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NASA's Game-Changing Robotics

“Over the years, I’ve asked people, ‘If you had a robot, what would you want it to do for you?’” said Rob Ambrose, principal investigator for NASA’s Game Changing Development Program and chief of the Software, Robotics, and Simulation Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. When he asks astronauts, they usually tell him they want the robot to do chores.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Robotics

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Walk and Roll Robot

A CAD model of the Walk and Roll Robot. To traverse smooth terrain, the most efficient motion is rolling; however, when a wheeled vehicle encounters obstacles, it has to avoid them, if possible, or choose an alternate path. Legged vehicles can traverse these obstacles by stepping over them, but are not energy-efficient on smooth terrain. The Walk and Roll Robot, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, combines walking and rolling for energy- efficient motions. The robot has a compact design in which all of the components are contained within the body, allowing it to be used for applications in harsh environments where robots traditionally have difficulty with debris, moisture, or dust. Other applications include urban search and rescue missions, and military reconnaissance and exploration. Visit http://technology.nasa.gov/patent/TB2016/GSC-TOPS-43

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace, Robotics

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Testing a Robotic Miner

Resource Prospector sits in the vacuum chamber that simulates the thermal environment and low atmospheric pressure and density the rover will experience on the Moon. The Resource Prospector (RP) rover could be the first robot to mine for resources on another world. Targeted for launch in the early 2020s, RP will search for and characterize sub-surface water, hydrogen, and other volatiles on the Moon. But first, NASA needs to test its resilience to the harsh environments of deep space and extremely cold temperatures on the Moon. During testing in a thermal vacuum chamber at Johnson Space Center, NASA simulated the thermal environment and extremely low atmospheric pressure and density that RP would experience. Learn more about Resource Prospector in the feature article HERE.

Posted in: UpFront, Aerospace, Robotics

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Dust Tolerant Connectors

The ruggedized housing for electrical or fluid connectors is designed to withstand harsh environments and rough handling. John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has developed a novel ruggedized housing for an electrical or fluid umbilical connector that prevents intrusion of dust, sand, dirt, mud, and moisture during field use under harsh conditions. The technology consists of a pair of hand-sized protective umbilical interface housings, each containing a connector with an integrated end cap. When the end cap covers the connector, the connector is protected. Each housing has a unique lever assembly connected to the end cap that, when squeezed, flips the end cap up to expose the connector. When in the up position, the two end caps face each other. To mate the connectors, the levers on both housings are squeezed, raising the end caps, and the two umbilicals are joined and twisted to couple them. Once the connectors are mated, the levers on both housings are released. This simultaneously seals both the umbilicals and the end caps. When dealing with cryogenic connectors, a purge can be applied to the housings to prevent icing when the connectors are demated.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Fluid Handling, Machinery & Automation

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Systems, Methods, and Apparatus of a Low-Conductance Silicon Micro-Leak for Mass Spectrometer Inlet

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Mass spectrometers on atmospheric entry probes require a method for introducing gas from high-pressure ambient regions to the vacuum of the mass spectrometer interior.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Machinery & Automation

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In-Situ Load System for Calibrating and Validating Aerodynamic Properties of Scaled Aircraft in Ground-Based Aerospace Testing Applications

This portfolio of technologies can be used in wind-tunnel force balance applications, and robotics applications such as rovers or prosthetic shoulder joints. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed three techniques and systems to calibrate and validate wind-tunnel force balances and other multi-component force transducers. The first is the Single Vector Calibration System (SVS), which uses a single deadweight for calibration and has been in active use at NASA for over 15 years. The second system is the In-Situ Load System (ILS). The ILS is based on the same fundamental concept as the SVS, but is designed for in-situ verification just prior to testing. Building off of the SVS and ILS, the third system is the Variable Acceleration Force Calibration System (VACS), which shares the single-vector force application concept, but generates those forces differently by keeping the mass constant and varying the acceleration. These techniques and systems provide for less complex and less labor-intensive calibration and verification of multi-component force transducers.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Machinery & Automation

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Release of a Stuck Solar Array or Antenna

Several options are examined that may also be useful in remotely controlled terrestrial environments. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Satellite launches experience approximately one deployment failure every two years. These failures include a solar array or antenna that fails to deploy because it is stuck due to a mechanism failure, or is snagged by a cable or thermal blanket. Knowledge of the exact circumstances of the deployable failure is limited. Ground commanding of the spacecraft is conducted in an attempt to free the stuck deployable.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Machinery & Automation

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