Tech Briefs

Composites Affordability Initiative

AFRL and Boeing have developed an innovative structural inspection technique for testing bonded structures. This technique provides materials engineers a first-time, validated, nondestructive capability to test for weak adhesive bonds and determine the minimum strength of adhesively bonded aerospace structures. The new method will enable aircraft designers to use bonded structures in a wider range of applications, and industry analysts predict it will provide both a 25% reduction in fabrication and assembly time and a 75% reduction in life-cycle costs.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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AFRL Supports Desert Hawk Program

AFRL aeronautical engineers collaborated with the Electronic Systems Center's (ESC) Force Protection Program Office, Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB), Massachusetts, to conduct an in-house effort assessing the Desert Hawk small unmanned air vehicle's (SUAV) performance and exploring potential improvements to that performance. Desert Hawk, also known as the Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System (FPASS), performs air base perimeter defense and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Low-Cost Transmit/Receive Module for Satellite Control and Communications

A multidisciplinary team led by AFRL scientists is developing a geodesic dome phased-array antenna (GDPAA) for a proposed future Air Force (AF) technology demonstration.1 AFRL is also developing a second-generation S-band electronic scanning array (ESA) proof-of-concept (POC) panel to support the demonstration efforts.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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The Next Frontier of Networking—The Airborne Network

It is the next frontier of networking—a frontier where communication nodes may move at Mach speeds, wireless line of sight covers hundreds of miles, and weather affects communications capabilities such as chat and e-mail. It is the airborne network (AN). In the coming years, the military services and commercial aviation enterprises will internetwork their respective fleets of airborne assets. For the military, these assets range from unmanned aircraft, smart munitions, and fast-moving fighter aircraft to "air stationary" tankers and slow-moving cargo planes. This fast-paced, ever-changing environment presents challenges across all network layers—from basic connectivity and linking/routing challenges to management of the proposed global network. Accordingly, military entities define the AN as the sum total of all capabilities required for conducting airborne network-centric operations to shorten the kill chain and facilitate the synchronized flow of relevant information by extending the Global Information Grid (GIG) to the airborne domain (see figure).

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Military Worth Analysis of New Concept Weapons

Weapon systems analysts traditionally conduct military worth analysis (MWA) to evaluate the warfighter payoff resulting either from the development and implementation of new assets or from the establishment of new concepts of employment for existing assets. Analysis scope ranges from the campaign level to the mission level and thus differs in magnitude, time frame, and level of detail (see Figure 1). While MWA can potentially evaluate hundreds of possible metrics, it typically includes parameters such as time to accomplish objectives, number of targets neutralized, amount of collateral damage, and volume of resources consumed (including dollars). As depicted in Figure 2, laboratory directors must consider both the analytically demonstrated payoff and the clear interest of the user community in making an informed investment decision; therefore, determining the MWA for a particular laboratory technology is vitally important.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Technology
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Developing Condition-Based Maintenance

Like any manufacturing equipment, semiconductor fabrication systems have a finite lifetime. Technicians normally perform maintenance on these hardware systems according to preset schedules and regardless of actual need, which results in unnecessary equipment downtime and needless costs incurred as a result of lost production time and additional maintenance labor. AFRL scientists teamed with researchers from the University of New Mexico (UNM) to examine the feasibility of establishing prognostics for such expensive and valuable machinery and to devise a mechanism for scheduling equipment maintenance based on needs rather than calendar cycles. This so-called condition-based maintenance has the potential to increase equipment availability, improve productivity, enhance safety, and reduce expenses. The ultimate objective of the AFRL/UNM collaboration is to develop a data-driven prognostic system that provides advanced warning of failures, faults, and other error events that occur in complex systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Technology
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Design of Lightweight and Durable Composite Structures

In the field of engineering design, "factors of safety" are derivatives of inadequate knowledge and therefore are a necessary, but costly, element of engineering design. Designing components with excessively high factors of safety is needless over design that results in partial loss of component functionality and increased costs to produce and use the component. To design components that incorporate rational factors of safety, engineers must have precise knowledge of both a component's performance requirements and the properties of its constituent materials during fabrication and while in service.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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