Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA's ICESat-2 equipped with unique 3-D manufactured part

03.02.2016

NASA's follow-on to the successful ICESat mission will employ a never-before-flown technique for determining the topography of ice sheets and the thickness of sea ice, but that won't be the only first for this mission.

Slated for launch in 2018, NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) also will carry a 3-D printed part made of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), a material that has never been used in 3-D manufacturing, let alone flown in space.


The 3-D manufactured part -- a black bracket holding the instrument's fiber-optic cables -- is visible in the back of the ATLAS instrument.

Credit: NASA

"This is a first for this material," said Craig Auletti, lead production engineer on ICESat-2's only instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) now being built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The part is a bracket that supports the instrument's fiber-optic cables.

PEKK Offers Advantages

Instrument developers chose PEKK because it's strong, but perhaps more important, it's electrostatically dissipative -- that is, it reduces the build up of static electricity to protect electrostatically sensitive devices.

It also produces very little outgassing, a chemical process similar to what happens when plastics and other materials release gas, producing, for example, the "new car smell" in vehicles. In a vacuum or under heated conditions, these outgassed contaminants can condense on and harm optical devices and thermal radiators, significantly degrading instrument performance.

Although 3-D or additive manufacturing is used to create a variety of products, so far, it remains a rare occurrence in spaceflight applications. In fact, the PEKK bracket is believed to be only the second 3-D manufactured part to be flown in a spaceflight instrument, said Oren Sheinman, the ATLAS mechanical systems engineer NASA Goddard.

Three-dimensional parts printed of Ultem 9085 were produced and flown on the International Space Station by the NASA Ames Research Center's Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) program.

Additive or 3-D manufacturing is attractive because it offers a fast, low-cost alternative to traditional manufacturing. With additive manufacturing, a computer-operated device literally prints a solid object, layer by layer, using a high-power optic laser that melts and fuses powdered materials in precise locations using a 3-D CAD model. "Had we manufactured this part classically, it would have taken six to eight weeks. We got it in two days," Sheinman said, adding that costs to the project were up to four times less than with a traditionally machined part.

ATLAS: A Technical Marvel

The bracket, however is just one of the mission's firsts. ATLAS, itself, is a technical marvel, said ATLAS Instrument Scientist Tony Martino. It will be NASA's first space-borne, photon-counting laser altimeter and is expected to usher in a new, more precise method for measuring surface elevations.

As with its predecessor, ICESat-2 is designed to measure changes in ice-sheet elevations in Greenland and the Antarctic, sea-ice thicknesses, and global vegetation. However, it will execute its mission using a never-before-flown technique.

ICESat, which ended operations in 2009, employed a single laser, which made it more difficult to measure changes in the elevation of an ice sheet. With a single beam, researchers couldn't tell if the snowpack had melted or if the laser was slightly off and pointed down a hill. ICESat-2 overcomes those challenges by splitting the green-light laser into six beams, arranged in three pairs, firing continuously at a rapid 10,000 pulses per second toward Earth.

Unlike analog-laser altimetry, which uses analog detectors and digitizes the return signal, ICESat-2 will employ a technique called photon counting. Used in aircraft instruments, photon counting has not yet been used for altimetry in a spaceflight instrument. It more precisely records the time-of-flight of individual photons as they travel from the instrument, reflect off Earth's surface, and then are detected as they return to the instrument's detectors -- measurements that scientists use to calculate Earth's surface elevation.

Perhaps more important to scientists who want to know how the ice sheets change over time, the multiple beams will give scientists dense cross-track samples that will help them determine a surface's slope, while the high-pulse rate will allow ATLAS to take measurements every 2.3 feet along the satellite's ground path -- all at a higher resolution due to the photon counting.

"This is one of the new capabilities," Martino said. "We're getting cross track slope every time the satellite passes over." Furthermore, the satellite will pass over the same area every 90 days during ICESat-2's three-year mission, giving scientists a very detailed multi-year snapshot of how the ice is changing.

"It's almost completely built," Martino said, adding that the spacecraft will fly on the last Delta II launch vehicle. "All functional parts are there and our first comprehensive testing starts in February. We're on track."

###

For more Goddard technology news, go to https://gsfctechnology.gsfc.nasa.gov/newsletter/Current.pdf

Lori Keesey | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Goddard Space Flight Center ICESat-2 NASA spaceflight

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development
21.02.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Start codons in DNA may be more numerous than previously thought

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

An alternative to opioids? Compound from marine snail is potent pain reliever

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Warming ponds could accelerate climate change

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>