Teams of engineers and scientists working in communications and space power technology at NASA’s Glenn Research Center will be recognized this week for two of the top one hundred innovations of 2012, according to R&D Magazine.
The R&D 100 Awards are given annually to the top 100 most significant innovations and are widely recognized as the Oscars of Invention. The awards salute the 100 most technologically significant products from around the world. Winners are selected by an independent judging panel and the editors of R&D Magazine.
The first of two teams at Glenn receiving the award developed the NASA/Harris Ka-Band Software-Defined Radio. This is the first fully reprogrammable space-qualified radio of its kind operating in the Ka-Band frequency range. By providing the ability to upload new software applications once deployed to space, this radio offers future space missions flexibility to recover from problems during development, while on orbit and even adapt to new science opportunities.
This technology will allow reuse of software waveform applications on new radios as hardware components become obsolete or as new radio technologies become available, providing flight proven software for future use. This will enable greater scientific return from future NASA missions and reduce the cost to develop and use new radio platforms.
The radio was integrated into the Space Communications and Navigation Testbed on the International Space Station on July 20, 2012, and is now fully operational. Experiments are currently underway, leveraging reprogrammability and the high data rate Ka-Band link from the space station through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. New proposals from academia or industry for experiments are currently being accepted.
Members of this team include Glenn’s Thomas Kacpura, Sandra Johnson, Richard Reinhart and Joseph Downey; and Kevin Moran and Jeffery Anderson of Harris Corporation-Government Communication Systems Division, Melbourne, Fla.
Also recognized this year is a team from Glenn submitted as co-developer of KiloPower, a technology development effort that uses a nuclear fission system to produce electricity from uranium.
Glenn and Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M., developed the alternative type of space nuclear power system using uranium, instead of plutonium, which is in short supply in the U.S., along with Stirling engines to convert the nuclear heat into electricity.
KiloPower is a compact system that can generate 500 to 1,500 watts of electricity for long duration space missions. It is considered a breakthrough, game changing technology because it produces greater power than current space nuclear systems and uses a self-regulating design feature to minimize power loss over the mission life.
Nuclear power systems are important because they make it possible to explore the entire solar system. Beyond Mars, sunlight is so weak that solar panels would have to be excessively large in order to generate enough power to operate a spacecraft and transmit data back to Earth.
Glenn’s employees who were part of this team, Lee Mason and Marc Gibson, were co-developers with Patrick McClure, David Poston, and David Dixon from Los Alamos. Also supporting this effort was James Holt of National Security Technologies, LLC, Las Vegas, Nev.
The awards will be presented at a banquet on Nov. 7 at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld in Florida.
To date, Glenn has received over one hundred R&D 100 awards.
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