Washington Beat

By: 
January 06, 1997

NHTSA adds side-impact tests,
pursues frontal offset rules

Uncle Sam soon will be smashing up new cars from several directions. For tests, of course. Over the past 18 years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has rammed the fronts of hundreds of autos straight into a barrier. NHTSA now has Congressional authority and funds to begin crashing objects into the sides of new vehicles to see what happens. In addition, Congress has given the agency $340,000 to develop a safety standard for offset crashes into the fronts of cars. NHTSA must make sure the standard harmonizes with offset tests conducted in Australia and Europe. Congress has ordered the agency to issue a progress report this spring. Privately, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety already conducts frontal off-set tests at its facility near Charlottesville, VA. NHTSA plans to crash test 43 '97 vehicles in the frontal test portion of its New Car Assessment Program. Included will be 21 passenger cars, 10 sport-utilities, four vans, and eight pickups. The agency is selecting candidates for initial side-impact tests.


First space-station module passes final pressure test

A milestone in the development of the International Space Station has been reached. Node 1, the first U.S. component of the station, successfully completed its last proof pressure test. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to launch Node 1 next December to begin construction of the space station. Boeing engineers in Huntsville, AL, conducted the four-hour test on Node 1. They pressurized it to 22.8 psi, or one and a half times normal maximum operating pressure. NASA officials tell Design News that the test confirms effectiveness of eight struts installed at the node's radial ports. As in a previous successful test last August, the strains in the node's radial port diminished substantially from those encountered in tests without the struts. The node will be a passageway to other modules on the space station. Boeing also is building an airlock and nodes for astronaut living quarters and laboratories.


Panel cites technical needs of future undersea vehicles

What are the possibilities for future undersea research and rescue vehicles? What technologies must be developed to create them? A committee of the National Research Council has come up with some answers. Manned vehicles, it reports, should be able to spend weeks on the bottom of the sea, covering large areas with high-resolution surveys. Engineers could also design unoccupied submersibles without tethers to work for months in parallel with survey vessels on data-gathering missions. The committee finds three areas of technology offer the greatest potential for significantly boosting the capability of undersea vehicles in the next 5 to 10 years. They are: ocean sensors, undersea communications, and mission and task-performance control. The deepest ocean applications will require new materials and design strategies, the report says. It suggests that emphasis be put on 1) glass ceramic materials for pressure hulls, 2) cheaper long-filament fiber-optic links, and 3) marine "biofouling" coatings for long-duration submersibles.


Soil-working machine, gun lock win patented invention awards

A newly patented tool called the Roto-Ripper won one of three top prizes at the National Inventors Expo. The apparatus can overturn soil and break it into small particles at the same time. After cutting through the soil's surface, rotating blades switch position and produce a twisting action. The inventor, JanusRoszczenko of Harrisburg, PA, came to the United States six years ago from Poland, where he was an engineering professor. Another winner is Al Frederick of Newton Falls, OH. He invented the Hammerlock(R), a device that clamps the hammer of handguns and other firearms so they cannot fire. The third award went to Kim T. Kisner, of Phoenix, AZ, for her device to spread chlorine more evenly in swimming pools. Intellectual Property Owners, a trade association headquartered in Washington, DC., and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sponsor the annual Expo.


Updated Eudora, Laplink enhance Internet communications

Designers can send and convert image formats through e-mail with Eudora Pro 3.0 software. Qualcomm Inc. of San Diego, CA, showed this latest version of its Internet e-mail program at the FEDnet conference in Washington, DC. Other new features include improved message filtering and a new plug-in architecture. Eudora, originally developed for transmitting research information, can now handle plug-in programs that strengthen data security and translate foreign languages. Another new Internet tool demonstrated in the capital is LapLink(R) for Windows 95 version 7.5b from Traveling Software of Bothell, WA. The product provides video driver enhancements to its widely used file-sharing and communication program.

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