Rover-Based Non-Prehensile Manipulation for Improved Mobility, Scientific Exploration, and Terrain Shaping on Planetary Surfaces, Phase Idata.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-07T17:42:32.000Z
<p>ProtoInnovations, LLC (PI) will research, design, develop, and validate advanced locomotion controls, rover-based non-prehensile manipulation (RNM) actions, and novel hardware/software architectures to allow rovers to alter the environment around them for the purposes of improving terrainability, aiding in scientific investigations, and accomplishing construction tasks. This work will require the development of analytical models for different rover configurations and different terrains. These models will give insight into the RNM capabilities of current NASA rover configurations, design considerations for future NASA rover configurations, and requirements for controllable RNM actions. Useful RNM actions will also be explored by considering the impact on NASA missions as well as their feasibility on current NASA rovers. Control strategies will then stem from analytical model research and RNM action definitions. Locomotion controls verification and validation will be done in simulation and on real NASA rovers in the field.</p> <p>Phase I will involve the research and development of the analytical models that inform RNM actions, control architecture conceptualization, and the implementation of a set of RNM actions both in simulation and on at least one NASA rover. Meeting these objectives will form deliverables that directly benefit NASA as well as mark significant progress in the overall project objective of enabling RNM actions for improved mobility, better scientific investigations, and new rover functions.</p>
Concept Study Report and Development Effort Proposal for "The Development of X-ray Grating Spectrometers for Future Missions"data.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-07T17:46:34.000Z
The major goal of this proposal is to develop X-ray reflection gratings for future NASA missions. Off-plane reflection gratings are an innovative technology that is capable of providing an efficient means of obtaining high resolution spectra at soft X-ray energies. Reflection gratings are currently employed in the XMM-Newton Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS) while the off-plane mount has been used in suborbital rockets, and studied for Explorer class missions such as the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium Explorer (WHIMEx) and future X-ray observatories such as the International X-ray Observatory (IXO), the Advanced X-ray Spectroscopic Imaging Observatory (AXSIO), and the Notional X-ray Grating Spectrometer (N-XGS). Future science goals require higher spatial resolution, higher spectral resolution, and higher throughput to perform the key plasma diagnostics. This translates to a spectral resolving power of 3000 (lambda/delta lambda) and effective area of 1000 cm^2 over a 0.3-1.5 keV energy range as appropriate performance requirements. An Off-Plane X-ray Grating Spectrometer (OP-XGS) can reach these goals when coupled with a large area, modest resolution telescope. Several spectrometer designs incorporating a ~5-15" telescope followed by an array of off-plane gratings dispersing light onto a CCD camera have been formulated during observatory program studies. We present here a course of effort designed to contribute toward the development of off-plane gratings technologies including fabrication, replication, alignment, and testing. Over the course of a 9 month Concept Study we have identified a novel fabrication technique that we plan to implement during the four year Development Effort. The result will be a high-fidelity off-plane grating capable of achieving the performance requirements of future X-ray missions. We plan to replicate these gratings, align them into a module mount, and performance test the assembly. This work will leverage heavily off of a current NASA Strategic Astrophysics Technology grant and will be critical to the technology development necessary for a recently awarded NASA suborbital rocket program.
- API data.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-07T17:39:46.000Z
<p>Future astrophysics missions require efficient, low-temperature cryocoolers to cool advanced instruments or serve as the upper stage cooler for sub-Kelvin refrigerators. Potential astrophysics missions include Lynx, the Origin Space Telescope, and the Superconducting Gravity Gradiometer. Cooling loads for these missions are up to 300 mW at temperatures of 4 to 10 K, with additional loads at higher temperatures for other subsystems. Due to low jitter requirements, a cryocooler with very low vibration is needed for many missions. In addition, a multi-stage cooler, capable of providing refrigeration at more than one temperature simultaneously, can provide the greatest system efficiency with the lowest mass. Turbo-Brayton cryocoolers have space heritage and are ideal for these missions due to negligible vibration emittance and high efficiency at low temperatures. The primary limitation in implementing Brayton cryocoolers at temperatures below 10 K has been the development of high efficiency turbines. On the proposed program, Creare plans to leverage recent developments in gas bearing technology and low-temperature alternators to realize a high-efficiency, low-temperature turbine. On the Phase I project, we will perform a proof-of-concept demonstration of the turbine technology at temperatures down to 4 K. On the Phase II project, we will build and demonstrate an advanced low-temperature turbine at temperatures of 4 to 10 K.</p>
- API data.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-07T17:42:05.000Z
<p style="margin-left:0in; margin-right:0in">Swarm robotics is one of the key enabling technologies for significantly extending mankind's reach beyond the Earth's surface. However, when bringing theory to practice, challenging problems related to the coordination and control of these swarms quickly arise. Vecna Robotics proposes a collaboration with MIT to extend existing autonomy behaviors and test platforms to address a class of planetary robotic operations involving heterogeneous teams of robots working together to accomplish a joint mission, with examples such as sample collection and mining. In these example applications, robots must perform coordinated task planning, operation, and execution while observing mission constraints that arise due to the asymmetric capabilities of the robot platforms. At pick-up and drop-off locations, there may be significant density of robots, requiring fast, real-time, coordinated motion planning to avoid collisions and achieve the desired behavior. To perform certain tasks, swarms of robots must localize relative to one-another to, for example, hold a formation while transiting from one task area to another.</p> <p style="margin-left:0in; margin-right:0in">The Vecna-MIT team will address these challenges by developing a system that both has high requirements for autonomy and can handle heterogeneous robot teaming. There are three key areas of work to achieve the goal: 1) develop functionality that can accept high-level goals and recruit agents to meet the goals, 2) implement a set of local platform autonomy behaviors that enable swarm-like functionality, and 3) implement a task-arbitration system that can switch between “swarm” behavior and more traditional autonomy. The proposing team will leverage their unique capabilities to provide limited testing of the swarm behaviors on existing test beds as part of the Phase I. The results of this work can contribute not only to NASA’s objectives but also in the defense, disaster-recovery, and commercial sectors as well.</p>
Towards Sub-mm Level Formation Knowledge and mm-Level Control of Distributed Spacecraft for Earth Remote Sensing Using Small Satellitesdata.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-05T23:05:08.000Z
<p>Task to research technologies enabling precision formation flight of small spacecraft in a fuel efficient manner. The task focuses on two key technologies, the first, is building more precise sensors for determining relative spacecraft position, the second, is to build novel Guidance Navigation and Control formation flight architectures.</p><p>This tasks matures two technologies needed for Earth sensing distributed spacecraft missions beyond 2025. The first is high performance inter-spacecraft positioning, time-transfer, and communications. The second is the guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) formation flight architectures to leverage this technology and demonstrate fuel-efficient yet precise LEO formation control. Relative Positioning with GPS/GNSS: Modify the miniaturized low-power GPS/GNSS space receiver (uGNSS), developed during a previous task, to demonstrate real-time relative positioning between two spacecraft to sub-centimeter level accuracy. This will be accomplished by passing GNSS carrier phase and range measurements via the inter-spacecraft link, using JPL’s Real-Time GNSS-inferred positioning system-x (RTGx) to solve for the inter-spacecraft baselines. Inter-Spacecraft: Ranging, Time Transfer, and Communication: Build a prototype dual-frequency transceiver with commercial off-the-shelve (COTS) components, demonstrating sub-mm relative positioning. This inter-spacecraft link will be used for precise ranging, time transfer, and communications between multiple spacecraft, leveraging software and algorithms developed for GRACE/GRAIL. Formation Flight: The objective of the formation flight (FF) sub-task is to develop prototype GNC architectures that enable economic missions. Through analysis, formation architectures will be assessed based on these new sensing capabilities. The study will directly apply the predicted performance of the inter-spacecraft ranging subsystem being developed in parallel.</p>
Development and Space Environmental Testing of a new Low-Cost Induction Magnetometer for Small Satellitesdata.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-05T23:07:02.000Z
<p>Science Goals and Objectives: A fundamental parameter of the Sun-Earth space environment is the magnetic field. The magnetic field of the Sun and Earth constrain the motion of the plasma and energetic particle environment, define different boundaries (shocks, discontinuities) and regions of the Sun-Earth system, and interact with the plasma environment through waves and magnetic reconnection to energize and interconnect the solar and terrestrial plasma environments. Small satellites, such as CubeSats, enable the development of future constellation missions that have scores of spacecraft. Recently “deep space” CubeSats have been proposed that could be used for a magnetosphere constellation mission to measure the structure of the Earth’s magnetotail to determine the spatial scale of phenomena such as bursty bulk flows, reconnection sites, the general convection patterns in the plasma sheet, and magnetic structures such as flux rope plasmoids. Such a constellation mission in combination with MHD models provide the first ever global time evolving vector field and streamline images of the magnetotail. In order to meet these science objectives low-cost, low-volume, low-mass and low-power vector magnetometers are needed on each spacecraft. These magnetometers will provide a snapshot of the global magnetotail magnetic field that can be used to identify magnetotail regions and energy state, provides crucial observations of signatures of dynamic processes such as magnetic reconnection, flux rope formation and evolution, magnetic flux convection, and the ULF wave environment. The magnetic field strength provides the information needed for calculations of the particle phase space density, plasma Beta, and Alfvén speed. Because of its importance for understanding essentially all of the outstanding questions in space physics and its importance for space weather predictions, essentially all future NASA Heliophysics missions require a vector magnetometer so this instrument development proposal would have broad impact. Methodology: To address the science requirements of future Heliophysics missions and to enable large scale-constellation missions, this proposal has a goal of reducing the cost (to $1000s of dollars), mass (order of 10 grams), volume (about 2 cm3) and power (< 100 mW) of traditional fluxgate magnetometers by an order of magnitude over those currently flown while having comparable precision, noise-level, linearity, and stability. The UM new digital induction magnetometer takes advantage of mobile phone magnetometer sensor development to reduce the mass, power consumption, and increase the radiation tolerance of the fluxgate magnetometer. The instrument does not use an A/D converter making it much more radiation tolerant than traditional fluxgate magnetometer designs. The commercial magneto-inductive magnetometer from PNI is modified and used with custom-built sensors to increase the sensitivity. In the new induction magnetometer, the magnetic field is measured by counting the time between flips of the magnetic induction of the circuit, which is dependent on the strength of the applied DC field [Leuzinger and Taylor, 2010]. One of the hidden costs of fluxgate magnetometers is the need for a boom. This drives up the complexity of the mission and adds significant mass due to cabling and the boom itself. By driving down the resource needs and cost of the magnetometer, a new approach can be incorporated in CubeSats that eliminates the need for a boom [e.g., Sheinker and Moldwin, 2015]. This approach places several magnetometers inside and on the bus to be able to identify spacecraft magnetic signals in the data so that the external field can be recovered with processing and careful magnetic cleanliness and characterization prior to launch.</p>
- API data.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-05T23:07:30.000Z
OBJECTIVES: A major challenge for infrared remote sensing instruments of cold outer solar system targets is simultaneously detecting surface composition as well as surface temperatures. For cold targets <200K, the weak solar insolation results in thermal emission being in the far-IR. Given compositional signature are sensed in mid-IR, the science instrument needs a broad spectral grasp extending to the far-IR. The instrument development proposed here will determine surface composition and temperature of cold targets by using two focal planes to measure simultaneously both the mid- and far-IR. The objective of the proposal is to develop to TRL 3 a versatile infrared imaging spectrometer, spanning the spectral wavelength range 7 to 50 µm, with spectroscopic measurements in the 7-14 µm range and radiometric band measurements spanning 7-50 µm. This instrument is ideal for missions to airless bodies, including but not limited to Triton on a future Neptune Flagship-class mission, Trojan Asteroids, Enceladus or Io New Frontiers class missions. This instrument will build on substantial existing heritage and investments at GSFC, including the Voyager IRIS, Cassini CIRS, and recently a Thermal IMager for Europa Reconnaissance and Science (TIMERS) concept developed under Instrument Concepts for Europa Exploration (ICEE). The proposed instrument development will provide NASA a cold target optimized thermal imaging spectrometer to study cryovolcanism, heat flow, composition, and terrain. The innovative dual-focal plane design provides simultaneous mapping at mid and far IR wavelengths. The baseline design uses a custom 4-line 32 thermopile pixel array and a 384x288 pixel microbolometer array. The instrument has the capability to resolve temperature contrast to an accuracy of better than or equal to 2 K for surface temperatures greater than 70 K. The instrument can also provide 7-14 µm spectra of the surface with a spectral resolution of 200-350. METHODOLOGY: The thermal imaging spectrometer proposed here will build on substantial work that has already been done at GSFC on thermal instruments. In particular, this proposal will develop the key measurement concept namely the thermopile focal plane, which measures thermal radiation with multiple channels from 7-50 µm and allows some light to pass into a optical backend that measures the spectra from 7-14 µm. This backend consists of an Offner spectrometer that incorporates a grating and images a slit onto a microblomter array. Designed for pushbroom operation, the spacecraft velocity will be used to map the surface. The project has a work plan to develop the instrument over 3 years to TRL 3. We will begin with optical, mechanical and focal plane subsystem development, and finish with fabrication of key components to demonstrate key elements and provide a proof of concept of instrument capabilities. RELEVANCE: The proposed instrument development project responds directly to the PICASSO goal “to conduct planetary and astrobiology science instrument feasibility studies, concept formation, proof of concept instruments, and advanced component technology development.” The specific missions that we are targeting are a Flagship-class mission – currently under study by the Ice Giants Science Definition Team – and also New Frontiers missions to Io, Enceladus and Trojan asteroids. We will achieve this goal through development of a proof of concept prototype. Through infrared thermal mapping of planetary surfaces, this instrument will directly address science questions raised in the 2013 Decadal Survey for Planetary Sciences.
Common and Configurable Flash LIDAR Sensor for Space-Based Autonomous Landing, Rendezvous, and Docking Missions, Phase Idata.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-07T17:39:35.000Z
<p style="margin-left:0in; margin-right:0in">NASA has identified Flash LIDAR as the key mapping, pose, and range sensor technology of choice for autonomous entry, decent, and precision landing (EDL) on solar system bodies and autonomous rendezvous and docking operations (RDO) for asteroid sample and return, space craft docking, and space situational awareness missions. Flash LIDAR sensors exploit the time of flight principle to produce real time scene range and intensity maps at video rates. Existing 3D Flash LIDAR sensors are custom-built for the specific mission. However, NASA has concluded that the majority of the Flash LIDAR emerging performance and size, weight, and power (SWAP) requirements for both of these mission sets are similar. This revelation provides the motivation to develop a common configurable Flash LIDAR sensor that can be tuned to the specific objectives and accommodation constraints for each mission. State of the art 3D Flash LIDAR Focal Plane Array (FPA) and laser advancements are needed to advance the common sensor architecture initiative. The goal of the proposed Phase I program is to identify feasible FPA and laser state of the art design and performance advancements which enable a subsequent Phase II common Flash LIDAR sensor demonstration</p>
- API data.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-05T23:05:20.000Z
<p>Develop the algorithms and prototype software for computing robust trajectory solutions that combines one-way onboard radiometric measurements with optical imagery that is part of autonomous navigation system for deep space exploration. With the advent of NASA's Deep Space Atomic Clock, operationally accurate and reliable one-way radiometric data sent from a radio beacon (i.e., a DSN antenna or other spacecraft) and collected using a spacecraft’s radio receiver enables the development and use of autonomous radio navigation. Autonomous navigation using NASA’s AutoNav software system (developed by JPL) has been a critical technology for many deep space missions, including Deep Space 1, Stardust, and Deep Impact. For these missions, autonomous navigation was conducted using passive optical imaging of nearby bodies with an on-board camera system. Optical data provides strong angular information about a spacecraft’s ‘plane-of-sky’ relationship to the object being imaged. Range (or ‘line-of-sight’) information, orthogonal to the plane-of-sky, is more difficult to determine from optical data due to parallax issues of observations taken from far distances. A more direct measure of line-of-sight is obtained with radiometric tracking of range and Doppler. These measurements compliment the optical data such that, when combined with optical, yield a more complete, almost kinematic, robust solution for a spacecraft’s absolute position in space. Indeed, the fusion of these two data types is central to an autonomous deep space navigation capability that will be needed for a wide range of future missions – examples include autonomous landings on small or large bodies, human asteroid and Mars explorations, and efficient navigation for future orbiters and interplanetary craft.</p><p>Space explorers – robotic or human - need to safely navigate the depths of the solar system with the tools available to them. They need reliable, abundant, and timely information telling them their trajectory so that they can plan an effective course. With both the number and complexity of robotic mission operations increasing, and the advent of solar system exploration by humans, there is a need to have robust, fault tolerant, on-board, and automated navigation. The DS-1, Deep Impact, and Stardust missions proved the viability of autonomous navigation, that was even mission critical for defined, short lived mission phases (i.e., chasing the impactor for DI, or comet flyby for Stardust). However, autonomous navigation has not become routine. It is not yet safe enough to ‘cut the cord’ with Earthly bound navigators - breakthroughs are required. Another benefit that could be realized with the deployment of reliable autonomous navigation is a significant reduction in DSN utilization via combining optical and radio (with DSAC) data thus reducing tracking requirements in cruise, and, at places such as Mars, taking full advantage of Multiple Spacecraft per Aperture for tracking.</p><p>This technology task is developing a new extensions to JPL’s AutoNav that will provide qualitatively new capabilities, crossing the threshold into the realm of reliable and safe on-board navigation by capitalizing on the technology advancement provided by DSAC for conducting one-way radio navigation. DSAC coupled with a capable radio (such as the Universal Space Transponder in development) solves the measurement problem – routine collection of Doppler and, with some enhancements to the DSN, range are now possible. However, AutoNav cannot yet process this data; enhancements to AutoNav’s measurement modeling, dynamic modeling, and state estimation capabilities are required. The requisite models exist today in JPL’s ground software, but these do not take into account the realities of an onboa
- API data.nasa.gov | Last Updated 2018-09-05T23:06:06.000Z
Many molecular species that compose the interstellar medium have strong spectral features in the 2-5 THz range, and heterodyne spectroscopy is required to obtain ~km/s velocity resolution to resolve their complicated lineshapes and disentangle them from the background. Understanding the kinetics and energetics within the gas clouds of the interstellar medium is critical to understanding star formation processes and validating theories of galactic evolution. Herschel Observatory’s heterodyne HIFI instrument provided several years of high-spectral-resolution measurements of the interstellar medium, although only up to 1.9 THz. The next frontier for heterodyne spectroscopy is the 2-6 THz region. However, development of heterodyne receivers above 2 THz has been severely hindered by a lack of convenient coherent sources of sufficient power to serve as local oscillators (LOs). The recently developed quantum-cascade (QC) lasers are emerging as candidates for LOs in the 1.5-5 THz range. The current generation of single-mode THz QC-lasers can provide a few milliwatts of power in a directive beam, and will be sufficient to pump single pixels and small-format heterodyne arrays (~10 elements). This proposal looks beyond the state-of-the-art, to the development of large format heterodyne arrays which contain on the order of 100-1000 elements. LO powers on the order of 10-100 mW delivered in a high-quality Gaussian beam will be needed to pump the mixer array – not only because of the microwatt mixer power requirement, but to account for large anticipated losses in LO coupling and distribution. Large format heterodyne array instruments are attractive for a dramatic speedup of mapping of the interstellar medium, particularly on airborne platforms such as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and on long duration balloon platforms such as the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory (STO), where observation time is limited. The research goal of this proposal is to demonstrate a new concept for terahertz quantum-cascade (QC) lasers designed to deliver scalable continuous-wave output power in the range of 10 to 100 mW or more in a near-diffraction limited output beam: a chip-scale THz quantum-cascade vertical-external-cavity-surface-emitting-laser (QC-VECSEL). We focus here on the development of a chip-scale version of size < 1 cm3 that oscillates in a single mode and can readily fit on a cold stage. The enabling technology for this proposed laser is an active metasurface reflector, which is comprised of a sparse array of antenna-coupled THz QC-laser sub-cavities. The metasurface reflector is part of the laser cavity such that multiple THz QC-laser sub-cavities are locked to a high-quality-factor cavity mode, which allows for scalable power combining with a favorable geometry for thermal dissipation and continuous-wave operation. We propose an integrated design, modeling, and experimental approach to design, fabricate, and characterize amplifying reflective QC metasurfaces and QC-VECSEL lasers. Demonstration laser devices will be developed at 2.7 THz and 4.7 THz, near the important frequencies for HD at 2.675 THz (for measurements of the hydrogen deuterium ratio and probing past star formation), and OI at 4.745 THz (a major coolant for photo-dissociation regions in giant molecular clouds). High resolution frequency measurements will be performed on a demonstration device at 2.7 THz will using downconversion with a Schottky diode sub-harmonic mixer to characterize the spectral purity, linewidth, and fine frequency tuning of this new type of QC-laser. This proposed laser is supporting technology for next-generation terahertz detectors.