Friday, 28 November 2008

Unconventional Antennas from NASA Labs

Yes, I know I'm writing a lot about NASA, the Jet Propulsion Labs, and space stuff in general. This interests me a lot, anything to do with space travel and its related technology. I still remember watching the historic moon land in 1969 on our first Zenith colour TV. You've probably noticed too that I like working with different antenna technologies.

I ran across a NASA article that describes their antenna design software. It's nothing like what's available to the ham community. Their software takes ten hours to design new antennas for their satellites and spacecraft. You can imagine the criteria as to size, weight, and performance required for operation in deep space.

Here's what their computer clusters have managed to design - very unconventional - it looks like a bent paper clip but their computers have determined this is the best performing hardware for their satellites.

NASA describes their software, that runs on a network of personal computers as "evolutionary". The above photo shows an antenna that can fit into a one-inch space (2.5 by 2.5 centimeters) in front of 'borg' of computers.

"The AI software examined millions of potential antenna designs before settling on a final one," said project lead Jason Lohn, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley. "Through a process patterned after Darwin's 'survival of the fittest,' the strongest designs survive and the less capable do not."

The software started with random antenna designs and through the evolutionary process, refined them. The computer system took about 10 hours to complete the initial antenna design process. "We told the computer program what performance the antenna should have, and the computer simulated evolution, keeping the best antenna designs that approached what we asked for. Eventually, it zeroed in on something that met the desired specifications for the mission," Lohn said.

When I visited the JPL in Pasadena California in April of this year I discovered a group of hams working there and they had a JPL ham club and repeater. Bets that some hams had a hand in this software. Now if they could only release the software to us lowly hams who use wire antennas and minimalist stealth antennas. I need something this small on 160 meters.


JPL Amateur Radio Club

(Photos courtesy of NASA Ames)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

kabukicho2001 said: Random wire shaping may get the best antenna too, if ur lucky like a donkey hitting a violin gets a superb sound