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Mars Express Flies

The Mars Express spacecraft, launched in June from Kazakhstan, carries one of the most advanced electron spectrometers ever built as a component of the Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic Atoms (ASPERA) instrument flying aboard the craft. Built by SwRI, the electron spectrometer, along with ion composition and energetic neutral atom imaging components, will help characterize Mars’ immediate space environment and study its interaction with the neutral gases of the martian upper atmosphere.

Understanding these interactions enables planetary scientists to characterize the present state of the martian atmosphere and to reconstruct its history and evolution over the past 3.5 billion years.

“The fact that Earth can maintain life is a unique condition in the solar system,” said Dr. J. David Winningham, ASPERA co-investigator and an Institute scientist in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. “Mars Express could tell researchers what variables are needed to first create, then preserve over geological time, oceans and atmospheres.”

NASA provided funding to SwRI to build the electron spectrometer, which will measure electron fluxes in the energy range of a few to 20,000 electron volts, for the European Space Agency mission. The Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna, Sweden, leads the development of ASPERA in collaboration with researchers from Finland, Italy, England, Germany and France.

A strong planetary magnetic field helps maintain the atmosphere on Earth by shielding it from the solar wind — the hypersonic stream of charged particles that flows out from the sun. Without this magnetic shield, ionized gases in the Earth’s upper atmosphere would be swept away, leading to a significant loss of atmospheric material over geologic time. Mars has no intrinsic magnetic field, or at best only a very weak one, leaving its atmosphere unprotected from erosion by the solar wind.

ASPERA will acquire data on the charged particles that impinge on the martian atmosphere and on the atmospheric material that is lost as a result of interactions with the solar wind. Recent theoretical calculations suggest that the oxygen lost by these and other processes over the last several billion years is equivalent to the amount of oxygen in a global layer of water about 50 meters deep. The ASPERA measurements could help determine whether liquid water, the primary requirement for life as we understand it, was ever present on Mars in significant amounts.

Contact Winningham at (210) 522-3075 or

NASGRO® Earns NASA Honor

A team of engineers from SwRI, NASA Johnson Space Center and Lockheed Martin Space Operations has received the NASA Johnson Space Center Exceptional Software Award in recognition of its contributions to the NASGRO Fracture Mechanics Analysis Software.

NASGRO was selected for the award from a field of 41 entries at Johnson Space Center. NASGRO will now compete with first-place finishers from the other NASA space centers for the NASA Software of the Year award.

NASGRO is a suite of software programs to analyze fatigue crack growth and fracture, perform structural life assessments, compute stresses, and process and store fatigue crack growth properties. Earlier versions of NASGRO were developed by NASA and were distributed informally at no cost. The current version, NASGRO 4.0, was jointly developed by NASA and SwRI under terms of a special Space Act Agreement. NASGRO 4.0 contains substantial advances over the earlier versions and is the first commercial version of the code.

Institute team members, all from the Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division, are Senior Program Manager Dr. Craig McClung, Principal Engineer Joe Cardinal, Institute Scientist Dr. Graham Chell, Senior Research Engineer Dr. Yi-Der Lee, Research Engineer Brian Gardner, and Senior Research Engineer Dr. Michael Enright.

To learn more about NASGRO, visit

Contact McClung at (210) 522-2422 or

Burkhardt, Sablik Named Fellows

Gary Burkhardt and Dr. Martin Sablik, staff scientists in the Applied Physics Division, have been named Fellows of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing. They will be formally recognized at the ASNT Fall Conference, to be held Oct. 13–17 in Pittsburgh.

Burkhardt and Sablik were recognized for their significant accomplishments in the field of nondestructive testing and for their service to the ASNT. Burkhardt has been an active member of the ASNT for more than 25 years and Sablik for 22 years. Both have held several officer positions in the South Texas Section of ASNT.

Burkhardt came to SwRI in 1974 and has more than 29 years of experience in nondestructive evaluation (NDE) experimental research and development, particularly in electromagnetic inspection methods. He has been involved with the application of nonlinear harmonics methods for measurement of stress, including the detection and characterization of mechanical damage in gas transmission pipelines and measurement of torque in rotating shafts.

He has developed unique eddy current probes for inspection of aircraft structures, gas turbine engine components and steam-generator tubing. Probe designs include the use of orthogonal-axis coils and sensors based on the giant magnetoresistive effect. He is currently developing a collapsible, remote-field eddy current probe for inspecting pipelines with internal restrictions that prevent the use of conventional inspection methods.

Burkhardt holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Southwest Texas State University. He is the author of more than 60 publications concerned with NDE and has contributed chapters to the ASM International Metals Handbook. He has been awarded five U.S. patents and has four patents pending. Burkhardt holds a Level III certification from ASNT in eddy current testing. In addition to ASNT, he is a member of the American Physical Society.

Before joining SwRI in 1980, Sablik was an associate professor of physics at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, N.J.

Sablik is a theoretical physicist with broad experience in pure and applied physics. He has developed models to explain the effect of uniaxial and biaxial stress on magnetic hysteresis, magnetostriction hysteresis, Barkhausen noise and other magnetic and magnetoelastic properties in steels, rare earth intermetallics and amorphous metallic glasses. He has applied such models to various magnetic NDE techniques. He has conducted structural vibration computer studies and has developed computer models for finding eddy currents induced in metallic materials. Most recently, Sablik has been modeling the effects of microstructure on magnetic properties, with application to monitoring properties of steel as the steel is being manufactured.

Sablik is the recipient of an Imagineer Award from the Mind Science Foundation and is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cornell University, a master’s degree in physics from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in physics from Fordham University. He is the author of more than 100 papers and of more than 100 technical presentations and holds one U.S. patent. He coauthored chapters on magnetic NDE in the ASNT NDE Handbook and in The Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. He recently was named an editor of the IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. In addition to ASNT and IEEE, he is a member of the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union.

Contact Sablik at (210) 522-3342 or

Software engineering matures

The Software Engineering Organization at SwRI has earned the Software Engineering Institute’s (SEI) Capability Maturity Model® Level 3 for software process improvement.

Level 3 on the five-level model for software process improvement requires the use of standard procedures across the organization for both the management and software engineering aspects of projects. It also requires an infrastructure for continuous process improvement, according to Susan Crumrine, executive director of the Software Engineering Organization within SwRI’s Automation and Data Systems Division.

The SwRI group successfully exhibited Level 3 characteristics during an April assessment conducted by Process Enhancement Partners Inc., an SEI-authorized lead assessor.

The five-level model starts with ad hoc software processes and progresses through Level 2 where software process capabilities are repeatable, Level 3 where there are standard procedures defined and used at the organizational level, and Levels 4 and 5 where quantitative quality goals are set for both software products and processes and the organization is characterized by continuous process improvement.

Crumrine explained that the SEI Software Capability Maturity Model is a quality initiative focused on improving the ability of software contractors to develop quality software within budget and on schedule. Practices addressed by the model are characterized by disciplined, well-defined software engineering processes for the planning and execution of a software development project.

Contact Crumrine at (210) 522-2089 or

“Solar Tsunamis” Aid Corona Study

Since the launch of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) in 1996, scientists have used its Extreme-Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) to study flares, filaments and coronal mass ejections. The telescope has also discovered solar tsunamis (also called “EIT waves” by solar scientists), huge propagating waves that are triggered along with coronal mass ejections and can travel the entire diameter of the sun. Researchers at SwRI are applying this unusual phenomenon for the first time to new studies of the solar corona.

The Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) spacecraft, launched in 1998, has provided new data complementing SOHO observations. Its higher resolution and faster cadence give solar physicists the tools to study hitherto unseen details. Dr. Meredith Wills-Davey, a post-doctoral researcher in the SwRI Space Studies Department, uses TRACE data to better understand the nature of solar tsunamis and the structure of the corona through which they travel.

“Just as geologists can learn about material in the ground by studying the waves generated by earthquakes,” she said, “solar physicists can use these solar tsunamis to learn more about the structure of the solar corona.”

TRACE observations of a well-observed event on June 13, 1998, are sufficiently detailed that it is possible to show, through morphology alone, that the propagation must be a “fast-mode magneto-acoustic wave.” Analysis of the amplitude and the energy flux of the wave front shows that it actually increases through much of its lifetime. This suggests that, rather than being a single impulse, the wave driver may exist for an extended period. Because this particular event was associated with a coronal mass ejection, it is possible the wave is somehow part of the coronal mass ejection formation, said Wills-Davey.

Comparison between current observations at different coronal temperatures also offers insight into the wave’s altitude of propagation. Evidence suggests that the tsunami is skimming along the base of the corona. This idea is also consistent with the lack of measurable dispersion in the wave, a circumstance more easily explained if the front travels at a constant height. Existing models and theories suggest that propagating waves in the corona should be trapped in “wave guides,” but this appears to be the first observational evidence.

“These pulse waves serve as ‘sonar pulses’ that will let us probe the local conditions in up to 30 percent of the sun’s atmosphere at once,” said Dr. Craig DeForest, a senior research scientist at SwRI. “In addition, they help us study the unknown processes at play in solar flares, the largest explosions in our solar system.”

“The study of waves in the corona is a new venture with an exciting future, and the benefits to our understanding of the sun should be substantial,” added Wills-Davey, who recently received NASA funding to continue this work. The research to date has been funded by NASA and the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

Contact Wills-Davey at (303) 546-9670 or

Clean Diesel Consortium Launched

SwRI will launch its fourth cooperative research program to reduce diesel engine emissions. Building on 12 years of successful clean diesel programs, the newest four-year effort will seek to improve diesel emissions technology to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s stringent 2010 emissions goals.

A kickoff meeting for the consortium, known as Clean Diesel IV, is scheduled for Nov. 6, 2003. The program offers a yearly renewable contract, and signed contracts are required to attend the kickoff meeting.

Like its predecessors, the new program is designed to develop new diesel technologies for consortium members. The primary objective is to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) to 0.2 gram/horsepower-hour (g/hp-hr) and particulates to 0.01 g/hp-hr. Consortium participants will determine which projects will be undertaken during the program.

Daniel Stewart, director of the Engine Research Department in the SwRI Engine and Vehicle Research Division, explained that participants select the consortium work from a number of Institute-suggested projects. Institute engineers and scientists recommend areas of interest based on SwRI’s extensive automotive-related experience and on work performed during the three earlier clean diesel consortia.

“Typically, four to six projects are conducted each year, with projects being added, completed or extended according to participant recommendations,” Stewart continued. “Technology developed during the earlier clean diesel programs will be brought forward as needed, but we will be working toward different, more stringent goals.”

Possible projects include the development of stoichiometric diesel engines with three-way catalysts and variable area injection nozzles, direct in-cylinder urea injection and determination of lubricant oil impact on particulate production.

The advantage of consortium membership is that the impact of the yearly contribution is multiplied by the number of participants, providing substantially more research than would be possible by funding from a single member. In addition, SwRI’s internal research programs involving control algorithms and modified combustion concepts will be shared with consortium members. These efforts often form the basis for focused research under the consortium.

The Institute will aggressively pursue patent applications for technology developed during the Clean Diesel IV program, and consortium participants will receive a royalty-free license to use the technology.

SwRI has introduced the program to European, Asian and American companies. Interested parties unable to attend the kickoff meeting may join Clean Diesel IV at any time. To date, 30 companies have indicated interest, including light- and heavy-duty and off-road engine manufacturers, component suppliers, and oil and fuel companies.

Contact Stewart at (210) 522-3657 or

Improving Battlefield Fuel Supplies

SwRI will demonstrate a new, highly mobile system to supply fuel and water for rapidly advancing U.S. Army tanks, trucks and troops. Under a two-year, $4.65 million contract with the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), SwRI will build and demonstrate a prototype Rapidly Installed Fluid Transfer System (RIFTS), which consists of continuous flexible hose line with pumping stations, leak-detection equipment and a command module.

Existing systems for supplying fuel and water to deployed units are aging and may not be mobile enough to support future fast-moving force projections like those seen during the recent action in Iraq, said project manager John Roberts of the Unmanned Systems and Sensors Section of SwRI’s Aerospace Electronics and Information Technology Division. The existing system uses 19-foot sections of rigid pipe that must be carried on trucks, unloaded by hand and joined with clamps that can leak if the pipe deflection exceeds the allowable angle. Fuel supply lines can be moved forward only about three to five miles in a day with the existing system.

The RIFTS system uses flexible hose carried on a truck-mounted reel and can be deployed by two people at a rate of a mile every 30 minutes, according to Roberts. Pumps are installed every two to five miles, depending on terrain, to maintain pressure from the point of origin to the tactical petroleum and water terminals. The system is deployed in 50-mile sets.

“It can basically go anywhere in the world,” Roberts said, explaining that the system can operate at temperatures from -25 degrees to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and at elevations from sea level to 9,000 feet.

Built primarily with commercially available components and integrated by SwRI, RIFTS is equipped with a leak sensing system that can detect and locate leaks as small as 0.4 percent of flow rate, or less than four gallons per minute when the pipeline is carrying 800 gallons per minute, Roberts said. Additionally, the system can be remotely monitored and centrally controlled from the command module using wireless communication.

Although it somewhat resembles a fire hose, the 6-inch-diameter fuel line is larger and more rugged, operating at pressures from 350–750 pounds per square inch (psi) compared to 100–150 psi for a fire hose. Using higher pressure hose reduces the number of pumping stations required for a given deployment.

Contact Roberts at (210) 522-3884 or

In ceremonies held during June in Seoul, South Korea, officials of Southwest Resarch Institute and Hyundae Nuclear Company Ltd. signed a business agency agreement for the nuclear fuel cycle business in South Korea. Pictured are (from left) Nam Ho, chairman of Hyundae Nuclear Company Ltd., Hyundae President Jun Su Kim and SwRI Executive Vice President-Operations Walter Downing. Chairman Ho spent a year at SwRI during the 1970s while training in nuclear power plant quality assurance systems for the South Korean government. The ceremony was attended by representatives of the two companies as well as the Atomic Energy Bureau of the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology.

Published in the Summer 2003 issue of Technology Today®, published by Southwest Research Institute. For more information, contact Joe Fohn.

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