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NASA Builds Ultra-light Wing that actively changes Shape to help Reduce Fuel Use

The wing also features actuators and computers that make it morph and twist to achieve the desired wing shape during flight

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NASA Aircraft. Flickr
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Washington, November 4, 2016: A team of NASA researchers and students is using emerging composite material manufacturing methods to build an ultra-light wing that actively changes shape to help reduce fuel use and improve flight efficiency.

Increased efficiency means less fuel is needed, which means less weight on the aircraft, which also increases efficiency.

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This “holy grail” of more efficient flight is always in the minds of the Mission Adaptive Digital Composite Aerostructure Technologies, or MADCAT, team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

The ultra-light wing that actively changes shape could be an important part of the future of green aviation, said Kenneth Cheung, co-lead on the MADCAT project.

This type of wing could improve aerodynamic efficiency in future flight vehicles by reducing the amount of drag caused by rigid control surfaces like flaps, rudders and ailerons.

Earlier studies of aerodynamics showed that the shape of a wing has enormous effects on flight — but there is not just one “best” wing shape.

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The best shape in any moment depends on many factors: how much the aircraft weighs, the speed it is flying, and whether the pilot wants to climb higher or descend, for instance.

This means that a rigid wing with a limited number of moveable surfaces — also rigid — is only a compromise and cannot be the most efficient shape for the whole of any given flight.

The researchers explained that the shape-changing wing is constructed from building block units made of advanced carbon fibre composite materials.

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These building blocks are assembled into a lattice, or arrangement of repeating structures — the way that they are arranged determines how they flex.

The wing also features actuators and computers that make it morph and twist to achieve the desired wing shape during flight, the researchers said. (IANS)

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars
NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars. Pixabay

After a mechanical problem took NASA Mars rover Curiosity’s drill offline in December 2016, it has now successfully tested a new drilling method on the Red Planet, making a 50-millimetre deep hole in a target called “Duluth”, NASA has said.

Engineers working with the Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them.

On May 20, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new technique, called Feed Extended Drilling, keeps the drill’s bit extended out past two stabiliser posts that were originally used to steady the drill against Martian rocks.

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

“The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We’re thrilled that the result was so successful,” Lee said.

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity’s capabilities to study Mars.

Inside the rover are two laboratories that are able to conduct chemical and mineralogical analyses of rock and soil samples.

The samples are acquired from Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since 2012.

“We’ve been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn’t done once a sample has been collected on Mars,” said JPL’s Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity’s new drilling method.

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“With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our test bed to iterate on the process.”

There’s also the next step to work on — delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover.

As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover’s laboratories, NASA said. (IANS)