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Pulsed Plasma Lubricator (PPL) Technology for the In Situ Replenishment of Dry Lubricants in Extreme Environments

Applications include mechanisms that are not easily serviced in the field, including those used in deep sea or arctic oil drilling. NASA missions employing mobility systems and other moving mechanical assemblies for application on Mars, the Moon, and in deep space depend on the reliable operation of these assemblies and their tribological components. Wet lubricants are sometimes used in space applications, but in order to avoid solidification, they often require active heating due to the extreme cold temperatures that are encountered. Dry lubricants, such as molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), are more commonly chosen for space mechanisms because they are not subject to the low-temperature limitations of wet lubricants while also providing superior lubricating properties. A major drawback of dry lubricants is low wear resistance that eventually leads to failure of the assembly as the lubricant is removed.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Long-Life, Hydrophilic, Antimicrobial Coating for Condensing Heat Exchangers

New coating uses a modified structure intended to inhibit diffusion, slow hydrolysis, and lengthen the coating life. Future manned spacecraft and lunar or Mars outposts will need a condensing heat exchanger (CHX) to control humidity in the cabin atmosphere. Condensing surfaces must be hydrophilic to control condensate flow and ensure efficient operation in zero gravity, and biocidal to prevent growth of microbes and formation of biofilms on condensing surfaces. Coatings must be extremely stable, adhere to the condensing surface, and maintain hydro philic and biocidal properties for many years.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Opposed Pad Gecko Adhesive Gripper for On-Off Omnidirectional Anchoring/Gripping in Orbit

Applications include satellite servicing and inspection of inflatable habitats. The idea of turning the stickiness of a material on and off is not an intuitive concept, yet this is exactly how geckos run up walls at speeds greater than 1 m/s and cling to ceilings made of glass. Transitioning this capability to spacecraft would constitute a major breakthrough because it would provide improved capabilities for multiple mission types.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Complex Geometry Multi-Use Coatings for Abrasion Prevention, Wear Resistance, and Lunar Dust Removal

Two coatings are required to remove/repel lunar dust particles from the mechanism or surface that needs protection. One coating must be a conductor, and one must be a dielectric. Tungsten carbide (WC) and aluminum oxide (Al2O3) were found to be best suited as the conductor and dielectric, respectively.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Smart Core-Bit Probe (SCOPe)

This system can be used in drilling applications in the oil and gas industry. Smart Core-Bit Probe (SCOPe) employs ruggedized MEMS-based sensors for real-time monitoring of sample core integrity (compositional or morphological changes) and drill health during sample acquisition. SCOPe enables comprehensive preliminary in situ measurements (both dynamic and static) during sample acquisition and before retrieving the sample. This results in maximum science return, and enables rapid and accurate analyses of mineralogy and chemistry of the sample from initial acquisition to the end of the sample acquisition and handling chain.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Electrically Conductive, Failure-Resistant Tethers

Fine wires are loosely woven into a load-bearing netlike structure. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Special electrically conductive, failure-resistant rope/wire combinations are being developed for use as electrodynamic spacecraft tethers. These or similar combinations could also prove useful on Earth in applications in which there are requirements for strong, reliable, lightweight tethers that can conduct electric currents of moderate size: such applications might include tethering of aerostats and of wind-powered electric generators.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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ATHLETE Low-Gravity Testbed

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A six-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) testbed was developed for evaluating microgravity and low-gravity proximity and contact operations, e.g. in the vicinity of a near Earth orbit, for simulation of proximity operations for a human mission to an asteroid. This is accomplished using an “inverted Stewart platform” where the vehicle under test — in this case, the ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) — is suspended by six computer-controlled cable winches so that it can be maneuvered in all six degrees of freedom. Position feedback is provided by both the encoders at the winch motor, and a motion capture system installed on the testbed structural frame. The payload is attached to the work platform at the end of the six cables.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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