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 Equipping form with function
23.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity
23.06.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>