Manufacturing & Prototyping

Process To Create High-Fidelity Lunar Dust Simulants

A method was developed to create high-fidelity lunar dust simulants that better match the unique properties of lunar dust than the existing simulants. The new dust simulant is designed to more closely approximate the size, morphology, composition, and other important properties of lunar dust (including the presence of nanophase iron).

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Producing Hydrogen by Plasma Pyrolysis of Methane

Plasma pyrolysis offers several advantages over traditional catalytic pyrolysis.Plasma pyrolysis of methane has been investigated for utility as a process for producing hydrogen. This process was conceived as a means of recovering hydrogen from methane produced as a byproduct of operation of a life-support system aboard a spacecraft. On Earth, this process, when fully developed, could be a means of producing hydrogen (for use as a fuel) from methane in natural gas.

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Self-Deployable Membrane Structures

These support structures can be used as portable shelters, camping tents, and thermal insulation.Currently existing approaches for deployment of large, ultra-lightweight gossamer structures in space rely typically upon electromechanical mechanisms and mechanically expandable or inflatable booms for deployment and to maintain them in a fully deployed, operational configuration. These support structures, with the associated deployment mechanisms, launch restraints, inflation systems, and controls, can comprise more than 90 percent of the total mass budget. In addition, they significantly increase the stowage volume, cost, and complexity.

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Reactivation of a Tin-Oxide-Containing Catalyst

This technique extends the lifetime of a catalyst in a laser discharge.The electrons in electric-discharge CO2 lasers cause dissociation of some CO2 into O2 and CO, and attach themselves to electronegative molecules such as O2, forming negative O2 ions, as well as larger negative ion clusters by collisions with CO or other molecules. The decrease in CO2 concentration due to dissociation into CO and O2 will reduce the average repetitively pulsed or continuous wave laser power, even if no disruptive negative ion instabilities occur. Accordingly, it is the primary object of this invention to extend the lifetime of a catalyst used to combine the CO and O2 products formed in a laser discharge.

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Nearly Seamless Vacuum-Insulated Boxes

Elimination of most seams would reduce leakage of heat. A design concept, and a fabrication process that would implement the design concept, have been proposed for nearly seamless vacuum-insulated boxes that could be the main structural components of a variety of controlled-temperature containers, including common household refrigerators and insulating containers for shipping foods. In a typical case, a vacuum-insulated box would be shaped like a rectangular parallelepiped conventional refrigerator box having five fully closed sides and a hinged door on the sixth side. Although it is possible to construct the five-closed-side portion of the box as an assembly of five unitary vacuum-insulated panels, it is not desirable to do so because the relatively high thermal conductances of the seams between the panels would contribute significant amounts of heat leakage, relative to the leakage through the panels themselves. In contrast, the proposal would make it possible to reduce heat leakage by constructing the five-closed-side portion of the box plus the stationary portion (if any) of the sixth side as a single, seamless unit; the only remaining seam would be the edge seal around the door.

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Fast-Response-Time Shape-Memory-Effect Foam Actuators

Bulk shape memory alloys, such as Nitinol or CuAlZn, display strong recovery forces undergoing a phase transformation after being strained in their martensitic state. These recovery forces are used for actuation. As the phase transformation is thermally driven, the response time of the actuation can be slow, as the heat must be passively inserted or removed from the alloy.

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Non-Pyrotechnic Zero-Leak Normally Closed Valve

This valve is designed to create a zero-leak seal in a liquid propulsion system that is a functional replacement for the normally closed pyrovalve. Unlike pyrovalves, Nitinol is actuated by simply heating the material to a certain temperature, called the transition temperature. Like a pyrovalve, before actuation, the upstream and downstream sections are separated from one another and from the external environment by closed welded seals. Also like pyrovalves, after actuation, the propellant or pressurant gas can flow without a significant pressure drop but are still separated from the external environment by a closed welded seal.

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