Manufacturing & Prototyping

Field Excavator with Embedded Force Measurement

The use of load sensing in excavation allows a vehicle to excavate without exceeding safe operating loads, and without doing unnecessary work. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio The Centaur 2 (C2) platform is a compact vehicle with four independently steered and actuated wheel pods, allowing the vehicle to pivot in place and tilt in two directions. It is designed to interface with and carry the anthropomorphic robot torso of Robonaut 2. There are two nearly identical interface mounting locations on opposite sides of the vehicle body; each provides both power and data channel access. To explore soil-moving capabilities of this versatile platform, an articulated excavator was required for transporting raw material (soil) to an analog volatile extraction processor.

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Very Low Thermal Power Waste Heat Recovery System for Deep Space Missions

This “thermal flask” has applications in aerospace, deep space, and planetary missions. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Deep space missions, like the ones going to outer planets and those that rely on solar photovoltaic power, need extremely large solar arrays to produce that power for their operations because the solar intensity is so low at those locations. Hence, there was a need for a thermal architecture and design that would not require such prohibitively large thermal power levels.

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Loop Heat Pipe with Thermal Control Valve for Variable Thermal Link

The loop heat pipe is modulated without electrical power. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Existing technologies [Loop Heat Pipe (LHP) and passive Thermal Control Valve (TCV)] are integrated and made to work together to provide a passive variable thermal link. The result is a novel LHP with passive TCV that was developed to provide variable heat rejection (turn-down) allowing efficient operation during periods of low dissipation and cold environments, as well as periods of peak loads and warm environments. The thermal control valve installed in the vapor line routes the vapor flow to the radiator during normal operation, or directly to the compensation chamber during periods of cold radiator sink temperatures or low power. The vapor bypassing the condenser cancels the circulation to the radiator, thereby minimizing heat transport and rejection.

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Surface Densification of Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California PICA (phenolic impregnated carbon ablator) was developed for the forebody heat shield of the Stardust Return Capsule. Conventional thermal protection system (TPS) materials of the time (primarily carbon phenolics) had high densities and thermal conductivities, yielding a TPS mass fraction that exceeded mission constraints. PICA was developed in the 1980s and consists of a rigid carbon fibrous substrate infiltrated with phenolic resin, yielding a TPS with good ablation and pyrolysis behavior. In addition, PICA has the advantages of low density coupled with efficient ablative capability at high heat fluxes. Limitations of PICA include relatively low mechanical properties, high recession rates, and poor handling, as the material sheds phenolic powder and is prone to damage from low-velocity impacts.

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Low-Density Flexible Ablators

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California NASA has developed a class of low-density, flexible ablators that can be fabricated into heat shields capable of being packaged, stowed, and deployed in space. Several flexible versions have been developed by infiltrating a pyrolyzing silicone resin into flexible, low-density felts made of carbon, polymer, or ceramic materials. The material is produced by immersing a flexible fibrous substrate in a diluted polymer resin, curing the polymer resin using heat and/or catalyst, and removing the solvent.

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Solar-Powered Carbon Dioxide Conversions with Thin-Film Devices

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California A nanomaterial thin-film device provides a low-cost, facile fabrication pathway to commercialize the technology to the sustainable energy market. Metal oxide thin films have been fabricated to a photoelectrochemical cell by solar energy. The prototype device uses both low energy cost for manufacturing and low materials cost for devices. The self-modulated device platform can also find other applications in sensors and detectors. The resultant prototype device can be deployed to the automobile industry or power plants with very low initial costs. The device can also be made extremely compact and efficient. It uses solar energy as the only power source.

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Fiber Metal Laminates Made by the VARTM Process

Fiber metal laminates combine the best properties of the metal and composite. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia Fiber metal laminates (FMLs) are multicomponent materials utilizing metals, fibers, and matrix resins. Tailoring their properties is readily achievable by varying one or more of these components. Two new processes for manufacturing FMLs using vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) have been developed.

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