Special Coverage


Self-Healing Spacecraft Material Plugs Holes in Seconds

Although shields and sophisticated maneuvers could help protect space structures, scientists have to prepare for the possibility that debris could pierce a vessel. NASA and a team from the University of Michigan developed a new material that heals itself within seconds and could prevent structural penetration from being catastrophic.

Posted in: News, Coatings & Adhesives


Coming Soon - Development of Free Molecule Flow Equations from a Transient, Asymmetric Source

Molecular flow model is explored as a tool to describe an unusual variety of plume interaction issues. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland The analysis and simulation of gases expanding from sources such as rocket nozzles into vacuum, or the effects plumes from these sources create when they interact with solid surfaces, present a considerable challenge to the scientific and engineering communities. As a plume expands into vacuum, density levels, and hence collision rates, decrease rapidly by many orders of magnitude. The main difficulty lies in accurately describing a flow field extending from continuum flow at the nozzle exit, through the transition regime, and reaching free molecule behavior within a relatively short distance downstream. For thrusters, flow at the nozzle exit is usually characterized by high exit velocities and relatively high Mach numbers. Even in regions where significant intermolecular collision rates occur, relative velocity levels are low, and little thermal scattering occurs normal to the mainly radial streamlines. Such observations lead one to consider describing the expansion under certain circumstances using free molecule theory.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers


'Snap' Design Mimics Venus Flytrap

A team led by physicist Christian Santangelo at the University of Massachusetts Amherst uses curved creases to give thin shells a fast, programmable snapping motion. The technique – inspired by the natural "snapping systems" like Venus flytrap leaves and hummingbird beaks – avoids the need for complicated materials and fabrication methods when creating structures with fast dynamics.

Posted in: News, Joining & Assembly


Will elevators take us to the edge of space?

This week's Question: Last month, the Canada-based company Thoth Technology received a US patent for its 12-mile space elevator design. The elevator, enclosed in a tunnel, includes a landing pad on its roof. Spacecraft would refuel and take on passengers and cargo from the pad. Some of the elements of the elevator, however, have yet to be invented, including a tether cable that is lightweight and can withstand the tension of the lift technology. There is also concern about high winds and the possibility of the tower buckling under its own weight. What do you think? Will elevators take us to the edge of space?  

Posted in: Question of the Week


Walt Bruce, Convective Heating for Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters (CHIEFS) Senior Engineer and Anthony Calomino, Materials and Structures Engineer

After a 2013 wildfire led to the loss of 19 elite Arizona firefighters, Langley Research Center engineers, including Walt Bruce and Anthony Calomino, worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to see how NASA’s spacecraft thermal protection system could be used to create new emergency fire shelters on Earth.

Posted in: Who's Who


Depth-Sensing Camera Works in Bright Light and Darkness

A new imaging technology from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Toronto operates in both bright sunlight and darkness. A mathematical model programs the device so that the camera and its light source work together efficiently, eliminating extraneous light, or “noise,” that would otherwise wash out the signals needed to detect a scene’s contours.

Posted in: News, Detectors, Sensors


Crash Test Helps Improve Emergency Response

NASA’s Langley Research Center hoisted a Cessna 172 aircraft 100 feet into the air by cables and released it. The plane plummeted onto a slab of dirt in a violent but controlled experiment that will help NASA improve aviation emergency response times. The test is part of a push to bolster the reliability of emergency locator transmitters. The systems automatically alert rescue personnel in the event of an airplane crash.

Posted in: News