Miniature Linear Actuator for Small Spacecraft

A report discusses the development of a kit of mechanisms intended for use aboard future spacecraft having masses between 10 and 100 kg. The report focuses mostly on two prototypes of one of the mechanisms: a miniature linear actuator based on a shape-memory-alloy (SMA) wire. In this actuator, as in SMA-wire actuators described previously in NASA Tech Briefs, a spring biases a moving part toward one limit of its stroke and is restrained or pulled toward the other limit of the stroke by an SMA wire, which assumes a slightly lesser or greater "remembered" length, depending on whether or not an electric current is applied to the wire to heat it above a transition temperature. Topics addressed in the report include the need to develop mechanisms like these, the general approach to be taken in designing SMA actuators, tests of the two prototypes of the miniature linear actuators,and improvements in the second prototype over the first prototype resulting in reduced mass and increased stroke. The report also presents recommendations for future development, briefly discusses problems of tolerances and working with small parts, states a need for better understanding of behaviors of SMAs, and presents conclusions.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Sensors and actuators, Wiring, Smart materials, Spacecraft

Second-Generation Six-Limbed Experimental Robot

This robot is designed to be more agile and dexterous than its predecessor.

The figure shows the LEMUR II—the second generation of the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR), which was described in "Six-Legged Ex- perimental Robot " (NPO-20897), NASA Tech Briefs,Vol.25, No.12 (December 2001), page 58. The LEMUR II incorporates a number of improvements, including new features, that extend its capabilities beyond those of its predecessor, which is now denoted the LEMUR I.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Robotics

Development of Biomorphic Flyers

Autonomous flight control and navigation in small size is offered for planetary and terrestrial exploration applications.

Biomorphic flyers have recently been demonstrated that utilize the approach described earlier in "Bio-Inspired Engineering of Exploration Systems" (NPO-21142), NASA Tech Briefs ,Vol.27, No.5 (May 2003), page 54, to distill the principles found in successful, nature-tested mechanisms of flight control. Two types of flyers are being built, corresponding to the imaging and shepherding flyers for a biomorphic mission described earlier in "Cooperative Lander-Surface/Aerial Microflyer Missions for Mars Exploration" (NPO-30286), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol.28, No.5 (May 2004), page 36. The common features of these two types of flyers are that both are delta-wing airplanes incorporating bio-inspired capabilities of control, navigation, and visual search for exploration. The delta-wing design is robust to ~40 G axial load and offers ease of stowing and packaging.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Flight control systems, Biological sciences

Advanced Infant Car Seat Would Increase Highway Safety

This system would keep a baby safe, comfortable, and entertained, thereby reducing distractions for an adult driver.

An advanced infant car seat has been proposed to increase highway safety by reducing the incidence of crying, fussy behavior, and other child-related distractions that divert an adult driver's attention from driving. In addition to a conventional infant car seat with safety restraints, the proposed advanced infant car seat would include a number of components and subsystems that would function together as a comprehensive infant-care system that would keep its occupant safe, comfortable, and entertained, and would enable the driver to monitor the baby without having to either stop the car or turn around to face the infant during driving.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Infants, Vehicle drivers, Seats and seating, Child restraint systems

Method of Calibration for a Large Cathetometer System

This method costs considerably less than does a prior method

A method of calibration has been devised for a pair of mutually orthogonal two-axis cathetometers that, when used together, yield measurements of three-dimensional positions of objects mounted on an optical bench. Each cathetometer has a horizontal travel of 1.8 m and a vertical travel of 1.2 m. The cathetometers are required to measure X ,Y, and Z coordinates (see figure) to within ±0.005 in.(±0.127 mm).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Calibration, Measurements

Miniature Robotic Submarine for Exploring Harsh Environments

Extreme miniaturization would enable exploration of previously inaccessible regions.

The miniature autonomous submersible explorer (MASE) has been proposed as a means of scientific exploration—especially, looking for signs of life—in harsh, relatively inaccessible underwater environments. Basically, the MASE would be a small instrumented robotic submarine (see figure) that could launch itself or could be launched from another vehicle. Examples of environments that might be explored by use of the MASE include subglacial lakes, deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, acidic or alkaline lakes, brine lenses in permafrost, and ocean regions under Antarctic ice shelves.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Imaging and visualization, Biological sciences, Robotics, Marine vehicles and equipment

Lightweight Exoskeletons With Controllable Actuators

Resistive or assistive forces and torques would be generated on command.

A proposed class of lightweight exoskeletal electromechanical systems would include electrically controllable actuators that would generate torques and forces that, depending on specific applications, would resist and/or assist wearers’ movements. The proposed systems would be successors to relatively heavy, bulky, and less capable human strength amplifying exoskeletal electromechanical systems that have been subjects of research during the past four decades. The proposed systems could be useful in diverse applications in which there are needs for systems that could be donned or doffed easily, that would exert little effect when idle, and that could be activated on demand: examples of such applications include (1) providing controlled movement and/or resistance to movement for physical exercise and (2) augmenting wearers’ strengths in the performance of military, law-enforcement, and industrial tasks.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Sensors and actuators, Human factors, Kinematics, Lightweight materials, Protective clothing

Simple Systems for Detecting Spacecraft Meteoroid Punctures

A report describes proposed systems to be installed in spacecraft to detect punctures by impinging meteoroids or debris. Relative to other systems that have been used for this purpose, the proposed systems would be simpler and more adaptable, and would demand less of astronauts' attention and of spacecraft power and computing resources. The proposed systems would include a thin, hollow, hermetically sealed panel containing an inert fluid at a pressure above the spacecraft cabin pressure. A transducer would monitor the pressure in the panel. It is assumed that an impinging object that punctures the cabin at the location of the panel would also puncture the panel. Because the volume of the panel would be much smaller than that of the cabin, the panel would lose its elevated pressure much faster than the cabin would lose its lower pressure. The transducer would convert the rapid pressure drop to an electrical signal that could trigger an alarm. Hence, the system would provide an immediate indication of the approximate location of a small impact leak, possibly in time to take corrective action before a large loss of cabin pressure could occur.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Aircraft structures, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Sensors and actuators, Spacecraft

Mechanism for Self-Reacted Friction Stir Welding

This mechanism performs better than others that have been tried.

A mechanism has been designed to apply the loads (the stirring and the resection forces and torques) in self-reacted friction stir welding. This mechanism differs somewhat from mechanisms used in conventional friction stir welding, as described below.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Welding

Back Actuators for Segmented Mirrors and Other Applications

Actuation mechanisms could be simpler.

Back actuators have been proposed as alternatives to edge actuators considered previously for use in aligning hexagonal segments of lightweight segmented astronomical mirrors planned for use in outer space. The proposed back actuators could also be useful on Earth as parts of wafer-conveyance systems in the semiconductor industry.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Mirrors, Optics, Sensors and actuators

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