Day Competition
- Martian space flight: Red dreams
- Engineers Develop Skills for Future Flight Systems at ‘Rocket U’
- New Gene Therapy Shows Broad Protection in Animal Models to Pandemic Flu Strains, including the Deadly 1918 Spanish Influenza
- Scientists Refine Warp-Drive Concept Using Space-Time Distortion
- Study Demonstrates That Once-a-Day Pill Offers Relief From Ragweed Allergy Symptoms
- No-win situation for agricultural expansion in the Amazon
- Warp Speed, Scotty? Star Trek’s FTL Drive May Actually Work
- Climate change may be catastrophic to a third of all animals on Earth
- One order of steel; hold the greenhouse gases
- Study Demonstrates That Once-a-Day Pill Offers Relief From Ragweed Allergy Symptoms
- Getting 3-D Printing and Next-Generation Manufacturing to the Factory Floor
- Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars
- The Robot as Decider: Teaching computers how to learn
- Soyuz breaks speed record to ISS
- How To Fly To Mars And Beyond In Weeks Instead Of Months
- Housing on The Moon Could be Printed from Lunar Dust
- Breaking the final barrier: room-temperature electrically powered nanolasers
- VIDEO: The 16-Year-Old Who Created A Cheap, Accurate Cancer Sensor Is Now Building A Tricorder With Other Genius Kids
- Robot Space Plane Settles into Mystery Mission
- The nuclear reactor in your basement
- VIDEO: How To Kill An Asteroid? Get Out A Paint Spray Gun, Says Texas A&M Space Expert
- Influenza study: Meet flu virus’ new enemy
- Asteroid defence: The real star war
- How Silicon Valley Envisions The Future Of Health Care
- How to avert Armageddon
- Controlling a Virtual Spacecraft by Thought Alone
- Scientists Use 3-D Printer to Speed Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research
- This 3D-Printed Moon Base Might Be The Future Of Space Exploration
- What Is Geodesign and Can It Protect Us from Natural Disasters?
- Lawns Into Gardens
- Planetary Resources shows off full-scale asteroid mining prototype
- A plan to use enormous balloons to build inflatable space stations
- Breaking the Mold: Could Additive Manufacturing Resuscitate a Once-Proud U.S. Industry?
- Stanford researchers develop acrobatic space rovers to explore moons and asteroids
- New Frontier for Topics in Science: Social Media
- New LED lights to combat fatigue, rampant drug use on ISS
- Uploaded e-crews for interstellar missions
- Armchair Science: Bag and Tag Glowing Galactic Clouds
- Air Purifying Art: Edmonton International Airports Living Wall
- WSU researchers use 3-D printer to make parts from moon rock
- Medical Tricorder Will Measure Your Vital Signs In Seconds
- Researchers test novel power system for space travel
- Los Angeles-based startup finds breakthrough in battery power with Northwestern research
- Robots Assemble for Military’s $2 Million Challenge
- Bacterial spores could replace hypodermic needles for vaccinations
- Stop Building Bombs and Start Building Starships
- Out-Of-This-World Nanoscience: A Computer Chip That Can Assemble Itself?
- No magic show: Real-world levitation to inspire better pharmaceuticals
- Radiation-Enabled Computer Chips Could Lead to Low-Cost Security Imaging Systems
- Safe, Multi-functional Anti-inflammatory/Anti-allergic Drugs Developed by Hebrew University Research
- USAFA researchers take invention to zero-gravity
- This Toaster-Sized Box Detects Cancers and Infections Instantly
- Cloud Control Could Tame Hurricanes, Study Shows
- Space Elevator Project Shoots for the Moon
- Sending messages from Mars: Interplanetary broadband
- Greenland Sets New Summer Melt Record
- New Space-Age Insulating Material for Homes, Clothing and Other Everyday Uses
- Disruptions: Dining With Robots in Silicon Valley
- A statistical analysis shows how things really are heating up
- Can Electric Aircraft Take to the Skies?
- Closer to encounter
- VIDEO: Public Can Explore Time-Lapse Videos of Earth With New Tool From Carnegie Mellon and Google
- Future foods: What will we be eating in 20 years’ time?
- There’s Still Hope for the Planet
- VARIES project proposes antimatter starship mission
- Inflatable Spacecraft Heat Shield Set to Launch
- What It’s Like To Live In America’s Space Station Under The Sea
- Ethereal aerographite is lightest stuff ever made
- Fuel Cells
- Sentinel mission to place asteroid-hunting telescope into orbit around the Sun
- World Supersonic jet to fly London to Sydney journey in four hours
- Nano-Infused Paint Can Detect Strain
- Final Frontier Design creating budget space suit for private space industry
- Virgin Galactic Hits Milestone As Commercial Space Travel Rockets Toward Reality
- Is Earth Nearing an Environmental “Tipping Point”?
- A Mini Sub Made From Cheap Parts Could Change Underwater Exploration
- Games console technology to make space building blocks
- White House Petitioned to Make Research Free to Access
- Climate Armageddon: How the World’s Weather Could Quickly Run Amok
- More Than 150,000 Methane Seeps Appear as Arctic Ice Retreats
- Scotty Beam This Up: Bessel beam “tractor beam” concept theoretically demonstrated
- Mustafa’s Space Drive: An Egyptian Student’s Quantum Physics Invention
- Solar-powered Refrigerator
- A low-cost process for “growing” oxide ceramic coatings on metal parts
- A Meatpacking Plant Transformed Into A Vertical Farm
- Commercial space flight is a game-changer
- How Our Minds Have Been Reinvented by the Internet
- Sustainability Base
- Launch your own satellite for US$8000
- Workhorse Climate Satellite Goes Silent
- Is asteroid mining about to begin?
- Searching for aliens
- Supercomputers Can Save U.S. Manufacturing
- CFC Substitutes: Good for the Ozone Layer, Bad for Climate?
- Swiss satellite being sent to clean up the mess in outer space
- Space robot makes history by shaking astronaut’s hand
- Land and See: Infrared and 3-D Vision Systems Combine to Help Pilots Avoid Crash Landings
- Human Waste-Powered Robots May Be Future of Machines
- Digital system tracks patients from the inside out.
- Scanadu developing a real-life medical tricorder
- Faster forward: Imagining the future car of 2050
- Breakthrough technology enables 3D mapping of rainforests, tree by tree
- Game changer: how Kinect could run your home
- 2-Degree Global Warming Limit Is Called a “Prescription for Disaster”
- Plan to establish first lunar base and gas stations in space
- More Companies Bypassing Electric Grid Inefficiencies With Fuel Cells
- The first lab-grown hamburger will cost $345,000
- Are We Headed Toward The Space Age of Solar Power?
- Klingons take note – nanotubes could allow spaceships to disappear
- Algae experiment may be ‘game changer’
- Digital Merit Badges For Job Hunters
- Rising Air Pollution Worsens Drought, Flooding
- A Light Wave of Innovation to Advance Solar Energy
- SpaceX ‘Dragon’ Capsule Aims to Go to Mars
- Robots vs. Humans
- Biomimicry: Beaks on trains and flippers-like turbines
- Manned version of X-37 space plane in the works?
- Grow your own meat
- Major New Analysis Confirms That Global Warming Is Real
- First spectacular pics from largest, most powerful telescope ever
- Green Flight Challenge
- A classic invention
- Powered by Seaweed
- Using Open Innovation To Bring The Gulf Of Mexico Dead Zone Back To Life
- Young Entrepreneur Has A Better Idea. Now What?
- Aerogel: See-Through, Strong as Steel & Ligher than Air
- Harnessing Robots to Study Inaccessible Arctic
- Unmanned commercial spacecraft will soon begin making trips to the International Space Station
- e-Genius flies into the record books, averages 100 mph over 211 miles
- New MIT algorithm targets safer skies
- eGenius electric aircraft makes successful maiden flight
- Hydrogen generated from sunlight and ethanol
- Groundwater Depletion Is Detected From Space
- Autonomous Robots Made to Explore and Map Buildings
- In This Sky, the Planes Fly Alone
- Is There a Future for Airships?
- GigaPan Time Machine lets users travel through time – in digital images
- Professor earns award for invention that removes water contaminants
- Brazil Sharpens Its Eyes in the Sky to Snag Illegal Rainforest Loggers
- A record-making effort
- Paul Root Wolpe: It’s time to question bio-engineering
- Climate change and crop yields
- RoamEO GPS dog collar keeps track of wayward pets
- Can You See Me Now?
- ‘Time telescope’ speeds up optical transmission by 27 times
- Sail E-way: Spacecraft Riding the Solar Wind on Electric-Field Sails Could Cruise at 180,000 Kph
- DARPA Kickstarts Space Exploration with 100-Year Starship Project
- Affordable Orbital
- Solar sails pick up speed
- Asteroid Deflection: What If a Huge Asteroid Was Going to Slam Into Earth?
- Finding Water On The Moon Has Major Implications For Human Space Exploration
- Looking in the shadows
- Laser beams can now deliver energy to machines through thin air
- A Rocket For the 21st Century
- Scrubbing CO2 and sulfur from power plant emissions
- Building a Better Lithium Ion Battery
- Managing Scientific Inquiry in a Laboratory the Size of the Web
- The Earth Is Warming? Adjust the Thermostat
- Citizen scientists join the exoplanet hunt
- How Can Humanity Avoid or Reverse the Dangers Posed by a Warming Climate?
- An Answer to Green Energy Could Be in the Air
- One Giant Leap to Nowhere
- ‘Pocket airports’ would link neighborhoods by air
- Fly the eco-friendly skies
- Golfing Through the Stratosphere
- Sahara Solar Breeder Project aims to provide 50 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050
- Cadillac Aera and smart 454 take out LA Auto Show Design Challenge
- Asteroid Watch: Penny Wise and Pound Foolish?
- Beefier batteries – Monster power
- Real Skyscrapers: How Cities Affect the Path of Hurricanes
- Predictive Powers: A Robot That Reads Your Intention?
- The Coming Superbrain
- Space Adventures and Boeing team up for space tourism
- Astronaut airbags hold promise of a smooth landing
- Boeing Sugar Volt looks to the skies in the year 2035
- X PRIZE planned to help with BP oil spill clean up
- Earth-Like Planets May Be Ready for Their Close-Up
- Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday
- Solar Vaccine Refrigerator
- Undersea Forces from Hurricanes May Threaten Gulf Pipelines
- How Microbes Will Clean Up the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
- Drilling for Certainty
- Back off, asteroids–We’ve got nukes
- Take a Virtual Moonwalk for Science
- Cars and software bugs
- U.S. Could Eliminate CO2 Emissions from Coal in 20 Years
- Space Sailing
- The Rocket Experience
- First robotic underwater vehicle to be powered entirely by natural, renewable, ocean thermal energy
- China’s Cyberposse
- Dreaming the Possible Dream
- The Age of Impossible Numbers
- Managing Disasters With Small Steps
- Combating climate change by observing the Earth
- Satellites weigh California water
- Setting Boundaries: 10 Guidelines to Save Earth
- Virgin Galactic reveals SpaceshipTwo
- Cap and Fade
- Intergalactic Controversy
- Climate change cover-up? You better believe it
- Artificial satellites are helping farmers boost crop yields
- Setting Sail Into Space, Propelled by Sunshine
- New ideas for global health
- A prize for a moon lander will be won this month
- Scientists Identify Safe Limits for Human Impacts on Planet
- Wasted Space: U.S. Military Looking for Ideas on How to Curb the Threat of Orbiting Junk
- Superb vistas from reborn Hubble
- Green Power Takes Root in the Chinese Desert
- Mars Mission Could Ease Earth’s Energy Supply Crisis
- Satellite Used To Unearth Innovation In Crop Forecasting
- How To Deflect Asteroids And Save Earth
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- A Green Coal Baron?
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President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.
Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.
Working with the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), NASA is pioneering the development of tiny spacecraft made from a single silicon chip that could slash interstellar exploration times.
On Wednesday at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco, NASA’s Dong-Il Moon will present new technology aimed at ensuring such spacecraft survive the intense radiation they’ll encounter on their journey.
If a silicon chip were used as a spacecraft, calculations suggest that it could travel at one-fifth of the speed of light and reach the nearest stars in just 20 years. That’s one hundred times faster than a conventional spacecraft can offer.
Twenty years in space is still too long for an ordinary silicon chip, because in addition to the frailties it suffers on earth, such as swings in temperature, it is bombarded by radiation of very high energy. This radiation leads to the accumulation of positively charged defects in the chip’s silicon dioxide layer, where they degrade device performance. The most serious of the impairments is an increase in the current that leaks through a transistor when it is supposed to be turned off, according to Yang-Kyu Choi, leader of the team at KAIST, where the work was done. However, there are also other issues, such as a shift in the voltage at which the transistor turns on.
Two options for addressing chip damage are to select a path through space that minimizes radiation exposure and to add shielding. But the former leads to longer missions and constrains exploration, and the latter adds weight and nullifies the advantage of using a miniaturized craft. A far better approach, argues Moon, is to let the devices suffer damage but then to add a an extra contact to the transistors, and use this contact to heal the devices with heating.
“On-chip healing has been around for many, many years,” says Jin-Woo Han, a member of the NASA team. Milestones including the revelation in the 1990s— by a team at the National Microelectronics Research Centre in Cork, Ireland— that heating could drive the recovery of radiation sensors, and far more recently, heat-induced healing of flash memory by Macronix of Taiwan. The critical addition made now, Han says, is the most comprehensive analysis on radiation damage.
This study uses KAIST’s experimental “gate-all-around” nanowire transistor. Gate-all-around nanowire transistors use nanoscale wires as the transistor channel instead of today’s fin-shaped channels. The gate, the electrode that turns on or off the flow of charge through the channel, completely surrounds the nanowire. Adding an extra contact to the gate allows you to pass current through it. That current heats the gate and the channel it surrounds, fixing any radiation-induced defects.
Nanowire transistors are ideal for space, according to KAIST, because they have a relatively high degree of immunity to cosmic rays and because they are very small, with dimensions in the tens of nanometers. “The typical size for [transistor-dimensions on] chips devoted to spacecraft applications is about 500 nanometers,” says Choi. “If you can replace 500 nanometer feature sizes with 20 nanometers feature sizes, the chip size and weight can be reduced.” Costs fall too.
The gate-all-around device may not be that well known today, but production is expected to rocket in the early 2020s, when silicon foundries will use it in place of the today’s FinFET for producing circuits featuring transistors with gate lengths smaller than 5-nm.
KAIST’s has been used to form three key building blocks for a single-chip spacecraft: a microprocessor, a DRAM memory for supporting this, and a flash memory that can serve as a hard disk.
Repairs to radiation-induced damage can be made many times, with experiments showing that flash memory can be recovered up to around 10,000 times and DRAM returned to its pristine state 1012 times. With logic devices, an even higher figure is expected. These results indicate that a lengthy interstellar space mission could take place, with the chip powered down every few years, heated internally to recover its performance, and then brought back to life.
Adding a second gate for heating is not ideal, because it modifies chip design and demands the creation of a new transistor library, which escalates production costs. To address this, those at KAIST are investigating the capability of a junctionless transistor that heats the channel during normal operation when current flows through it. Separately, at NASA researchers are developing on-chip embedded microheaters that are compatible with standard circuits.
Cutting the costs of self-healing tech is critical to the future of the program. It will help to increase the appeal of the technology, which will require many more years of investment if the launch of the first silicon-chip spacecraft is to get off the ground.
Two proven technologies have been combined to create a promising new technology that could meet future navigational challenges in deep space. It also may help demonstrate — for the first time — X-ray communications in space, a capability that would allow the transmission of gigabits per second throughout the solar system.
The new technology, called NavCube, combines NASA’s SpaceCube, a reconfigurable and fast flight computing platform, with the Navigator Global Positioning System (GPS) flight receiver. Navigator GPS uses the GPS signal to enable on-board autonomous positioning, navigation, and timing even in weak-signal areas. Considered one of the enabling technologies on the agency’s flagship Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) mission, Navigator GPS recently was included in the Guiness World Records for the highest-altitude GPS fix.
“NavCube is more flexible than previous Navigators because of its ample computational resources. Also, because we added the ability to process modernized GPS signals, NavCube has the potential to significantly enhance performance at low, and especially, high altitudes, potentially even to the area of space near the moon and lunar orbits,” said Luke Winternitz, Navigator’s chief architect.
“This new product is a poster child for our research and development efforts,” added Peter Hughes, the chief technology officer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, whose organization funded the development of all three technologies and named the NavCube team as this year’s winner of his organization’s “Innovators of the Year” award. “Both SpaceCube and Navigator already proved their value to NASA. Now the combination of the two gives NASA another tool. Also, the possibility that it might help demonstrate X-ray communications in space — a technology in which we also have interest — is particularly exciting.”
This promising technology is slated to fly as one of several experiments on an external pallet to be deployed on the International Space Station in 2018. One NavCube unit will demonstrate its navigation and processing capabilities afforded by the merger of its technological parents, while the other could potentially provide precise timing data for an experiment demonstrating X-ray communications, or XCOM.
“A Match Made in Heaven”
As part of the potential XCOM demonstration, NavCube will drive the electronics for a device called the Modulated X-ray Source, or MXS, which generates rapid-fire X-ray pulses, turning on and off many times per second. These rapid-fire pulsations can be used to encode digital bits for transmitting data. It was developed as a testbed to validate NASA’s Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER, which primarily will study neutron stars and their rapidly spinning next-of-kin, pulsars, when it launches as an attached space station payload in 2017.
XCOM is one of two technology demonstrations that NICER Principal Investigators Keith Gendreau and Zaven Arzoumanian want to demonstrate with NICER. To demonstrate one-way XCOM, the team will install MXS on the experiment pallet where it will transmit data via X-rays to NICER’s receivers positioned 166 feet away on the opposite side of the space station truss.
NavCube’s job is to run MXS’s on-and-off switch, said Jason Mitchell, an engineer at Goddard who helped advance the MXS. Because NavCube combines SpaceCube’s high-speed computing with Navigator’s ability to track GPS signals, the team also wants to experiment with X-ray ranging, a technique for measuring distances between two objects.
“NavCube provided the best solution for running this experiment,” Mitchell said. “The combination of these powerful technologies was a marriage made in heaven.”
Although most of the technology is ready, the team still is seeking additional funding to complete a space-ready MXS, including its housing and high-voltage power supply. “We have most of the hardware, but need a little more support to complete the XCOM package,” said Jenny Donaldson, who is leading the development of the NavCube payload. “This is a great opportunity to demonstrate NavCube and, if all things go as planned, X-ray communications,” she said.
NavCube traces its lineage to two already proven technologies: SpaceCube 2.0 and Navigator GPS. SpaceCube 2.0, one in a family of onboard processors, is 10 to 100 times faster than more traditional flight processors. Having flown many times before, including on previous experiment pallets, SpaceCube now enjoys a growing list of customers, including future high-profile robotic-servicing missions.
The Navigator GPS Flight receiver was purposely designed to detect, acquire, and track faint GPS signals for NASA’s MMS mission. Navigator now is providing positioning information to the four spacecraft that must fly in a particular, high-earth flight formation to gather scientific data. Since MMS’s launch, Navigator has set records — an achievement recently acknowledged by the Guinness World Records for providing the highest-altitude GPS fix. At the highest point of the MMS orbit, Navigator has tracked as many as 12 GPS satellites. The team originally expected to detect no more than two or three GPS satellites.
Barry Geldzahler, chief scientist and chief technologist for NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) Program, who also provided additional funding for this project, saw the benefits this technology could bring to NASA early on.
“We knew that processing speed from SpaceCube and the tracking capability of Navigator could be a powerful combination,” said Geldzahler. “The next task was to figure out how to make it smaller and increase the sensitivity for more flexible mission applications.”
“At the time, we needed a more robust, re-programmable and extensible processing platform,” added Monther Hasouneh, NavCube’s hardware lead. “SpaceCube was already there. Furthermore, we figured that missions using SpaceCube 2.0 as a science data processor also could benefit from having a GPS receiver as a low-cost add-on,” he added.
Hasouneh and his team ported the Navigator software and firmware into the SpaceCube reprogrammable platform and developed a compatible GPS radio-frequency card — and in doing so, reduced Navigator’s size. The team also added new GPS signal capabilities and enhanced Navigator’s sensitivity to make it appropriate for a broader range of applications.
“Morphing” wing could enable more efficient plane manufacturing and flight.
When the Wright brothers accomplished their first powered flight more than a century ago, they controlled the motion of their Flyer 1 aircraft using wires and pulleys that bent and twisted the wood-and-canvas wings. This system was quite different than the separate, hinged flaps and ailerons that have performed those functions on most aircraft ever since. But now, thanks to some high-tech wizardry developed by engineers at MIT and NASA, some aircraft may be returning to their roots, with a new kind of bendable, “morphing” wing.
The new wing architecture, which could greatly simplify the manufacturing process and reduce fuel consumption by improving the wing’s aerodynamics, as well as improving its agility, is based on a system of tiny, lightweight subunits that could be assembled by a team of small specialized robots, and ultimately could be used to build the entire airframe. The wing would be covered by a “skin” made of overlapping pieces that might resemble scales or feathers.
The new concept is described in the journal Soft Robotics, in a paper by Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA); Benjamin Jenett, a CBA graduate student; Kenneth Cheung PhD ’12, a CBA alumnus and NASA research scientist; and four others.
A test version of the deformable wing designed by the MIT and NASA researchers is shown undergoing its twisting motions, which could replace the need for separate, hinged panels for controlling a plane’s motion. (Kenneth Cheung/NASA)
Researchers have been trying for many years to achieve a reliable way of deforming wings as a substitute for the conventional, separate, moving surfaces, but all those efforts “have had little practical impact,” Gershenfeld says. The biggest problem was that most of these attempts relied on deforming the wing through the use of mechanical control structures within the wing, but these structures tended to be so heavy that they canceled out any efficiency advantages produced by the smoother aerodynamic surfaces. They also added complexity and reliability issues.
By contrast, Gershenfeld says, “We make the whole wing the mechanism. It’s not something we put into the wing.” In the team’s new approach, the whole shape of the wing can be changed, and twisted uniformly along its length, by activating two small motors that apply a twisting pressure to each wingtip.
This approach to the manufacture of aircraft, and potentially other technologies, is such a new idea that “I think we can say it is a philosophical revolution, opening the gate to disruptive innovation,” says Vincent Loubiere, a lead technologist for emerging technologies and concepts at Airbus, who was not directly involved in this research. He adds that “the perspectives and fields this approach opens are thrilling.”
Like building with blocks
The basic principle behind the new concept is the use of an array of tiny, lightweight structural pieces, which Gershenfeld calls “digital materials,” that can be assembled into a virtually infinite variety of shapes, much like assembling a structure from Lego blocks. The assembly, performed by hand for this initial experiment, could be done by simple miniature robots that would crawl along or inside the structure as it took shape. The team has already developed prototypes of such robots.
The individual pieces are strong and stiff, but the exact choice of the dimensions and materials used for the pieces, and the geometry of how they are assembled, allow for a precise tuning of the flexibility of the final shape. For the initial test structure, the goal was to allow the wing to twist in a precise way that would substitute for the motion of separate structural pieces (such as the small ailerons at the trailing edges of conventional wings), while providing a single, smooth aerodynamic surface.
Building up a large and complex structure from an array of small, identical building blocks, which have an exceptional combination of strength, light weight, and flexibility, greatly simplifies the manufacturing process, Gershenfeld explains. While the construction of light composite wings for today’s aircraft requires large, specialized equipment for layering and hardening the material, the new modular structures could be rapidly manufactured in mass quantities and then assembled robotically in place.
Side perspective of the test wing at Langley Research Center’s 12-Foot Low Speed Tunnel. (Kenneth Cheung/NASA)
Gershenfeld and his team have been pursuing this approach to building complex structures for years, with many potential applications for robotic devices of various kinds. For example, this method could lead to robotic arms and legs whose shapes could bend continuously along their entire length, rather than just having a fixed number of joints.
This research, says Cheung, “presents a general strategy for increasing the performance of highly compliant — that is, ‘soft’ — robots and mechanisms,” by replacing conventional flexible materials with new cellular materials “that are much lower weight, more tunable, and can be made to dissipate energy at much lower rates” while having equivalent stiffness.
Saving fuel, cutting emissions
While exploring possible applications of this nascent technology, Gershenfeld and his team consulted with NASA engineers and others seeking ways to improve the efficiency of aircraft manufacturing and flight. They learned that “the idea that you could continuously deform a wing shape to do pure lift and roll has been a holy grail in the field, for both efficiency and agility,” he says. Given the importance of fuel costs in both the economics of the airline industry and that sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, even small improvements in fuel efficiency could have a significant impact.
Wind-tunnel tests of this structure showed that it at least matches the aerodynamic properties of a conventional wing, at about one-tenth the weight.
The “skin” of the wing also enhances the structure’s performance. It’s made from overlapping strips of flexible material, layered somewhat like feathers or fish scales, allowing for the pieces to move across each other as the wing flexes, while still providing a smooth outer surface.
The modular structure also provides greater ease of both assembly and disassembly: One of this system’s big advantages, in principle, Gershenfeld says, is that when it’s no longer needed, the whole structure can be taken apart into its component parts, which can then be reassembled into something completely different. Similarly, repairs could be made by simply replacing an area of damaged subunits.
“An inspection robot could just find where the broken part is and replace it, and keep the aircraft 100 percent healthy at all times,” says Jenett.
Following up on the successful wind tunnel tests, the team is now extending the work to tests of a flyable unpiloted aircraft, and initial tests have shown great promise, Jenett says. “The first tests were done by a certified test pilot, and he found it so responsive that he decided to do some aerobatics.”
Some of the first uses of the technology may be to make small, robotic aircraft — “super-efficient long-range drones,” Gershenfeld says, that could be used in developing countries as a way of delivering medicines to remote areas.
“Ultralight, tunable, aeroelastic structures and flight controls open up whole new frontiers for flight,” says Gonzalo Rey, chief technology officer for Moog Inc., a precision aircraft motion-controls company, who was not directly involved in this work, though he has collaborated with the team. “Digital materials and fabrication are a fundamentally new way to make things and enable the conventionally impossible. The digital morphing wing article demonstrates the ability to resolve in depth the engineering challenges necessary to apply the concept.”
Rey adds that “The broader potential in this concept extends directly to skyscrapers, bridges, and space structures, providing not only improved performance and survivability but also a more sustainable approach by achieving the same strength while using, and reusing, substantially less raw material.”
And Loubiere, from Airbus, suggests that many other technologies could also benefit from this method, including wind turbines: “Simply enabling the assembly of the windmill blades on the spot, instead of using complex and fuel-consuming transport, would enhance greatly the cost and overall performance,” he says.
Learn more: A new twist on airplane wing design
A sensing technique that the U.S. military currently uses to remotely monitor the air to detect potentially life-threatening chemicals, toxins, and pathogens has inspired a new instrument that could “sniff” for life on Mars and other targets in the solar system — the Bio-Indicator Lidar Instrument, or BILI.
Branimir Blagojevic, a NASA technologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, formerly worked for a company that developed the sensor. He has applied the technology to create an instrument prototype, proving in testing that the same remote-sensing technology used to identify bio-hazards in public places also could be effective at detecting organic bio-signatures on Mars.
BILI is a fluorescence-based lidar, a type of remote-sensing instrument similar to radar in principle and operation. Instead of using radio waves, however, lidar instruments use light to detect and ultimately analyze the composition of particles in the atmosphere.
Although NASA has used fluorescence instruments to detect chemicals in Earth’s atmosphere as part of its climate-studies research, the agency so far hasn’t employed the technique in planetary studies. “NASA has never used it before for planetary ground level exploration. If the agency develops it, it will be the first of a kind,” Blagojevic said.
A Rover’s ‘Sense of Smell’
As a planetary-exploration tool, Blagojevic and his team, Goddard scientists Melissa Trainer and Alexander Pavlov, envision BILI as primarily “a rover’s sense of smell.”
Positioned on a rover’s mast, BILI would first scan the terrain looking for dust plumes. Once detected, the instrument, then would command its two ultraviolet lasers to pulse light at the dust. The illumination would cause the particles inside these dust clouds to resonate or fluoresce. By analyzing the fluorescence, scientists could determine if the dust contained organic particles created relatively recently or in the past. The data also would reveal the particles’ size.
“If the bio-signatures are there, it could be detected in the dust,” Blagojevic said
The beauty of BILI, Blagojevic added, is its ability to detect in real-time small levels of complex organic materials from a distance of several hundred meters. Therefore, it could autonomously search for bio-signatures in plumes above recurring slopes — areas not easily traversed by a rover carrying a variety of in-situ instruments for detailed chemical and biological analysis. Furthermore, because it could do a ground-level aerosol analysis from afar, BILI reduces the risk of sample contamination that could skew the results.
“This makes our instrument an excellent complementary organic-detection instrument, which we could use in tandem with more sensitive, point sensor-type mass spectrometers that can only measure a small amount of material at once,” Blagojevic said. “BILI’s measurements do not require consumables other than electrical power and can be conducted quickly over a broad area. This is a survey instrument, with a nose for certain molecules.”
With such a tool, which also could be installed on an orbiting spacecraft, NASA could dramatically increase the probability of finding bio-signatures in the solar system, he added. “We are ready to integrate and test this novel instrument, which would be capable of detecting a number organic bio-signatures,” Blagojevic said. “Our goal is increasing the likelihood of their discovery.”
Blagojevic hopes to further advance BILI by ruggedizing the design, reducing its size, and confirming that it can detect tiny concentrations of a broad range of organic molecules, particularly in aerosols that would be found at the ground level on Mars.
“This sensing technique is a product of two decades of research,” Blagojevic said, referring to the technology created by his former employer, Science and Engineering Services, LLC..
A satellite propelled by the Earth’s most abundant natural resource? Yes, it’s true.
Cislunar Explorers, a team of Cornell graduate and undergraduate students guided by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is attempting to boldly go where no CubeSat team has gone before: around the moon.
Not only is Peck’s group attempting to make a first-ever moon orbit with a satellite no bigger than a cereal box, made entirely with off-the-shelf materials, it’s doing so with propellant that you can obtain simply by turning on a faucet.
“This has a very important goal, and that is to demonstrate that you can use water as a propellant,” said Peck, who served as NASA’s chief technologist in 2012-13.
The Cislunar Explorers – cislunar means “between the Earth and the moon” – are in phase 3 of the four-phase Ground Tournament portion of the Cube Quest Challenge, sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Centennial Challenge Program.
The challenge is offering a total of $5.5 million to teams that meet the challenge objectives: designing, building and delivering flight-worthy, small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the moon.
So far, Cornell’s group has two top-three finishes, including a first-place finish in Ground Tournament 2 in the spring. Both finishes earned them cash prizes – $20,000 for GT-1, $30,000 for GT-2, all reinvested into the project – as well as the ability to continue in the competition.
The top three finishers will earn a ride on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in early 2018, to compete in either the Deep Space Derby or the Lunar Derby. Cornell’s team will compete in the latter, which focuses on propulsion for small spacecraft and near-Earth communications.
And while winning the competition is the team’s main objective, it’s not the only one, Peck said.
“Of course, we’d like to be the first CubeSat to orbit the moon,” he said, “but even if we don’t, if we can successfully demonstrate that water is all you need to travel in space, we’ve gone a long way toward achieving some important goals.”
Among them: Proving the ability to use resources available in space and ending our reliance on Earth-bound technologies to explore space further. “Massless” space exploration has been a goal of Peck’s for years.
“A lot of the mass we send into orbit these days is in the form of rockets – the only way we get anything into space,” Peck said. “But what if we could use what’s already there? If we could do that, if we could refuel spacecraft while they’re already in space, that means that we could go farther, probably faster, probably accomplish a lot more, and we wouldn’t rely on Earth for supplies.”
If all goes according to plan, the Cislunar Explorers’ CubeSat will take off aboard the SLS rocket and, somewhere between the Earth and moon, be jettisoned from the payload bay.
The satellite is actually two “L”-shaped halves, and they will split apart and gradually separate miles from each other, both on a course for the moon’s atmosphere. The twin satellites will spin as they go, their spin creating angular momentum – think a spinning top – that will help keep them from tumbling off course.
Cube Quest Challenge
Ground Tournament 3 Timeline
Sept. 21: Submissions due
Oct. 12-13: Face-to-face meeting with judges
Oct. 18: ‘Meet the Competition’ event
Oct. 24: Winner announcement
Ground Tournament 4 to end early 2017
Launch aboard NASA SLS (for top 3 in challenge) set for early 2018
With energy captured from the sun, water stored in tanks at the bottom of the “L” is electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen gases, which will combust in short bursts, 30 minutes to an hour apart, to provide propulsion. The spinning will also separate the liquid water from the combustible gases.
As the craft enters the moon’s gravitational pull, it will slow down and be swung into a distant Earth orbit, eventually reconnecting with the moon days later. It’s during this second rendezvous that Peck and his team plan for the satellite to be traveling slowly enough to be sucked into lunar orbit, some 6,200 miles above the surface of the moon.
In addition to the water-based propulsion, the other core technology to be demonstrated by the team is optical navigation, said project manager Kyle Doyle, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering.
According to Doyle, cameras onboard the craft will constantly take pictures of the sun, Earth and moon and compare their apparent sizes and separation with their ephemerides – where these bodies should be at the time the pictures were taken.
“Using fairly simple geometry, the spacecraft can say, ‘OK, I must be here, because these bodies look like this,’” Doyle said. “It’s very much like ancient explorers using the sun and moon to navigate. What’s old is new again.”
The competition is scheduled to end one year after the SLS launch.
“Even before the competition ends, I think we will already have been successful in another way – through bringing a number of students into this extraordinary experience,” Peck said. “Not many students get to launch their senior project, right?”
Following a key program review, NASA approved the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to proceed to the next phase of design and development for the mission’s robotic segment. ARM is a two-part mission that will integrate robotic and crewed spacecraft operations in the proving ground of deep space to demonstrate key capabilities needed for NASA’s journey to Mars.
The milestone, known as Key Decision Point-B, or KDP-B, was conducted in July and formally approved by agency management Aug. 15. It is one in a series of project lifecycle milestones that every spaceflight mission for the agency passes as it progresses toward launch. At KDP-B, NASA established the content, cost, and schedule commitments for Phase B activities.
Earlier this year, NASA updated the target launch date for the robotic mission to December 2021 in order to incorporate acquisition of the industry robotic spacecraft development into the project schedule. To reflect this new target date, the project’s cost cap was increased at KDP-B from $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion. This figure does not include the launch vehicle or the post-launch operations phase. The crewed segment, targeted for launch in 2026, remains in an early mission concept phase, or pre-formulation.
The robotic ARM will demonstrate advanced, high-power, high-throughput solar electric propulsion; advanced autonomous high-speed proximity operations at a low-gravity planetary body; controlled touchdown and liftoff with a multi-ton mass from a low-gravity planetary body, astronaut spacewalk activities for sample selection, extraction, containment and return; and mission operations of integrated robotic and crewed vehicle stack—all key components of future in-space operations for human missions to Mars.
During Phase B of the robotic mission, the program will develop a baseline mission design to meet requirements consistent with NASA’s direction on risk, cost and schedule, and will conduct an independent review of the baseline project design.
“This is an exciting milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission,” said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “Not only is ARM leveraging agency-wide capabilities, it will test a number of new technologies already in development.”
Completing KDP-B is a catalyst for increased external involvement in the robotic mission development, explained Michele Gates, program director for ARM at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“Since its early formulation, NASA has invited mission concept feedback and development ideas from the planetary science community, general public, U.S. and global industry, and international partners,” said Gates. “With KDP-B under our belt, ARM can now move forward to define partnerships and opportunities for long-term engagement.”
The robotic ARM project, led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will issue a request for proposals for the spacecraft to a set of aerospace companies that previously worked with the ARM robotic design team on a six-month study of spacecraft concepts to meet mission requirements. KDP-B serves as authority for JPL to proceed with the next procurement phase.
NASA plans to issue a solicitation in September that will include a call for partner-provided payloads on the robotic flight system. This call for partner-provided payloads is in addition to potential cooperation under discussion with the Italian Space Agency. NASA will provide spacecraft integration, power, data storage and communication capabilities for selected payloads, which the agency will choose based on contributions to both partner goals and ARM objectives, with consideration for those that may support risk reduction for the mission.
This solicitation also will include a membership call for an ARM Investigation Team, which will be a multidisciplinary group of U.S. industry, academia, government, and international members. The Investigation Team will operate on an initial three-to-five year term, providing technical expertise to the ARM robotic and crewed project teams.
The team will conduct analyses of spacecraft and mission design, and investigate concepts to support robotic mission objectives, including overall science, planetary defense, asteroid resource use, and deep-space capability demonstrations. Led out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the Investigation Team work will continue some of the research conducted by the ARM Formulation Assessment and Support Team, which helped define mission concepts and inform mission requirements and risks over a three-month period in 2015.
The robotic component of the ARM will demonstrate the world’s most advanced and most efficient solar electric propulsion system as it travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA). NEAs are asteroids that are fewer than 121 million miles (1.3 AU) from the sun at the closest point in their orbit. Although the target asteroid is not expected to be officially selected until 2020, NASA is using 2008 EV5 as the reference asteroid while the search continues for potential alternates.
A target asteroid such as 2008 EV5 is particularly appealing to the scientific, exploration, and industrial communities because it is a primitive, C-type (carbonaceous) asteroid, believed to be rich in volatiles, water, and organic compounds. The ability to extract core samples from the captured boulder will allow us to evaluate how its composition varies with depth and could unlock clues to the origins of our solar system. Astronaut sampling and potential commercial activities could indicate the value of C-type asteroids for commercial mining purposes, which in turn could have significant impacts on how deep space missions are designed in the future.
After collecting a multi-ton boulder from the asteroid, the robotic spacecraft will slowly redirect the boulder to an orbit around the moon, using the moon’s gravity for an assist, where NASA plans to conduct a series of proving ground missions in the 2020s. There, astronauts will be able to select, extract, collect, and return samples from the multi-ton asteroid mass, and conduct other human-robotic and spacecraft operations in the proving ground that will validate concepts for NASA’s journey to Mars.
It’s an age-old astronomical truth: To resolve smaller and smaller physical details of distant celestial objects, scientists need larger and larger light-collecting mirrors. This challenge is not easily overcome given the high cost and impracticality of building and — in the case of space observatories — launching large-aperture telescopes.
However, a team of scientists and engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has begun testing a potentially more affordable alternative called the photon sieve. This new-fangled telescope optic could give scientists the resolution they need to see finer details still invisible with current observing tools – a jump in resolution that could help answer a 50-year-old question about the physical processes heating the sun’s million-degree corona.
Although potentially useful at all wavelengths, the team specifically is developing the photon sieve for studies of the sun in the ultraviolet, the wavelengths needed to disentangle the coronal heating mystery. With support from Goddard’s Research and Development program, the team has fabricated three sieves and now plans to begin testing to see if it can withstand the rigors of operating in space — milestones achieved in less than a year. “This is already a success,” said Doug Rabin, who is leading the R&D initiative.
Variant of Fresnel Zone Plate
The optic is a variant of something called a Fresnel zone plate. Rather than focusing light as most telescopes do through refraction or reflection, Fresnel plates cause light to diffract — a phenomenon that happens when light travels through a thin opening and then spreads out. This causes the light waves on the other side to reinforce or cancel each other out in precise patterns.
Fresnel plates consist of a tightly spaced set of rings, alternatingly transparent or opaque. Light travels through the spaces between the opaque zones, which are precisely spaced so that the diffracted light overlaps and focuses at a specific point, creating an image that can be recorded by a solid-state sensor.
The photon sieve operates largely the same. However, the sieve is dotted with millions of holes precisely placed on silicon in a circular pattern that takes the place of conventional Fresnel zones.
The team wants to build a photon sieve at least three feet, or one meter, in diameter — a size they think could achieve up to 100 times better angular resolution in the ultraviolet than NASA’s high-resolution space telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
“For more than 50 years, the central unanswered question in solar coronal science has been to understand how energy transported from below is able to heat the corona,” Rabin said. “Current instruments have spatial resolutions about 100 times larger than the features that must be observed to understand this process.”
Rabin believes his team is well along the way in building an optic that can help answer the question.
Millions of Holes
In just a few months’ time, his team built three devices measuring three inches wide — five times larger than the initial 17-millimeter optic developed four years ago under a previous R&D-funded effort. Each device contains 16 million holes whose sizes and locations were determined by team member Adrian Daw. Another team member, Kevin Denis, then etched the holes in a silicon wafer to Daw’s exacting specifications using a fabrication technique called photolithography.
Team members Anne-Marie Novo-Gradac and John O’Neill have acquired optical images with the new photon sieves, while Tom Widmyer and Greg Woytko have prepared them for vibration testing to make sure they can survive harsh g-forces encountered during launch.
“This testing is to prove that the photon sieve will work as well as theory predicts,” Rabin said. Although the team has already accomplished nearly all the goals it set forth when work began late last year, Rabin believes the team can enlarge the optics by a factor of two before the end of the fiscal year.
But the work likely won’t end there. In the nearer term, Rabin believes his team can mature the technology for a potential sounding-rocket demonstration. In the longer term, he and team member Joe Davila envision the optic flying on a two-spacecraft formation-flying CubeSat-type mission designed specifically to study the sun’s corona.
“The scientific payoff is a feasible and cost-effective means of achieving the resolution necessary to answer a key problem in solar physics,” he said.
A lightweight telescope that a team of NASA scientists and engineers is developing specifically for CubeSat scientific investigations could become the first to carry a mirror made of carbon nanotubes in an epoxy resin.
Led by Theodor Kostiuk, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the technology-development effort is aimed at giving the scientific community a compact, reproducible, and relatively inexpensive telescope that would fit easily inside a CubeSat. Individual CubeSats measure four inches on a side.
Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA. These miniature satellites provide a low-cost platform for NASA missions, including planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities. They also allow an inexpensive means to engage students in all phases of satellite development, operation and exploitation through real-world, hands-on research and development experience on NASA-funded rideshare launch opportunities.
Under this particular R&D effort, Kostiuk’s team seeks to develop a CubeSat telescope that would be sensitive to the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelength bands. It would be equipped with commercial-off-the-shelf spectrometers and imagers and would be ideal as an “exploratory tool for quick looks that could lead to larger missions,” Kostiuk explained. “We’re trying to exploit commercially available components.”
While the concept won’t get the same scientific return as say a flagship-style mission or a large, ground-based telescope, it could enable first order of scientific investigations or be flown as a constellation of similarly equipped CubeSats, added Kostiuk.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was expanded to its full size at 4:10 p.m. EDT.
Expansion was completed as the International Space Station flew over the south Pacific at an altitude of 252 miles. The NASA and Bigelow Aerospace teams working with NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams will now begin the final step to open eight tanks of air stored within the BEAM to pressurize the module. NASA Television coverage continues and can be seen at http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams and the NASA and Bigelow Aerospace teams working at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center spent more than seven hours on operations to fill the BEAM with air to cause it to expand.
Williams opened the valve 25 times today for a total time of 2 minutes and 27 seconds to add air to the module in short bursts as flight controllers carefully monitored the module’s internal pressure. Time in between bursts allowed the module to stabilize and expand.
Scientists from Princeton University and NASA have confirmed that 1,284 objects observed outside Earth’s solar system by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft are indeed planets. Reported in The Astrophysical Journal on May 10, it is thelargest single announcement of new planets to date and more than doubles the number of confirmed planets discovered by Kepler so far to more than 2,300.
The researchers’ discovery hinges on a technique developed at Princeton that allows scientists to efficiently analyze thousands of signals Kepler has identified to determine which are most likely to be caused by planets and which are caused by non-planetary objects such as stars. This automated technique — implemented in a publicly available custom software package called Vespa — computes the chances that the signal is in fact caused by a planet.
The researchers used Vespa to compute the reliability values for over 7,000 signals identified in the latest Kepler catalog, and verified the 1,284 planets with 99 percent certainty. They also independently verified 651 additional planet signals that had already been confirmed as planets by other methods. In addition, the researchers identified 428 candidates as likely “false positives,” or signals generated by something other than a planet.
The surface of Mars – including the location of Beagle-2 – has been shown in unprecedented detail by UCL scientists using a revolutionary image stacking and matching technique.
Exciting pictures of the Beagle-2 lander, the ancient lakebeds discovered by NASA’s Curiosity rover, NASA’s MER-A rover tracks and Home Plate’s rocks have been released by the UCL researchers who stacked and matched images taken from orbit, to reveal objects at a resolution up to five times greater than previously achieved.
A paper describing the technique, called Super-Resolution Restoration (SRR), was published in Planetary and Space Science in February but has only recently been used to focus on specific objects on Mars. The technique could be used to search for other artefacts from past failed landings as well as identify safe landing locations for future rover missions.
It will also allow scientists to explore vastly more terrain than is possible with a single rover.