NASA Ames Research Center


NASA Ames Research Center

NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) is a NASA facility located at Moffett Federal Airfield, which covers 43 acres at the borders of the cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale in California. This research center is most commonly called NASA Ames. The current NASA Ames Center Director is Dr. Pete Worden.

ARC was founded on December 20, 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and moved to NASA in 1958. The Sunnyvale site at Moffett Field was selected in October 1939 by the Charles Lindbergh Committee established by an act of the U.S. Congress in August 1939. The "Ames Aeronautical Laboratory" (now the Ames Research Center) was named after Joseph Sweetman Ames a longtime (1919-1939) NACA chairman.

The [http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/missions/archive/pioneer.html Pioneer Spacecraft Missions] are a series of eight spacecraft missions managed (1960s - 1990s) by the Pioneer Project Office at NASA Ames Research Center. The most famous of these are the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 unmanned spacecraft, which were the first human-made objects to leave the solar system. Pioneer Venus was another in the series that was also tremendously successful.

ARC is active in aeronautical research, life sciences, space science, and technology research, especially information technology, including machine learning and artificial intelligenceFact|date=June 2008. The Center houses the world's largest wind tunnel, part of the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex (NFAC): it is large enough to test full-sized planes, rather than scale models. Although decommissioned by NASA in 2003, the NFAC is now being operated by the U. S. Air Force as a satellite facility of the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC).

ARC is also a mission center for several key NASA Science missions ( [http://lcross.arc.nasa.gov LCROSS] , [http://sofia.arc.nasa.gov SOFIA] , [http://kepler.arc.nasa.gov KEPLER] ) and a major contributor to the new Exploration focus of the Agency as a participant in the Orion crew exploration vehicle, and the Ares crew launch vehicle.

The buildings at Moffett Field consist of those belonging to NASA proper, including the wind tunnels and other core research facilities, as well as an academic research park intended to foster collaborations with universities. Members of this Ames campus include Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley, the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) (administered by the University of California, Santa Cruz), the SJSU Metropolitan Technology Center (part of San Jose State University), and The Space Technology Center (STC) (managed by San Jose State University). [ [http://researchpark.arc.nasa.gov/Partners/academic.html Nasa Research Park ] ]

Missions

Lunar Prospector was the third mission selected by NASA for full development and construction as part of the Discovery Program. At a cost of $62.8 million, the 19-month mission was designed for a low polar orbit investigation of the Moon, including mapping of surface composition and possible polar ice deposits, measurements of magnetic and gravity fields, and study of lunar outgassing events. The mission ended July 31, 1999 when the orbiter was deliberately crashed into a crater near the lunar south pole in an unsuccessful attempt to detect the presence of water.

[http://genesat.arc.nasa.gov GeneSat-1] The 11-pound (5-kilogram) GeneSat-1, carrying bacteria inside a miniature laboratory, was launched on Dec. 16, 2006. The very small NASA satellite has proven that scientists can quickly design and launch a new class of inexpensive spacecraft -- and conduct significant science.
Phoenix (spacecraft) a Mars Scout mission (includes NASA Ames partnership) In the continuing pursuit of water on Mars, the poles are a good place to probe, as water ice is found there. This mission will send the Phoenix high-latitude lander to Mars, deploy its robotic arm and dig trenches up to 1.6 feet (one half meter) into the layers of water ice.

Mars Science Laboratory (includes NASA Ames partnership)The next generation of Mars rovers exploring for signs of organics and complex molecules.

[http://lcross.arc.nasa.gov Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite] (LCROSS)The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission to look for water on the moon will be a 'secondary payload spacecraft.' LCROSS will begin its trip to the moon on the same rocket as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which will conduct a different lunar task. Launch is scheduled for October 2008 on an Atlas V rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

[http://kepler.arc.nasa.gov Kepler] Kepler is NASA's first mission capable of finding Earth-size and smaller planets. The Kepler mission, scheduled to launch in 2008, will monitor the brightness of stars to find planets that pass in front of them during the planets' orbits. During such passes or 'transits,' the planets will slightly decrease the star's brightness.

[http://sofia.arc.nasa.gov SOFIA] (Joint Venture) The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a joint venture of the U.S. and German aerospace agencies, NASA and the DLR. The aircraft is supplied by the U.S., and the telescope by Germany. Modifications of the Boeing 747SP airframe to accommodate the telescope, mission-unique equipment and large external door were made by L-3 Communications Integrated Systems of Waco, Texas.

The new Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission has been assigned to NASA Ames. This is planned for a launch to the Moon in 2011.

Information Technology

Ames is the home of NASA's large research and development divisions in [http://www.nas.nasa.gov Advanced Supercomputing] , [http://human-factors.arc.nasa.gov Human Factors] , and [http://ti.arc.nasa.gov Intelligent Systems] or Artificial Intelligence. These R&D organizations support NASA's Exploration efforts, as well as the continued operations of the Space Shuttle, and the space science and Aeronautics work across NASA. The center also runs and maintains the E server of the DNS System.

The Intelligent Systems Division (often called Code TI) is NASA's leading R&D Division developing advanced software and systems for all of NASA Mission Directorates. It provides software expertise for Aeronautics, Space Science Missions, Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and the new crewed Exploration Missions (CEV, and Ares). The first AI in space (Deep Space 1) was developed from Code TI, as is the MAPGEN software that daily plans the activities for the Mars Exploration Rovers, and the planning system for the International Space Station's Solar Arrays.

Image processing

NASA Ames was one of the first locations in the world to conduct research on image processing of satellite-platform aerial photography. Some of the pioneering techniques of contrast enhancement using Fourier analysis were developed at Ames in conjunction with researchers at ESL Inc.

Wind tunnels

The NASA Ames wind tunnels are known not only for their immense size, but also for their diverse characteristics that enable various kinds of scientific and engineering research. In the last five decades, large numbers of experiments were conducted in the tunnels, not only on spacecraft and aircraft flight simulation, but also for advanced materials research on ablation phenomena. For example, in the 1960s significant early research was carried out in the hypersonic tunnel to develop new materials for re-entry Apollo vehicles.

Arc Jet Complex

The Ames Arc Jet Complex has seven available test bays. At the present time, four bays contain Arc Jet units of differing configurations, serviced by common facility support equipment. These are the Aerodynamic Heating Facility (AHF), the Turbulent Flow Duct (TFD), the Panel Test Facility (PTF), and the Interactive Heating Facility (IHF). The support equipment includes two D.C. power supplies, a steam ejector-driven vacuum system, a water-cooling system, high-pressure gas systems, data acquisition system, and other auxiliary systems.

The magnitude and capacity of these systems makes the Ames Arc Jet Complex unique in the world. The largest power supply can deliver 75 megawatts(MW) for a 30 minute duration or 150 MW for a 15 second duration. This power capacity, in combination with a high-volume 5-stage steam ejector vacuum-pumping system, enables facility operations to match high-altitude atmospheric flight conditions with samples of relatively large size. The Thermo-Physics Facilities Branch operates four arc jet facilities. The Interaction Heating Facility IHF), with an available power of over 60-MW, is one of the highest-power arc jets available. It is a very flexible facility, capable of long run times of up to one hour, and able to test large samples in both a stagnation and flat plate configuration. The Panel Test Facility (PTF) uses a unique semielliptic nozzle for testing panel sections. Powered by a 20-MW arc heater, the PTF can performtests on samples for up to 20 minutes. The Turbulent Flow Duct provides supersonic, turbulent hightemperatureair flows over flat surfaces. The TFD is powered by a 20-MW Hüls arc heater and can test samples 203 mm by 508 mm in size. The Aerodynamic Heating Facility (AHF) has similar characteristics to the IHF arc heater, offering a wide range of operating conditions, samples sizes and extended test times. A cold-air-mixing plenum allows for simulations of ascent or high-speed flight conditions. Catalycity studies using air or nitrogen can be performed in this flexible rig. A 5-arm model support system allows the user to maximize testing efficiency. The AHF can be configured witheither a Hüls or segmented arc heater, up to 20-MW. 1 MW is enough power to supply 750 homes.

Range Complex

The Ames Vertical Gun Range (AVGR) was designed to conduct scientific studies of lunar impact processes in support of the Apollo missions. In 1979, it was established as a National Facility, funded through the Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program. In 1995, increased scientific needs across various disciplines resulted in joint core funding by three different science programs at NASA Headquarters (Planetary Geology and Geophysics, Exobiology, and Solar System Origins). In addition, the AVGR provides programmatic support for various proposed and ongoing planetary missions (e.g. Stardust, Deep Impact).

Using its 0.30 cal light-gas gun and powder gun, the AVGR can launch projectiles to velocities ranging from 0.5 to nearly 7 km/s. By varying the gun’s angle of elevation with respect to the target vacuum chamber, impact angles from 0° to 90° relative to the gravitational vector are possible. This unique feature is extremely important in the study of crater formation processes.

The target chamber is approximately 2.5 meters in diameter and height and can accommodate a wide variety of targets and mounting fixtures. It can maintain vacuum levels below 0.03 torr, or can be back filled with various gases to simulate different planetary atmospheres. Impact events are typically recorded with high-speed video/film, or Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV).

The Hypervelocity Free-Flight (HFF) Range currently comprises two active facilities: the Aerodynamic Facility (HFFAF) and the Gun Development Facility (HFFGDF). The HFFAF is a combined Ballistic Range and Shock-tube Driven Wind Tunnel. Its primary purpose is to examine the aerodynamic characteristics and flow-field structural details of free-flying aeroballistic models.

The HFFAF has a test section equipped with 16 shadowgraph-imaging stations. Each station can be used to capture an orthogonal pair of images of a hypervelocity model in flight. These images, combined with the recorded flight time history, can be used to obtain critical aerodynamic parameters such as lift, drag, static and dynamic stability, flow characteristics, and pitching moment coefficients. For very high Mach number (M > 25) simulations, models can be launched into a counter-flowing gas stream generated by the shock tube. The facility can also be configured for hypervelocity impact testing and has an aerothermodynamic capability as well. The HFFAF is currently configured to operate the 1.5" light gas gun in support of continuing thermal imaging and transition research for NASA's hypersonics program.

The HFFGDF is used for gun performance enhancement studies, and occasional impact testing. The Facility uses the same arsenal of light-gas and powder guns as the HFFAF to accelerate particles that range in size from 3.2 mm to 25.4 mm (1/8 to 1 inch) diameter to velocities ranging from 0.5 to 8.5 km/s (1,500 to 28,000 ft/s). Most of the research effort to date has centered on Earth atmosphere entry configurations (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle), planetary entry designs (Viking, Pioneer Venus, Galileo and MSL), and aerobraking (AFE) configurations. The facility has also been used for scramjet propulsion studies (NASP) and meteoroid/orbital debris impact studies (Space Station and RLV). In 2004, the facility was utilized for foam-debris dynamics testing in support of the Return To Flight effort. As of March 2007, the GDF has been reconfigured to operate a cold gas gun for subsonic CEV capsule aerodynamics.

The Electric Arc Shock Tube (EAST) Facility is used to investigate the effects of radiation and ionization that occur during very high velocity atmospheric entries. In addition, the EAST can also provide air-blast simulations requiring the strongest possible shock generation in air at an initial pressure loading of 1 atmosphere or greater. The facility has three separate driver configurations, to meet a range of test requirements: the driver can be connected to a diaphragm station of either a 102 mm (4 inch) or a 610 mm (24 inch) shock tube, and the high-pressure 102 mm shock tube can also drive a 762 mm (30 inch) shock tunnel. Energy for the drivers is supplied by a 1.25-MJ-capacitor storage system.

Recent events

On June 4, 2008 Google announced it had leased 42 acres at Moffett Field from NASA, for use as office space and employee housing. [cite web |url=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/06/04/BU3K113886.DTL |title=Google leases acreage at Moffett for complex |date=2008-06-04 |publisher=San Francisco Chronicle]

Although the Bush Administration has slightly increased fundingfor NASA overall, the substantial realignment in research priorities that followed the announcement of the Vision for Space Exploration in 2004 has led to a significant number of layoffs at Ames. As before, NASA has chosen to devote more resources to the more visible human-staffed space missions than to robot spacecraft or scientific experiments.

On September 28, 2005, both Google and Ames Research Center disclosed details to a long-term research partnership. In addition to pooling engineering talent, Google plans to build a convert|1000000|sqft|m2|sing=on facility on the ARC campus. [ [http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/releases/2005/05_50AR.html NASA - NASA Takes Google on Journey into Space ] ] One of the projects between Ames, Google, and Carnegie Mellon University is the Gigapan Project—a robotic platform for creating, sharing, and annotating terrestrial gigapixel images. Another project is integrating and improving the data that Google uses for its Google Moon and Mars projects. This is the [http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/projects/planetary/ Planetary Content] [http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/projects/planetary/] Project

HP has become the first corporate affiliate of a new Bio-Info-Nano Research and Development Institute (BIN-RDI); a collaborative venture established by the University of California Santa Cruz and NASA, based at NASA Ames in Mountain View, CA. The Bio|Info|Nano R&D Institute is dedicated to creating scientific breakthroughs made possible by the convergence of biotechnology, information technology, and nanotechnology.

On October 22, 2006, NASA opened the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Cosmos. The center will continue the work Sagan undertook during his lifetime, including the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

NASA Ames Exploration Center

The NASA Ames Exploration Center is a science museum and education center for NASA. There are displays and interactive exhibits about NASA technology, missions and space exploration. A moon rock, meteorite and other geologic samples are on display. The theater shows movies with footage from NASA's explorations of Mars and the planets, and about the contributions of the scientists at NASA Ames Research Center. The facility is free and open to the public.

External links

* [http://www.arc.nasa.gov/ Ames Research Center]
* [http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/home/exploration.html NASA Ames Exploration Center]
* [http://uarc.ucsc.edu/ University Affiliated Research Center]
** [http://researchpark.arc.nasa.gov/Partners/academic.html NASA Ames Research Park]
** [http://www.bioinfonano.org/ Bio | Info | Nano R&D Institute]
* [http://www.astrochem.org Astrochemical Laboratory]
* The links below are whole books online; scroll down on their title pages to see the "table of contents" links.
** [http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4302/sp4302.htm "Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1965" (NASA SP-4302, 1970)]
** [http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4314/sp4314.htm "Atmosphere of Freedom: Sixty Years at the NASA Ames Research Center" (NASA SP-4314, 2000)]
** [http://history.nasa.gov/SP-3300/sp3300.htm "Flight Research at Ames, 1940-1997: Fifty-Seven Years of Development and Validation of Aeronautical Technology" (NASA SP-3300, 1998)]
** [http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4304/sp4304.htm "Searching the Horizon: A History of Ames Research Center 1940-1976" (NASA SP-4304, 1985)]
* [http://www.astrochem.org Astrochemical Laboratory]

References


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