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Self-Regulating Water-Separator System for Fuel Cells

This system would not depend on hydrophobic or hydrophilic surfaces. A proposed system would perform multiple coordinated functions in regulating the pressure of the oxidant gas (usually, pure oxygen) flowing to a fuel-cell stack and in removing excess product water that is generated in the normal fuel-cell operation. The system could function in the presence or absence of gravitation, and in any orientation in a gravitational field.

Posted in: Machinery & Automation, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Code Assesses Risks Posed by Meteoroids and Orbital Debris

BUMPER II version 1.92e is a computer code for assessing the risk of damage from impacts of micrometeoroids and orbital debris on the International Space Station (ISS), including those parts of the ISS covered by shielding that affords partial protection against such impacts. (Other versions of BUMPER II have been written for other spacecraft.) Bumper II quantifies the probability of penetration of shielding and the damage to spacecraft equipment as functions of the size, shape, and orientation of the spacecraft; the parameters of its orbit; failure criteria that quantify impact damage at the threshold of failure for each spacecraft surface; and the impact-damage resistance of each spacecraft surface as defined by “ballistic limit equations” that return the size of a failure causing particle as a function of target parameters (including materials, configurations, thicknesses, and gap distances) and impact conditions (impact velocity and the density and shape of the impactor). BUMPER II version 1.92e contains several dozen ballistic limit equations that are based on results from thousands of hypervelocity impact tests conducted by NASA on ISS shielding and other hardware, and on results from numerical simulations of impacts.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Asymmetric Bulkheads for Cylindrical Pressure Vessels

These bulkheads would offer advantages over prior concave, convex, and flat bulkheads. Asymmetric bulkheads are proposed for the ends of vertically oriented cylindrical pressure vessels. These bulkheads, which would feature both convex and concave contours, would offer advantages over purely convex, purely concave, and flat bulkheads (see figure). Intended originally to be applied to large tanks that hold propellant liquids for launching spacecraft, the asymmetric-bulkhead concept may also be attractive for terrestrial pressure vessels for which there are requirements to maximize volumetric and mass efficiencies.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Spiral Orbit Tribometer

Friction and lubricant degradation rate can be quantified rapidly. The spiral orbit tribometer (SOT) bridges the gap between full-scale life testing and typically unrealistic accelerated life testing of ball-bearing lubricants in conjunction with bearing ball and race materials. The SOT operates under realistic conditions and quickly produces results, thereby providing information that can guide the selection of lubricant, ball, and race materials early in a design process.

Posted in: Mechanics, Machinery & Automation, Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Variable-Tension-Cord Suspension/Vibration-Isolation System

Cord tensions are adjusted to optimize vibration-isolation properties. A system for mechanical suspension and vibration isolation of a machine or instrument is based on the use of Kevlar (or equivalent aromatic polyamide) cord held in variable tension between the machine or instrument and a surrounding frame. The basic concept of such a tensioned-cord suspension system (including one in which the cords are made of aromatic polyamide fibers) is not new by itself; what is new here is the additional provision for adjusting the tension during operation to optimize vibration-isolation properties.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Rapid-Chill Cryogenic Coaxial Direct- Acting Solenoid Valve

A commercially available cryogenic direct-acting solenoid valve has been modified to incorporate a rapid-chill feature. In the original application for which this feature was devised, there is a requirement to ensure that at all times, the valve outlet flow consists entirely or mostly of liquid; that is, there is a requirement to minimize vaporization of cryogenic liquid flowing through the valve. This translates to a requirement to chill interior valve surfaces in contact with the flowing liquid.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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On Release of Microbe-Laden Particles From Mars Landers

A paper presents a study in which rates of release of small particles from Mars lander spacecraft into the Martian atmosphere were estimated from first principles. Because such particles can consist of, or be laden with, terrestrial microbes, the study was undertaken to understand their potential for biological contamination of Mars. The study included taking account of forces and energies involved in adhesion of particles and of three mechanisms of dislodgement of particles from the surface of a Mars lander: wind shear, wind-driven impingement of suspended dust, and impingement of winddriven local saltating sand particles. Wind shear was determined to be effective in dislodging only particles larger than about 10 microns and would probably be of limited interest because such large particles could be removed by pre-flight cleaning of the spacecraft, and their number on the launched spacecraft would thus be relatively small. Dislodgement by wind-driven dust was found to be characterized by an adhesion half-life of the order of 10,000 years — judged to be too long to be of concern. Dislodgement by saltating sand particles, including skirts of dust devils, was found to be of potential importance, depending on the sizes of the spacecraft-attached particlesand characteristics of both Mars sand-particle and spacecraft surfaces.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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