Earth Matters

In Case You Missed It: What’s New In NASA Tech

June 15th, 2017 by Pola Lem

The DC-8’s four engines burned either JP-8 jet fuel or a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and renewable alternative fuel made from camelina plant oil. Credits: NASA/SSAI Edward Winstead


Taking Some of the Search Out of ‘Search and Rescue’

NASA engineers are developing prototypes of second-generation locator beacons. The little devices have been used by pilots, mariners, and hikers since the 1970s to relay distress signals in times of emergency. Until now, those beacons have had a 2-kilometer (1 mile) radius. The new beacons will pinpoint location within a 140-meter radiusthat’s more than 10 times more precise.


Small Satellites Will Track Big Storms

Atlantic hurricane season has just begunand the CYGNSS mission has it covered. The constellation of eight mini-satellites, launched into low-Earth orbit in December 2016, measures surface winds using GPS signals reflected from the ocean surface. The data will help track storms as they grow, giving forecasters a better sense of storm intensity.


Cleaner Contrails?

Long a source of wonder (and occasional conspiracy theories), the white plumes that trail behind aircraft are a focus of study for NASA scientists testing the effects of biofuels. A new study shows that alternative fuels made from plant oils can cut down on particle emissions in jet exhaust by as much as 50 to 70 percent. From the news release:

Contrails are produced by hot aircraft engine exhaust mixing with the cold air that is typical at cruise altitudes several miles above Earth’s surface, and are composed primarily of water in the form of ice crystals…Researchers are most interested in persistent contrails because they create long-lasting, and sometimes extensive, clouds that would not normally form in the atmosphere, and are believed to be a factor in influencing Earth’s environment.


A Different Kind of Scat

Scientists have a new tool for measuring both ocean winds and water currents. Tested on airborne missions this spring, DopplerScatt is a cousin of QuickSCAT and RapidScat, which used a scatterometer to measure the “roughness” of the ocean surface and determine the direction and intensity of wind. DopplerScat adds a doppler radar to the package, allowing scientists to measure the speed and direction of the moving water. The instrument is another potential tool to measure currents along shipping routes or predict the direction that oils and other slicks might move.


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2 Responses to “In Case You Missed It: What’s New In NASA Tech”

  1. Debbie Lyden Manning says:

    cottonqn@aol.comwhat damage does it do to engine fuel lines, etc?? The ethanol gas they sell ruins fuel lines in boats and mowers and cars!!!

    • Robert Crnic says:

      With respect to biofuels and the aforementioned concern raised by Debbie Lyden Manning ( Generally speaking.. it is unwise to add low quality or unintended compounds into a closed system – like a combustion engine – especially if you want it to work right and last long. Your question (or comment..?) seemed to imply that the simple compound ‘ethanol’ – which has been used as an additive to commercially available gasoline for decades – is responsible for the destruction of any fuel lines in a gasoline-fueled machine. Your implication is fundamentally flawed for several reasons. “Ethanol-gas” IS gasoline. Unlike ethanol, gasoline is a mixture of many compounds, including but not limited to… ethanol. Moreover, any wear or abrasion on the fuel lines of those machines can be caused by any of the other compounds in gasoline, as well as any impurities that can end up in the fuel from any number of ways/sources. Lastly, in my experience, ruptured fuel lines are most often caused by elements and forces OUTSIDE of the line itself, thereby rendering the point of this discussion moot.

      Bottom line: before posting poorly stated or scientifically baseless anecdotes in an online NASA forum, remember that there is a community of learned and articulate people who may take offense to such statements of particularly poor construct.