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Modification of a Limbed Robot to Favor Climbing

A kinematically simplified design affords several benefits. The figure shows the LEMUR IIb, which is a modified version of the LEMUR II — the second generation of the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR). Except as described below, the LEMUR IIb hardware is mostly the same as that of the LEMUR II. The IIb and II versions differ in their kinematic configurations and characteristics associated with their kinematic configurations. The differences are such that relative to the LEMUR II, the LEMUR IIb is simpler and is better suited to climbing on inclined surfaces.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Spacecraft Escape Capsule

A report discusses the Gumdrop capsule — a conceptual spacecraft that would enable the crew to escape safely in the event of a major equipment failure at any time from launch through atmospheric re-entry. The scaleable Gumdrop capsule would comprise a command module (CM), a service module (SM), and a crew escape system (CES). The CM would contain a pressurized crew environment that would include avionic, life-support, thermal control, propulsive attitude control, and recovery systems. The SM would provide the primary propulsion and would also supply electrical power, life-support resources, and active thermal control to the CM. The CES would include a solid rocket motor, embedded within the SM, for pushing the CM away from the SM in the event of a critical thermal-protection system failure or loss of control. The CM and SM would normally remain integrated with each other from launch through recovery, but could be separated using the CES, if necessary, to enable the safe recovery of the crew in the CM. The crew escape motor could be used, alternatively, as a redundant means of de-orbit propulsion for the CM in the event of a major system failure in the SM.

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

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System for Continuous Deaeration of Hydraulic Oil

The proportion of dissolved air is reliably maintained below 1 volume percent. A system for continuous, rapid deaeration of hydraulic oil has been built to replace a prior system that effected deaeration more slowly in a cyclic pressure/vacuum process. Such systems are needed because (1) hydraulic oil has an affinity for air, typically containing between 10 and 15 volume percent of air and (2) in the original application for which these systems were built, there is a requirement to keep the proportion of dissolved air below 1 volume percent because a greater proportion can lead to pump cavitation and excessive softness in hydraulic-actuator force-versus-displacement characteristics. In addition to overcoming several deficiencies of the prior deaeration system, the present system removes water from the oil.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Optimization of Orientations of Spacecraft Reaction Wheels

A report presents a method of optimizing the orientations of three reaction wheels used to regulate the angular momentum of a spacecraft. The method yields an orientation matrix that minimizes mass, torque, and power demand of the reaction wheels while maximizing the allowable duration between successive angular-momentum dumps. Each reaction wheel is parameterized with its own unit vector, and a quadratic cost function is defined based on requirements for torque, storage of angular momentum, and power demand. Because management of angular momentum is a major issue in designing and operating an orbiting spacecraft, an angular-momentum-management strategy is parameterized and included as part of the overall optimization process. The report describes several case studies, including one of a spacecraft proposed to be placed in orbit around Europa (the fourth largest moon of Jupiter).

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Advances in Thrust-Based Emergency Control of an Airplane

It should be possible to land safely after a primary-flight-control failure. Engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center have received a patent on an emergency flight-control method implemented by a propulsion-controlled aircraft (PCA) system. Utilizing the pre-existing auto-throttle and engine-pressure-ratio trim controls of the airplane, the PCA system provides pitch and roll control for landing an airplane safely without using aerodynamic control surfaces that have ceased to function because of a primary-flight- control-system failure. The installation of the PCA does not entail any changes in pre-existing engine hardware or software. [Aspects of the method and system at previous stages of development were reported in "Thrust-Control System for Emergency Control of an Airplane" (DRC-96-07), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 3 (March 2001), page 68 and "Emergency Landing Using Thrust Control and Shift of Weight" (DRC-96-55), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 26, No. 5 (May 2002), page 58.]

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Ultrasonic/Sonic Mechanisms for Drilling and Coring

These mechanisms imitate burrowing actions of gophers and crabs. Two apparatuses now under development are intended to perform a variety of deep-drilling, coring, and sensing functions for subsurface exploration of rock and soil. These are modified versions of the apparatuses described in "Ultrasonic/Sonic Drill/Corers With Integrated Sensors" (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 1 (January 2001), page 38. In comparison with the drilling equipment traditionally used in such exploration, these apparatuses weigh less and consume less power. Moreover, unlike traditional drills and corers, these apparatuses function without need for large externally applied axial forces.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Analysis of Designs of Space Laboratories

A report presents a review of the development of laboratories in outer space, starting from the pioneering Skylab and Salyut stations of the United States and the former Soviet Union and progressing through current and anticipated future developments. The report includes textual discussions of space-station designs, illustrated with drawings, photographs, and tables. The approach taken in the review was not to provide a comprehensive catalog of each space laboratory and every design topic that applies to it, but, rather, to illustrate architectural precedents by providing examples that illustrate major design problems and principles to be applied in solving them. Hence, the report deemphasizes information from the most recent space-station literature and concentrates on information from original design reports that show how designs originated and evolved. The most important contribution of the review was the development of a methodology, called "units of analysis," for identifying and analyzing design issues from the perspectives of four broad domains: laboratory science, crew, modes of operations, and the system as a whole.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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