WE ARE HERE!!!Panel calls for breakthroughs in aerospace design processes
To meet NASA's targets for the next two decades, vast improvements must come in computer-based design, modeling, and simulation. So concludes the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council (NRC). NASA wants to see the current development cycle time for aircraft cut by half through next-generation design tools and experimental aircraft programs. Several big hurdles stand in the way, the board's report says. The flow of information must be optimized throughout the design process. Linear and nonlinear simulation capabilities for both aircraft and propulsion systems must be enhanced. Better integration of design engineers with computers must be achieved. Physical processes should be captured in virtual models with such fidelity that a complete engine could be simulated overnight. Information should flow easily between models with different dimensions and descriptions. "Much of current design process is sequential and iterative, requiring months--sometimes years--to develop a final production design," the NRC study contends. For nonlinear optimization, designers will have to rely more on neural networks and fuzzy logic. Advances in aeronautical design will depend, too, on stimulating human creativity. Computers should handle tedious, straightforward tasks. However, over-reliance on computers and numerical codes "can result in burying design flaws in the design process. These flaws have to be exhumed later," the report notes.
WE ARE HERE!!!NASA's goals require advances in propulsion, materials
Besides improved design tools, the NRC committee pinpoints several other technical break-throughs that it thinks are crucial for NASA's success during the next 25 years. The panel calls for robust, real-time sensors and actuators for air-vehicle structures, materials, and propulsion systems. Automated, high-velocity machining of parts, new methods of sheet metal assembly, and manufacturing by light should be investigated. Innovative lightweight structures and high-temperature materials for supersonic engines and airframes are needed. Advanced air-vehicle propulsion concepts should include alternative fuels, novel engine components, and active controls. NASA should join with the Air Force to develop rocket propellants, focusing on cryogenic solid hydrogen, metallic hydrogen, and cryogenic solid oxygen. R&D on airplane configurations should include novel wing designs and drag reduction technologies. Improvement of vertical/short takeoff and landing vehicles is listed as another essential. You can buy the full report, Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics. Phone the National Academy Press at (800) 624-6242.
WE ARE HERE!!!High-speed turbine locomotive gets federal backing
A prototype of a non-electric locomotive for high-speed passenger trains will be ready to test in 16 months. That, at least, is the aim of the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration and Bombardier Transit Corp. of Canada. The two have undertaken a cost-sharing project to design and build a 65-ft, 4,000-hp locomotive that can achieve speeds of 150 mph--without resorting to expensive electrified wires overhead. The turbine in the prototype will be a fossil-fueled AlliedSignal TF-40, which the U.S. Navy is lending to the project. The turbine will drive a generator that, in turn, will power four independent traction motors. Later, the locomotive's performance will increase with energy from a flywheel storage system being developed at the Center for Electromechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. Phone Warren Flatau at (202) 493-6024 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
WE ARE HERE!!!Novel microstrip antenna helps array of communication systems
A high-performance microstrip antenna that is circularly polarized promises to improve quality in a variety of communications systems. Invented by engineer Probir K. Bondyopadhyay of Johnson Space Center, the antenna has received U.S. Patent 5661494. Bondyopadhyay found a better way to cluster at least four microstrip radiator elements, each connected to dual orthogonal coplanar feeds. The device can be used in several mobile communications and broadcasting systems using satellites or radar. Contact Hank Davis at (713) 483-0474.
WE ARE HERE!!!Statistical software crafted for engineering demands
As the Information Age floods desktops with data, designers rely increasingly on statistics to help stay afloat. Officials at SPSS Science (Chicago) are convinced that engineers have special problems in ferreting significant intelligence from data gluts. As a result, the company designed its latest software, Systat 8.0, with that in mind. Demonstrated in Arlington, VA, the program features spatial statistics that draw upon a large library of interactive graphics. Systat also suggests the best statistical tool for various analytical needs. Details are available on the Internet at www.spss.com.