Simulation Packages Expand Aircraft Design Options

NASA Technology

When engineers explore designs for safer, more fuel efficient, or faster aircraft, they encounter a common problem: they never know exactly what will happen until the vehicle gets off the ground.

“You will never get the complete answer until you build the airplane and fly it,” says Colin Johnson of Desktop Aeronautics. “There are multiple levels of simulation you can do to approximate the vehicle’s performance, however.”

altWhen designing a new air vehicle, computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, comes in very handy for engineers. CFD can predict the flow of fluids and gasses around an object—such as over an aircraft’s wing—by running complex calculations of the fluid physics. This information is helpful in assessing the aircraft’s aerodynamic performance and handling characteristics.

In 2001, after several years of development, NASA released a new approach to CFD called Cart3D. The tool provides designers with an automated, highly accurate computer simulation suite to streamline the conceptual analysis of aerospace vehicles. Specifically, it allows users to perform automated CFD analysis on complex vehicle designs. In 2002, the innovation won NASA’s Software of the Year award.

Michael Aftosmis, one of the developers of Cart3D and a fluid mechanics engineer at Ames Research Center, says the main purpose of the program was to remove the mesh generation bottleneck from CFD. A major benefit of Cart3D is that the mesh, or the grid for analyzing designs, is produced automatically. Traditionally, the mesh has been generated by hand, and requires months or years to produce for complex vehicle configurations. Cart3D’s automated volume mesh generation enables even the most complex geometries to be modeled hundreds of times faster, usually within seconds. “It allows a novice user to get the same quality results as an expert,” says Aftosmis.

Now, a decade later, NASA continues to enhance Cart3D to meet users’ needs for speed, power, and flexibility. Cart3D provides the best of both worlds—the payoff of using a complex, high-fidelity simulation with the ease of use and speed of a much simpler, lower-fidelity simulation method. Aftosmis explains how instead of simulating just one case, Cart3D’s ease of use and automation allows a user to efficiently simulate many cases to understand how a vehicle behaves for a range of conditions. “Cart3D is the first tool that was able to do that successfully,” he says.

At NASA, Aftosmis estimates that 300–400 engineers use the package. “We use it for space vehicle design, supersonic aircraft design, and subsonic aircraft design.”

Technology Transfer

To enable more use of Cart3D for private and commercial aviation entities, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at Langley Research Center provided funds to Desktop Aeronautics, based in Palo Alto, California, to build a plug-in to Cart3D that increases the code’s accuracy under particular flow conditions. Aftosmis says Desktop Aeronautics delivered valuable results and made Cart3D more applicable for general use. “Now they are bringing the product to market. This is something we never would have had the time to do at NASA. That’s the way the SBIR process is supposed to work.”

In 2010, Desktop Aeronautics acquired a license from Ames to sell Cart3D. The company further enhanced the software by making it cross-platform, incorporated a graphical user interface, and added specialized features to enable extra computation for the analysis of airplanes with engines and exhaust.

“I think it’s going to be game-changing for CFD,” says Aftosmis. “Cart3D is the only commercial simulation tool that can guarantee the accuracy of every solution the user does.”


Benefits

altToday, Desktop Aeronautics employs Cart3D in its consulting services and licenses the spinoff product to clients for in-house use. The company provides commercial licenses and academic licenses for research and development projects.

The software package allows users to perform automated CFD analysis on complex designs and, according to the company, enables geometry acquisition and mesh generation to be performed within a few minutes on most desktop computers.

Simulations generated by Cart3D are assisting organizations in the design of subsonic aircraft, space planes, spacecraft, and high speed commercial jets. Customers are able to simulate the efficiency of designs through performance metrics such as lift-to-drag ratio.

“It will assemble a spectrum of solutions for many different cases, and from that spectrum, the cases that perform best give insight into how to improve one’s design,” says Johnson. “Cart3D’s preeminent benefit is that it’s automated and can handle complex geometry. It’s blazing fast. You push a button, and it takes care of the volume meshing and flow measurement.”

Without building an aircraft, engineers can never be completely certain which design concept will perform best in flight. However, they now have a tool to make the most informed prediction possible.

[Source]

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Mars Cameras Make Panoramic Photography a Snap

Aside

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

The Gigapan robotic platform holds a digital camera.
The Gigapan robotic platform now enables photographers on Earth to capture and create super-sized digital panoramas.

If you wish to explore a Martian landscape without leaving your armchair, a few simple clicks around the NASA Web site will lead you to panoramic photographs taken from the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Many of the technologies that enable this spectacular Mars photography have also inspired advancements in photography here on Earth, including the panoramic camera (Pancam) and its housing assembly, designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Cornell University for the Mars missions. Mounted atop each rover, the Pancam mast assembly (PMA) can tilt a full 180 degrees and swivel 360 degrees, allowing for a complete, highly detailed view of the Martian landscape.

The rover Pancams take small, 1 megapixel (1 million pixel) digital photographs, which are stitched together into large panoramas that sometimes measure 4 by 24 megapixels. The Pancam software performs some image correction and stitching after the photographs are transmitted back to Earth. Different lens filters and a spectrometer also assist scientists in their analyses of infrared radiation from the objects in the photographs. These photographs from Mars spurred developers to begin thinking in terms of larger and higher quality images: super-sized digital pictures, or gigapixels, which are images composed of 1 billion or more pixels.

Gigapixel images are more than 200 times the size captured by today’s standard 4 megapixel digital camera. Although originally created for the Mars missions, the detail provided by these large photographs allows for many purposes, not all of which are limited to extraterrestrial photography.

Partnership

The technology behind the Mars rover PMAs inspired Randy Sargent at Ames Research Center and Illah Nourbakhsh at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to look at ways consumers might be able to use similar technology for more “down-to-Earth” photography and virtual exploration.

In 2005, Sargent and Nourbakhsh created the Global Connection Project, a collaboration of scientists from CMU, Google Inc., and the National Geographic Society, whose vision is to encourage better understanding of the Earth’s cultures through images. This vision inspired the development of their Gigapan products.

After seeing what the Pancams and PMAs could do, Sargent created a prototype for a consumer-version of a robotic camera platform. He worked with Rich LeGrand of Charmed Labs LLC, in Austin, Texas, to design and manufacture the Gigapan robotic platform for standard digital cameras.

Product Outcome

The Gigapan robotic platform is, in essence, an intelligent tripod that enables an amateur photographer to set up detailed shots with ease. A user sets the upper-left and lower-right corners of the panorama, and the Gigapan simply will capture as many images as the user or scene requires. With this level of automation, a 500-picture panorama is no more complicated than a 4-picture panorama; only the camera’s memory limits the size of the panorama.

The Global Connection Project also created two other Gigapan products: a Gigapan Web site and panorama stitching software born from the Ames Vision Workbench, an image processing and computer vision library developed by the Autonomous Systems and Robotics Area in the Intelligent Systems Division.

A high-resolution composite photograph shows a monk atop a temple in Nepal, the temple at a distance, and a restaurant behind the temple.
Gigapan allows a photographer to capture extremely high-resolution panoramas, which a user can explore in depth. In this wide view of Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal, it is possible to zoom all the way into the smallest, barely visible points in the picture, such as the monk standing on the roof of the temple or the sign above the Tibet Kitchen Restaurant and Bar.
Gigapan panoramic image courtesy of Jessee Mayfield.

The robotic platform works with the stitching software by precisely manipulating and aligning each shot ahead of time. The Gigapan software complements the robotic platform by arranging the parts of the panorama (potentially hundreds of individual photographs) into a grid where they are stitched together into a single, very large Gigapan image.

The Global Connection Project won a 2006 “Economic Development Award” from the Tech Museum Awards for its work in creating photographic overlays for Google Earth of areas affected by natural disasters. Government workers and concerned citizens used the images on Google Earth to see which areas needed help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.

On the Gigapan Web site, a user can display a wide bird’s eye panorama and can then zoom in with impressive bug’s eye high-quality detail. On first impression, a panoramic photograph on Gigapan’s site might seem to be simply a wide-angle cityscape of a temple in Kathmandu. With each successive click, however, the user can zoom deeper and deeper into the photo, revealing more and more clear details: a monk hanging prayer flags on the roof of the temple and the Tibet Kitchen Restaurant and Bar a few blocks behind the temple, with a sign extolling passersby to taste their gourmet food.

As part of a continuing effort to connect people and cultures, the Global Connection Project encourages all users to upload their own panoramas from around the world on the Gigapan site. Users can explore such varied landscapes as a temple in Nepal, the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, a market in Guatemala, or the Boston skyline from the Charles River. Because of the much greater number of pixels, the resolution is unprecedented; the Gigapan software and robotic platforms can theoretically produce prints on 40-foot-wide paper without any loss in quality.

Whether or not photographers use the Gigapan mounts and software, anyone can upload their panoramas to the Gigapan Web site. Many users of Gigapan have uploaded standard panorama photographs, as well (although the site suggests photographs be at least 50 megabytes). This is just fine with the Gigapan and the Global Connection Project coordinators, whose aim is simply to encourage exploration and understanding of the various cultures in our world.

The Fine Family Foundation is sponsoring work with the Global Connection Project to enable botanists, geologists, archeologists, and other scientists around the world to document different aspects of the Earth’s cultures and ecosystems using Gigapan technology. Scientists are using Gigapan to document life in the upper redwood forest canopy in California, volcanoes in Hawaii, and glaciers in Norway.

There are also educational uses for the Gigapan: The Pennsylvania Board of Tourism uses Gigapan for Web site visitors wanting to explore Civil War sites virtually. Also, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Global Connection Project has distributed Gigapan to students in Pittsburgh, South Africa, and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, encouraging them to photograph their local culture and share those panoramas with the world. “The hope is that students will be able to have deeper connections to other cultures,” said Sargent.

A time-lapse Gigapan robotic mount is now in development, and a professional unit for larger SLR-style cameras may be released before the end of 2008.

Gigapan is a trademark of Carnegie Mellon University.

Boosting NASA’s Budget Will Help Fix Economy: Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

ItsNeil

 Reinvigorating space exploration in the United States will require not only boosting NASA’s budget but also getting the public to understand how pushing the boundaries of the space frontier benefits the country’s innovation, culture and economy, said renowned astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Space is a $300 billion industry worldwide,” Tyson said. “NASA is a tiny percent of that. [But] that little bit is what inspires dreams.”

He spoke about how space has influenced culture — ranging from how the fins on early rockets inspired fins on automobiles in the 1950s, to how the Apollo 8 mission’s iconic picture taken in 1968 of Earth rising above the horizon of the moon led to a greater appreciation for our planet and the need to protect it. Yet, many people outside the space community see itas a special interest group, Tyson said.

“Innovation drives economy,” he said. “It’s especially been true since the Industrial Revolution.”

Tyson advocated doubling NASA’s budget — which President Barack Obama set at $17.7 billion in his 2013 federal budget request — and then laid out a different approach to space exploration that he called somewhat “unorthodox.” Rather than focusing on one destination at a time, Tyson promoted building a core fleet of launch vehicles that can be customized for a variety of missions and for a range of purposes.

“We’re kind of doing that now, but let’s do that as the focus,” Tyson said. “One configuration will get you to the moon. Another will get you to a Lagrangian point. Another will get you to Mars.”

Having an available suite of launch vehicles will open up access to space for a wider range of purposes, which will, in turn, benefit the country’s economy and innovation.

Tyson compared it with the country’s system of interstates, which helped connect cities across the country and made travel more efficient.

“When Eisenhower came back from Europe after he saw the [German] autobahn, and how it survived heavy climactic variation and troop maneuvers, he said, ‘I want some of that in my country,'” Tyson explained. “So he gets everyone to agree to build the interstate system. Did he say, ‘you know, I just want to build it from New York to L.A., because that’s where you should go?’ No. The interstate system connects everybody in whatever way you want. That’s how you grow a system.”

Furthermore, this type of capability can be used for a myriad of purposes, including military endeavors, science missions, commercial expeditions and space tourism.

“Whatever the needs or urges — be they geopolitical, military, economic — space becomes that frontier,” Tyson said. “Not only do you innovate, these innovations make headlines. Those headlines work their way down the educational pipeline. Everybody in school knows about it. You don’t have to set up a program to convince people that being an engineer is cool. They’ll know it just by the cultural presence of those activities. You do that, and it’ll jump-start our dreams.”

[Source]

NASA Invests in Hundreds of U.S. Small Businesses to Enable Future Missions

Recognizing the critical role of American small businesses and research institutions play as innovation engines for new space technologies that will enable future space exploration, NASA has selected 383 research and technology proposals for negotiations that may lead to contracts worth a combined $47.6 million.

The proposals, from 257 U.S. small businesses and 29 research institutions, are part of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.

“SBIR and STTR projects are at the foundation of America’s future in space and aeronautics,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Innovative ideas explored by our partners in industry and the broader U.S. research community help NASA execute our missions and bring new American products and services to the global technology marketplace. These job-creating NASA investments fuel the innovation engine these small businesses provide to our economy.”

Technologies funded by these NASA innovation programs may one day find their way into journeys across the solar system. NASA is funding proposals to enable in-space transportation for human and robotic missions; new ways to keep astronauts safe on their journey, and innovative ways to keep spacecraft systems fully operational.

Selected proposals also aim to enable landing on, traversing across, and eventually sampling the depths of asteroids, Mars or other distant destinations. Proposed new technologies will help NASA search the sky for planets outside our solar system and study the universe back to the beginning of time.

NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Program fund technologies used here on Earth as well. Projects will help to make entirely new generations of airplanes quieter and more efficient and air traffic management more capable. New space technologies will orbit the Earth, studying our atmosphere, our poles, our oceans, and even our sun, assessing the health of the planet and providing invaluable information about the impacts of climate change.

“These selections are part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate investment in new technologies that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep-space exploration,” Gazarik added. “Aligned with NASA’s Space Technology Roadmaps, the agency’s Space Technology Investment Plan and the National Research Council’s recommendations, these focused areas will assure we remain on the cutting edge of advanced space technology. SBIR and STTR technologies provide an early stage foundation across all our thrust areas.”

In November 2013 NASA issued two concurrent solicitations for Phase I proposals. A general solicitation for both SBIR and STTR sought Phase I proposals in response to a broad range of research topics. A second select solicitation for the SBIR program only focused on a small group of topics of particular interest to NASA.

The highly competitive programs are based on a three-phase award system. Phase I feasibility studies evaluate the scientific and technical merit of an idea. Phase I awards are for six months, and a maximum of $125,000. Firms successfully completing Phase I are eligible to submit a Phase II proposal, expanding on the results of the developments in Phase I. Phase III awards consider the commercialization of the results of Phase II and requires the use of private sector or non-SBIR federal funding.

For the general SBIR Phase I solicitation, NASA chose 315 proposals worth approximately $39.1 million. For the second select SBIR Phase I solicitation, NASA chose 36 proposals worth approximately $4.5 million. NASA chose 32 proposals with a value of approximately $4 million for STTR Phase I projects. The three solicitations attracted proposals from 37 states.

Selection criteria included technical merit and feasibility, along with experience, qualifications and facilities. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential and feasibility.

NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SBIR program for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. NASA’s 10 field centers manage individual projects. For more information about NASA’s SBIR program and a complete listing of selected companies, visit:

http://sbir.nasa.gov

The two innovative technology programs are part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. NASA’s investments in space technology provide the transformative capabilities to enable new missions, stimulate the economy, contribute to the nation’s global competitiveness, and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers. For more information about NASA’s investment in space technology, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

Circulation-Enhancing Device Improves CPR

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Ever stand up too quickly from a sitting or lying position and feel dizzy or disoriented for a brief moment? The downward push of Earth’s gravity naturally causes blood to settle in the lower areas of the human body, and occasionally, with a quick movement—such as rising swiftly from a chair—the body is not able to adjust fast enough to deliver an adequate supply of blood to the upper parts of the body and the brain. This sudden, temporary drop in blood pressure is what causes brief feelings of lightheadedness upon standing. In essence, when the heart pumps blood to different parts of the body, it is working against the physical phenomenon of gravity in its efforts to send blood up to the brain.

ResQPOD circulation-enhancing device
The ResQPOD is an impedance threshold device used to enhance circulation during CPR. It could be used to increase circulation for astronauts as their bodies initially adjust to a return to gravity from the weightlessness of space.

In more cases than not, the body is able to make the necessary adjustments to ensure proper blood flow and pressure to the brain; but when the disorientation lasts a long time and/or become chronic, individuals may have a condition called orthostatic intolerance. According to the American Journal of Physiology–Heart and Circulatory Physiology, an estimated 500,000 Americans are affected by orthostatic intolerance. Symptoms range from occasional fainting, blurry vision, and pain or discomfort in the head and the neck, to tiredness, weakness, and a lack of concentration. Though research indicates that the condition is not life-threatening, it could impact the quality of life and contribute to falls that result in serious injuries.

The condition is a prominent concern for NASA, since astronauts have to readjust to the gravitational environment of Earth after spending days in the weightlessness of space. NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has found that roughly 20 percent of astronauts coming off of short-duration space flights experience difficulty maintaining proper blood pressure when moving from lying down to either sitting or standing during the first few days back on Earth. The difficulties are even more severe for astronauts coming off of long-duration missions, according to the mission directorate, as 83 percent of these crewmembers experience some degree of the condition.

Cardiovascular experts at NASA have found that the blood that normally settles in the lower regions of the body is instead pulled to the upper body in the microgravity environment of space. Blood volume is subsequently reduced as some cardiovascular reflexes are no longer being used, and less blood flows to the legs. Additionally, the muscles weaken, especially in the lower portion of the body, because they are not working (contracting) as hard as they usually do. This is not so much a concern for the astronauts while they are in space, since the action of floating around takes the place of putting center-of-gravity pressure on their legs. (They do exercise strenuously while in microgravity, though, to keep their muscles and circulatory systems conditioned, thus preparing their bodies for the return to gravity as best they can.) When they return to Earth’s gravity, however, more blood returns to the legs. Since there is a lower volume of blood, the flow that is supposed to be traveling to the brain can be insufficient. That is when orthostatic intolerance can set in.

NASA has conducted and sponsored a wealth of studies to counter the effects of orthostatic intolerance, especially since the condition could prevent an astronaut from exiting a landed spacecraft in the event of an emergency. In one study conducted by Johnson Space Center’s Cardiovascular Laboratory, astronauts in orbit tested the efficacy of a drug called midodrine that has successfully reduced orthostatic intolerance in patients on Earth. The early results were promising, but further testing will be conducted by the laboratory before more conclusive results can be determined. In another study, the laboratory is using a controlled tilt test on Earth to replicate the body’s responses to a shift from reclining to sitting or standing.

At Ames Research Center, researchers are utilizing NASA’s 20-G artificial gravity centrifuge machine in a pilot study on cardiovascular responses and fluid shifts in the body. A separate Ames study is evaluating the possibility of expanding astronauts’ plasma volumes (the fluid part of the blood, minus the blood cells), as a preventative measure.

Patient receiving respiratory support
The ResQPOD increases circulation in states of low blood pressure. When used on patients in cardiac arrest, the ResQPOD harnesses the chest wall recoil after each compression to generate a small but critical vacuum within the chest. This vacuum enhances blood flow back to the heart and results in a marked increase in blood flow out of the heart with each subsequent chest compression.

In NASA-sponsored research at Vanderbilt University, researchers have successfully identified a genetic cause for orthostatic intolerance. The findings marked the first time a genetic defect had been linked to a disorder of the autonomic immune system, according to the discoverers, and could eventually lead to new drugs and treatments for the condition.

At Kennedy Space Center, a collaborative research effort with the U.S. Army and private industry has yielded an important application for a new, non-invasive medical device called ResQPOD that is now available for astronauts returning from space. In helping to reacquaint the astronauts with the feeling of gravity, ResQPOD quickly and effectively increases the circulation of blood flow to the brain. This device is also available to the public as a means to enhance circulation for breathing patients suffering from orthostatic intolerance and for non-breathing patients suffering cardiac arrest or other high-risk clinical conditions attributed to low blood pressure.

Partnership

Advanced Circulatory Systems Inc., of Minneapolis, collaborated with Kennedy and the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research for more than 5 years to develop ResQPOD. Don Doerr, an engineer at Kennedy, led the testing and development effort; Dr. Victor Convertino of the Institute of Surgical Research (and a former NASA scientist at Kennedy) also played an instrumental role in developing the technology.

Multiple clinical studies were conducted during the research effort, including six published studies. The published works demonstrate that ResQPOD offers a significant improvement in cardiac output and blood flow to the brain and in preventing shock in the event of considerable blood loss, when compared to conventional resuscitation. According to Advanced Circulatory Systems, data from the NASA studies played a major role in the company obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration 501K clearance for the device.

Dr. Keith Lurie, chief medical officer at Advanced Circulatory Systems and a primary member of the collaborative research effort, said, “The three-way partnership between NASA, private industry, and the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research is really a model for how organizations can work together to benefit both government programs and civilians.”

In 2006, Dr. Smith Johnston, the lead flight surgeon for NASA’s space shuttle missions, added ResQPOD to the list of medical equipment that is available for returning astronaut crews. The device was on hand for the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-115) on September 21, 2006.

“We’re excited that our devices were available to the medical team [for the STS-115 mission] and look forward to continued collaboration with NASA to assist its efforts to safeguard the health of the astronauts,” added Lurie.

Diagram showing blood flow to the heart during CPR
During the decompression (release) phase of CPR, an increase in negative pressure in the thoracic cavity results in drawing more blood back into the chest, providing greater venous return to the heart.
Diagram showing increased blood flow to the heart with ResQPOD
CPR delivers approximately 15 percent of normal blood flow to the heart. The ResQPOD doubles blood flow back to the heart.

Product Outcome

Manufactured commercially by Advanced Circulatory Systems and distributed by Sylmar, California-based Tri-anim Health Services Inc., the ResQPOD circulatory enhancer improves upon the standard of care for patients with a variety of clinical conditions associated with low blood flow. Advanced Circulatory Systems’ primary commercial focus, though, is on non-breathing patients who can benefit from enhanced circulation, such as those experiencing cardiac arrest.

According to the American Heart Association, about 900 Americans fall victim to sudden cardiac arrest every day, with approximately 95 percent dying before they reach the hospital. This is why cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can mean the difference between life and death, as increasing blood flow to the heart and brain until the heart can be restarted is critical to improving survival rates with normal neurological functioning.

ResQPOD is an American Heart Association-rated Class IIa impedance threshold device, meaning that it is the highest recommended “adjunct” in the association’s latest guidelines for CPR. As a Class IIa impedance threshold device, it also carries a higher recommendation than any medication used to boost circulation in adults suffering cardiac arrest, according to these guidelines.

Diagram showing blood flow to the brain during CPR
Improved venous return results in increased cardiac output during the subsequent compression phase of CPR, providing greater blood flow to the brain.
Diagram showing increased blood flow to the brain with ResQPOD
CPR delivers approximately 25 percent of normal blood flow to the brain. The ResQPOD delivers more than 70 percent of normal blood flow to the brain.

The device is about the size of a fist and can be affixed to either a facemask or an endotracheal breathing tube during CPR. It enhances the intrathoracic vacuum that forms in the chest during the chest recoil phase of CPR by temporarily sealing off the airway between breaths and preventing unnecessary air from entering the chest (timing-assist lights on the device will aid the rescuer in ventilating the patient at a proper rate). The vacuum that is created pulls blood back to the heart, doubling the amount of blood that is pulled back by conventional mouth-to-mouth/chest compression CPR, according to clinical studies, which also show that blood flow to the brain is increased by 50 percent. In sustaining proper blood flow to the heart and to the brain, ResQPOD increases the likelihood of survival and decreases the likelihood of neurological disorders.

ResQPOD is being used by emergency medical technicians in cities all around the country, including Boston, Houston, Indianapolis, Miami, and Oklahoma City, as well as Hartford, Connecticut; Kansas City, Missouri; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Toledo, Ohio. In some cities, it has reportedly increased the number of cardiac arrest patients delivered alive to the hospital by as much as 50 percent. At Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services (EMS), a large medical care organization serving more than 400,000 residents in the greater Houston area, ResQPOD has become a standard of care. Overall resuscitation rates climbed to nearly 50 percent since the organization began deploying the device in 2005, boosting hospital admission rates from 26 percent to an astounding 38 percent.

“These results are gratifying, and we applaud the entire Cypress Creek EMS organization for their advanced emergency medical service care and their ability to turn around the dismal statistics that surround cardiac arrest,” noted Advanced Circulatory Systems’ Lurie.

In its secondary commercial applications, Advanced Circulatory Systems is offering ResQPOD to improve circulation in patients suffering from orthostatic intolerance and general low blood pressure. These secondary uses also apply to individuals who undergo dialysis treatments and may experience a drop in blood pressure, as well as those who go into shock after severe blood loss.

Outside of the traditional hospital setting, the company is investigating the beneficial impact ResQPOD could have on wounded soldiers in the battlefield who may have lost a great deal of blood and are in danger of going into shock.

Advanced Circulatory Systems is also harnessing the physiological principles discovered during its research collaboration with NASA to develop another promising technology: an intrathoracic pressure regulator for patients requiring ventilation assistance because they are too sick to breathe on their own.

ResQPOD® is a registered trademark of Advanced Circulatory Systems Inc.

[Source]

Sensors Enable Plants to Text Message Farmers

NASA Technology

Long-term human spaceflight means long-term menu planning. Since every pound of cargo comes with a steep price tag, NASA has long researched technologies and techniques to allow astronauts to grow their own food, both on the journey and in some cases at their destination. Sustainable food technologies designed for space have resulted in spinoffs that improve the nutrition, safety, and durability of food on Earth.

There are of course tradeoffs involved in making astronauts part-time farmers. Any time spent tending plants is time that can’t be spent elsewhere: collecting data, exploring, performing routine maintenance, or sleeping. And as scarce as time is for astronauts, resources are even more limited. It is highly practical, therefore, to ensure that farming in space is as automated and precise as possible.

Technology Transfer

Sensors on a plant
By measuring electrical pulses, AgriHouse’s sensors can determine several characteristics important to plant health. The sensors can remain attached through wind and rain while leaving the plant unharmed.

In the early 2000s, a NASA cooperative agreement for developing hardware for biological experiments in space was made available to Hans Seelig, at the time a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder and an employee of BioServe Space Technologies, a nonprofit, NASA-sponsored research partnership center located at the university and at the time connected to the Space Product Development Office at Marshall Space Flight Center. As part of his research, Seelig studied the relationship between plant leaf rigidity and its water content, and whether such data could be directly measured using sensors. “No device was available that could measure leaf thickness continually, so I built a prototype sensor that measured thickness by way of electrical pulses,” he says.

Seelig hypothesized that sensor-based watering could eliminate a significant amount of guesswork in farming and free up time and resources that could be applied elsewhere. “Astronauts are not supposed to spend their days weeding, watering, and the like, so we wanted to investigate technologies that would make a closed ecological life support system more efficient.”

Following the cooperative agreement, Seelig looked to secure additional funding to move the technology forward. For help, he turned to Richard Stoner, an entrepreneur, inventor, and plant researcher who had partnered with BioServe in the past. Stoner’s previous NASA-related projects included an organic biopesticide suitable for space and aeroponic technology to grow plants without the use of soil (Spinoff 2006, 2008). The partnership between BioServe and Stoner’s company, Berthoud, Colorado-based AgriHouse Brands Ltd. resulted in an experiment to see whether the sensor could be used successfully to trigger automated irrigation. With the sensors, they grew healthy plants while reducing water use between 25 and 45 percent compared to traditional methods.

The next step in product development was to perform a field test on a large scale, which AgriHouse conducted in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture. Stoner says the test, though not terribly practical, proved effective: “We had to run thousands of feet of cable down the road and to each of the leaf sensors. It was a huge effort, but for the first time in human history, you had plants in a field telling the farmer how much water they had and when they needed more.”

Looking at the data, Stoner and his colleagues determined that the plants—irrigated using traditional methods—had actually received more water than was necessary. Stoner explains that in the West, farmers typically water their crops at certain set times throughout the growing season. “In our test, we set four watering dates, but what we discovered by looking at the data is that some rain that fell before one of those dates made the irrigation unnecessary. The plants simply didn’t need to be watered—though we couldn’t have known that without the sensors in place.”

Benefits

With the technology demonstrated, AgriHouse soon after commercialized the product and now sells several models of the sensor. Currently, its primary market is researchers and scientists. “This is a new, emerging science, and it’s still in its infancy,” says Stoner. “We’ve got a long way to go, but one day farmers will be able to pick up a pack of these devices like candy from a convenience store.”

AgriHouse’s line of patented leaf sensors are thin clips, smaller than a postage stamp, that easily attach to the plant, adhering to the leaf structure without damaging the leaf or falling off in the presence of natural movements, wind, or inclement weather. The sensors transmit data (either through a wire or using radio waves) on leaf turgidity, which indicates plant water levels as well as the plant’s general health.

Field where sensors were tested
In a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, AgriHouse conducted the first large-scale test of its leaf sensors on the field shown here. To Richard Stoner’s surprise, the plants were actually overwatered during the test—information that only came to light thanks to the sensors. The technology could have an impact in the West, where water use is closely monitored.

Right now the data is all transmitted to a user’s computer, and the system can send text messages calling attention to particular crops that need water. Stoner envisions text message alerts becoming a common tool among farmers in the future, which could be combined with precision irrigation systems to eliminate a large amount of guesswork.

Because the sensors’ primary commercial benefit is in preventing overwatering, Stoner says they would be especially useful in the West, where water is sometimes scarce and farmers rely on underground aquifers to meet their needs. “This technology has the potential to reduce water spending in agricultural applications substantially,” says Seelig, now a professor in Germany. “The importance of this becomes clear when one considers the relative scarcity of irrigation water in many places in the United States and worldwide. Imagine the reduction in consumption that would be possible if our greenhouse results were extrapolated to the rest of the world.”

The spinoff has also given Stoner an opportunity to work on the next generation of the technology with students at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. “These students are committed to finding the proper business models to make this NASA funded leaf sensor an economic reality,” he says, “and they’re very inspired by it.”

Students from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs have also partnered with AgriHouse; Mark Wickert, a professor at the university, says, “Students are happy to be contributing to the knowledge base of what NASA originally funded. They fully understand the implications of the leaf sensor technology in addressing the world’s food and fresh water problems.”

Whether or not AgriHouse’s sensors ever make it to low Earth orbit and beyond, this NASA-derived technology is likely to be employed on Earth to conserve resources, save money, and put farmers in closer contact with the crops they grow.

[Source]

Need an electronic timecard system? NASA has the code for you

Over the years, NASA has famously invented a number of technologies that have since entered into many of our everyday lives. For instance, NASA had a hand in the invention of insulin pumpsscratch-resistant lenses and memory foam(though not, despite what you may have heard, in the invention of Tang, Velcro or Teflon; it just helped make them popular). We may all soon benefit again from NASA brainpower thanks to the recent release of lots and lots of software code developed by and for the space agency.

 

Photo of the cover of NASA's 2014 Software Catalog

 

 

Last week, NASA’s Technology Transfer Program published its Software Catalog, which documents code for over 1,000 projects which is being made available to the public. The catalog documents what the code does, what (if any) restrictions are placed on it (some code is released to the general public, some for use by U.S. citizens only, some only for use on behalf of the government) and how to get it. In most cases, you can’t just download this code; you have to request access to it explaining what you plan to use it for.

Of course, you’re probably thinking, “Cool, but this doesn’t really affect me, since I’m not designing a spacecraft to go into orbit or to the moon.” While it’s true that lots of this code has to do with pretty NASA-y type of stuff like aeronautics, life support systems and propulsion (e.g. Advanced Ducted Propfan Analysis Code, which “solves tightly coupled internal/external flows through future-concept short-duct turbofan engines”) , there’s also quite a bit of other code that may be of interest to your business or for personal use. 

I took a spin through the catalog, which is currently only available in PDF form but will reportedly be made available via a searchable database and online repository, and identified some of the more mundane code that may actually be of use or interest.

Business Tools

Use these NASA-developed tools to help with the day-to-day tasks of running your company:

 

  • Electronic Timecard System – “The Electronic Timecard System can be utilized by any business or organization wishing to streamline its payroll department procedures. The automated system minimizes the consumption of paper and eliminates the need for weekly pick-up and delivery of time sheets. The tool also simplifies the daily recording of time worked by employees, and it allows employees to “sign” their “timecards” electronically at the end of each week. Supervisors can review an employee’s electronic timecards daily and sign them electronically.”

  • Goal Performance Evaluation System  – “The Goal Performance Evaluation System (GPES) is an innovative interactive software application that implements, validates, and evaluates an organization’s performance by the achievements of its employees. The tool has been used for strategic planning, employee performance management, and center-wide communication. The system is Web-based and uses a relational database to host information.

  • Can I Buy – “The Can I Buy tool automates processes used to request and approve procurements. The software allows registered users to create, submit, un-submit, and delete purchase requests. Different capabilities are provided depending on a person’s ‘role.’ Privileged roles include branch head, assistant branch head, secretary, resource analyst, credit card specialist, and tool administrator. Email is the medium of communication in the system.”

 

Developer/admin tools

Software developers and system administrators may find some useful tools in the catalog such as:

 

  • Ballast: Balancing Load Across Systems – “Ballast is a tool for balancing user load across Secure Shell Handler (SSH) servers. The system includes a load-balancing client, a lightweight data server, scripts for collecting system load, and scripts for analyzing user behavior. Because Ballast is invoked as part of the SSH login process, it has access to user names. This capability, which is not available in traditional approaches, enables Ballast to perform user-specific load balancing. In addition, Ballast is easy to install, induces near-zero overhead, and has fault-tolerant features in its architectures that will eliminate single points of failure.”

  • Multi-threaded Copy Program – “MCP is a high-performance file copy utility that achieves performance gains through parallelization. Multiple files and parts of single files are processed in parallel using multiple threads on multiple processors. The program employs the OpenMP and MPI programming models.”

  • NASA World Wind Java (WWJ) Software Development Kit (SDK) and Web Mapping Services – “NASA World Wind is an intuitive software application supporting the interactive exploration of a variety of data presented within a geospatial context. The technology offers a 3D graphics user experience with seamless, integrated access to a variety of online data sources via open-standards protocols.”

 

Fun stuff

NASA has developed some tools which may not be particularly useful to most of us, but which still sound like they’d be fun to tinker around with, such as:

 

  • Spacecraft Docking Simulation – “This simulation is a simplified version of the rendezvous and docking scenario performed by Space Shuttle astronauts docking at the International Space Station (ISS).”

  • NASA Forecast Model Web – “NFMW reads weather forecast models outputs; subsets the data to the region of interest; interpolates the data to the specified size; generates a visualization of the data using colors, contour lines, or arrows; and sends the visualization to the client.”

  • Station Spacewalk Game App – “This video game features simulations of Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) conducted by NASA astronauts on missions to the International Space Station.”

 

While none of the offerings in the catalog may have the impact of, say, cochlear implants, it seems like there are still useful nuggets here. Or maybe you just want to contribute back to NASA by helping them out with their code? Either way, take a look and have fun!

[Source]