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NASA ICB 2000 Awards

Invention of the Year Awards for 2000

The Optical Fiber Cable Chemical Stripping Fixture invented by John Kolasinski and Alexander Coleman, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, has been selected as the winner of the NASA Government Invention of the Year for 2000. The invention is used to remove coatings surrounding tiny optical fibers, as small as 125 microns. Fiber coatings, such as acrylate and polyimide, surround the glass fibers similar to the way insulation covers a copper wire. The device prepares optical fibers for termination to a connector by controlling the removal of the coating. The fixture also provides control over the stripping length. Coleman, a senior electronics technician in the Electrical Systems Branch at Goddard’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA, said traditional coating removal techniques are based on mechanical wire stripping techniques that may scratch or nick the very small glass fiber, resulting in a latent defect and a reliability issue. 

The fixture has been used successfully on a number of NASA projects including the X-Ray Timing Explorer (XTE), the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, the Microwave Anisotropy Probe, Earth Observing-1 and the Hubble Space Telescope’s solid-state recorder. Both men developed the tool while working on XTE. “We were experiencing optical fiber failures in early space flight fiber optic systems that were caused by glass fiber nicks induced by mechanical stripping techniques,” Kolasinski said. “This device uses chemicals and a controlled fixture, so we do not have to worry about metal blades coming in contact with and nicking a small optical fiber.” He added the tool will work with many different types of fiber systems and any operator terminating a specific connector can consistently strip the same length of fiber for that termination providing high reliability and a quality product.

The NASA Headquarters Inventions and Contributions Board bestowed the 2000 Commercial Invention of the Year Award for a system that turns rocket fuel into fertilizer. The Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Scrubber Liquor to Fertilizer system was installed at Shuttle Pad 39A and developed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. NASA’s Dr. Clyde Parrish, Dr. Dale Lueck, and Andrew Kelly, and Dynacs Inc.’s Paul Gamble developed the new process in response to an Agency request to reduce the hazardous waste stream captured in a scrubber when a toxic oxidizer is transferred back and forth from storage tanks into the Shuttle’s Orbital Maneuvering Subsystem and Reaction Control System. The innovation converts NOx into potassium nitrate, a primary fertilizer material. NASA licensed the technology to Phoenix Systems International Inc., of McDonald, Ohio, an engineering firm that develops utility and industrial fossil fuel technologies.

Software of the Year Award for 2000

IGDG (internet –based Global Differential GPS), developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is a uniquely powerful and flexible c-language software package that provides a complete end-to-end system capability for real-time positioning and orbit determination, with unprecedented accuracy, coverage, and economy. Components of IGDG have been used as the foundation in several critical real-time systems for NASA, other agencies, and the commercial sector. The software promises significant scientific, technological, and economic benefits to NASA, the Nation, and society in general. Specifically, IGDG has demonstrated 10 cm to 30 cm real time positioning to users carrying compatible equipment, anywhere in the world, anytime. No other system is capable of similar performance. Similarly, IGDG is capable of providing a few centimeters-level real time orbit determination for Earth orbiting satellites. This level of accuracy can currently be achieved only in post-processing mode with latencies of days and weeks. IGDG was developed over several years with funding from the Technology Program of the Telecommunications and Mission Operations Directorate (TMOD) at JPL, the Technology and Applications Program (TAP) at JPL, and from the Solid Earth and Natural Hazard Program of the Office of Earth Science (Code YS). 

IGDG consists primarily of two modules. The RTNT (Real Time Net Transfer) module on-the-fly collects, edits, and compresses the raw GPS observables at the remote reference site. It then transmits the packetized data over the open internet to the processing center. At the processing center the global data from a network of remote sites (nominally the NASA Global GPS Network (GGN)) is sorted by RTNT. Here, a powerful and unique feature of RTNT allows for multiply redundant operations centers to receive the data over the internet and provide seamless backup in case of failure at the primary operations center, or in its internet connectivity. The GPS data is then analyzed by the real time orbit determination module, RTG (Real Time GIPSY), to produce precise GPS orbits and clocks. These are formatted as corrections to the GPS broadcast ephemerides, encoded, and are provided over the Internet to authorized users. A user equipped with a GPS receiver and a facility to receive the correction message will use a local version of RTG to precisely compute its position in real time. RTG includes precise orbital dynamics models to support onboard orbit determination. RTG implements some of the precise measurement algorithms present in the GIPSYOASIS II software package, but is fundamentally different in its architecture, programming language and concept of operations, which are optimized for demanding real time applications and embedded operations.