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Multifunctional Ablative Thermal Protection System

This material has applications in aerospace systems, manufacturing, and structural components requiring three-dimensional reinforcement. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California The Orion crew module highlighting the compression pads in the heat shield. NASA has developed a unique and robust multifunctional material called 3-Dimensional Multifunctional Ablative (3DMAT) Thermal Protection System (TPS) that meets both the structural and thermal performance needs for a lunar return mission and beyond. 3DMAT uses a game-changing woven technology tailored to the needs of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) compression pad. Compression pads serve as the interface between the crew module and service module of the Orion MPCV. The compression pads must carry the structural loads generated during launch, space operations, and pyroshock separation of the two modules. They must also serve as an ablative TPS withstanding the high heating of Earth re-entry. 3DMAT leverages NASA’s investment in woven TPS to design, manufacture, test, and demonstrate a prototype material for the Orion compression pads that combines the weaving of quartz yarns with resin transfer molding.

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Limboid Reconfigurable Robots for In-Space Assembly

A Limboid workforce with access to a tool crib could staff robotic space factories. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Figure 1. A laboratory prototype of a Limbi robot autonomously builds a modular structure. This process could repeat to build a large truss or spacecraft. As shown here, the modules are small, but a similar approach would work for large modules. Many future space vehicles, planetary bases, and mining operations will be too large and heavy to launch on a single rocket. Instead, component parts would need to be launched on multiple rockets and assembled in space. To enable versatile in-space assembly, a novel class of reconfigurable robots called Limboids has been conceptualized. Limboids are robotic limbs that attach and detach from each other to form a variety of useful configurations. These configurations might be as small as a single limb, which is best for dexterous manipulation of small parts, or as large as necessary for gross manipulation. As a modular system, Limboids could be supplemented with additional tools and limbs.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Cam Hand

This robust gripper design has applicability to both robots and as a prosthetic for the physically challenged. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A durable gripper tool was designed for use by RoboSimian robots intended for use in disaster scenarios that demand high-force, robust manipulation. The resulting Cam Hand fills a previously unaddressed niche that emphasizes grip strength and robustness over dexterity. The design uses a number of unique features to ensure high operational flexibility. While this gripper was created for use on a robot, its basic design could be refined for other applications; in particular, as a new class of prosthetic that would exist between the traditional hook and pinch models and the dexterous models currently under development.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Launch Tie-Down and Release Mechanism for CubeSat Spacecraft

This hardware configuration takes up an extremely small volume inside the CubeSat bus. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California As CubeSats take on increased functionality, including larger solar arrays for increased power demands and large antennas for science and communications needs, the requirements for launch tie-down and release mechanisms are evolving. In the past, some large CubeSat-deployable structures (solar arrays) relied on the confining walls of the CubeSat canister to act as the restraint mechanism. However, this practice is largely eliminated now, with most CubeSat specifications requiring a minimum amount of dwell time (after the CubeSat has been ejected from its parent canister) before the deployable structure can be released and deployed on orbit. Thus, a reliable restraint and release mechanism that does not depend on the geometry of the canister walls must be implemented.

Posted in: Briefs

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Predicting Magnetospheric Relativistic >1 MeV Electrons

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California There is an association between High-Intensity Long-Duration Continuous AE (HILDCAA) activity intervals and the acceleration of relativistic >1 MeV electrons in the magnetosphere. All of the HILDCAAs that occurred in solar cycle 23 (SC23) from 1995 to 2008 led to the acceleration of E>0.6 MeV, >2.0 MeV, and >4.0 MeV electrons in the Earth’s outer radiation belts. What is particularly noteworthy is that the E>0.6 MeV electron acceleration was delayed ~1.0 day after the onset of the HILDCAA event, the E>2.0 MeV electrons delayed ~1.5 days after the onset of the HILDCAA event, and the E>4.0 MeV electrons delayed ~2.5 days after the onset of the HILDCAA event.

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Optimal Prioritized Actuator Allocation

This allocation could improve the safety and autonomy of missions where it is critical to match torque first to minimize disturbances to spacecraft pointing. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California For formation flying, rendezvous and docking, and proximity operations with small bodies of the solar system, spacecraft require simultaneous translational and rotational agility. The necessary agility is generally provided by combinations of multiple small thrusters and torque-only actuators. To use these actuators, an onboard control system first calculates desired forces and torques that cause a spacecraft to follow a desired trajectory. Then the commanded forces and torques are turned into individual commands to specific actuators such that the combined action of all the actuators realizes as closely as possible the commanded forces and torques. This problem is referred to as actuator (or control) allocation.

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Terrain Model Registration

Model registration solves target tracking and target handoff problems. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California This technology is a method for registration of terrain models created using stereovision on a planetary rover. Most 3D model registration approaches use some variant of iterated closest point (ICP), which minimizes a norm based on the distances between corresponding points on an arbitrary 3D surface where closest points are taken to be corresponding points. The approach taken here instead projects the two surface models into a common viewpoint, rendering the models as they would be seen from a single range sensor. Correspondence is established by determining which points on the two surfaces project to the same location on the virtual range sensor image plane. The norm of the deviations in observed depth at all pixels is used as the objective function, and the algorithm finds the rigid transformation, which minimizes the norm. This recovered transformation can be used for visual odometry, rover pose estimation, and feature handoff.

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