NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Two researchers have won $15,000 prizes from NASA for inventions they have conceived while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Robert F. Rice and Marvin Perlman received the awards, given by NASA's Inventions and Contributions Board, in a recent ceremony at a meeting of JPL senior management.

In addition, eight other JPL scientists and engineers received certificates of recognition and monetary awards in the ceremony for their inventions and contributions.

Rice, a member of JPL's Flight Command and Data Management Systems Section, was recognized for his efforts in developing adaptive digital data compression, as well as for work that defined the error-protection coding approach now used on all deep-space missions.

Perlman, a retired employee and long-time colleague of Rice who worked in the same section, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for work on space communication algebraic error-protection coders and decoders, and on cryptographic systems for secure communication.

Both Rice's and Perlman's work helps NASA/JPL planetary spacecraft send pictures and other data back to Earth -- and ground controllers send commands to spacecraft -- more efficiently and reliably.

In presenting the awards, Dr. Paul A. Curto of NASA Headquarters noted that the contributions of Rice and Perlman have had a significant impact on NASA and the U.S. economy.

This is only the second time that JPL employees or retirees have been awarded a prize of this magnitude, he added.

Rice developed and promoted a concept called the Advanced Imaging Communication System (AICS) in the early 1970s. This system achieved dramatic improvement in overall telecommunications efficiency by combining sophisticated data compression with error-protection coding.

The system combined a technique called Reed-Solomon coding with the then-standard method, called convolutional coding.

Using a version of his pioneering techniques, now known as the Rice algorithms, the AICS was first applied to the Voyager 2 spacecraft for its Uranus and Neptune encounters in 1986 and 1989. On the Voyager mission the system increased the spacecraft's image return capability by a factor of four.

The Rice algorithms are now being applied to a broad range of instruments throughout the space program, including many on the NASA/JPL Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. Reed-Solomon coding has since become a NASA and international standard.

In addition, the technology has been transferred to private industry, and NASA-developed microcircuits implementing the Rice algorithms are now available commercially.

Perlman's work was a major force responsible for the acceptance of innovative Reed-Solomon coding architectures as standards. He later formulated mathematical methods that allow existing ground decoders to be used in all future missions that adhere to the new standard coding system.

Perlman, a JPL employee for 32 years before retiring in 1989, received a patent for cryptographic research that led to a system for authentication and controlled access to mainframe computers. The system was certified by the National Computer Security Center and was the first cryptographic system to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards for computer sciences and technology.

Other JPL researchers receiving certificates in the ceremony included Dr. Martin Buehler of the Laboratory's Microdevices Technology Section, who was awarded $1,000 for his invention of an addressable test matrix that tests integrated-circuit wafers for quality control.

Drs. Romney Katti and Henry Stadler of JPL's Microdevices Technology Section and former employee Jiin-chaun Wu each received $1,000 for their development of an improved memory system design called a vertical Bloch line memory.

Four members of JPL's Robotic Systems and Advanced Computer Technology Section -- Drs. Jacob Barhen, Amir Fijany, Nikzad Toomarian and Michail Zak -- each garnered $1,000 for a design that improves the bit resolution of charge domain devices.

Joining Curto in presenting the awards was JPL Deputy Director Larry N. Dumas.

The award program is sponsored by the Inventions and Contributions Board in the Special Studies Division of NASA's Office of Policy Coordination and International Relations, Washington, D.C.

News Media Contact