Mechanical Components

Shields for Enhanced Protection Against High-Speed Debris

A report describes improvements over the conventional Whipple shield (two thin, spaced aluminum walls) for protecting spacecraft against high-speed impacts of orbiting debris. The debris in question arise mainly from breakup of older spacecraft. The improved shields include exterior "bumper" layers composed of hybrid fabrics woven from combinations of ceramic fibers and high-density metallic wires or, alternatively, completely metallic outer layers composed of high-strength steel or copper wires. These shields are designed to be light in weight, yet capable of protecting against orbital debris with mass densities up to about 9 g/cm3, without generating damaging secondary debris particles. As yet another design option, improved shields can include sparsely distributed wires made of shape-memory metals that can be thermally activated from compact storage containers to form shields of predetermined shape upon arrival in orbit. The improved shields could also be used to augment shields installed previously.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post

Modifications should lead to greater unit-to-unit consistency. A modified design and fabrication sequence has been devised to improve the performance of a cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscope that includes an axial rod or post rigidly attached to the center of the cloverleaf structure. The basic concepts of cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscopes, without and with rods or posts, were described in two prior articles in NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 21, No. 9 (September 1997): "Micromachined Planar Vibratory Microgyroscopes" (NPO-19713), page 68 and "Planar Vibratory Microgyroscope: Alternative Configuration" (NPO-19714), page 70. As described in more detail in the second-mentioned prior article, the cloverleaf-shaped structure and the rod or post are parts of a vibratory element that senses rotation via the effect of the Coriolis force upon its vibrations.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Microgyroscope With Vibrating Post as Rotation Transducer

Unlike in prior vibratory microgyroscopes, there is no cloverleaf structure. The figure depicts a micromachined silicon vibratory gyroscope that senses rotation about its z axis. The rotation-sensitive vibratory element is a post oriented (when at equilibrium) along the z axis and suspended at its base by thin, flexible silicon bands oriented along the x and y axes, respectively. Unlike in the vibratory microgyroscopes described in the immediately preceding article ["Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post" (NPO-20688)] and other previous articles in NASA Tech Briefs, the rotation-sensitive vibratory element does not include a cloverleaf-shaped structure that lies (when at equilibrium) in the x-y plane.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Single-Vector Calibration of Wind-Tunnel Force Balances

Improved data quality with an order of magnitude reduction in cost and calibration cycle time over prior methods. An improved method of calibrating a wind-tunnel force balance involves the use of a unique load application system integrated with formal experimental design methodology. The Single-Vector Force Balance Calibration System (SVS) overcomes the productivity and accuracy limitations of prior calibration methods.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Tool for Sampling Permafrost on a Remote Planet

A report discusses the robotic arm tool for rapidly acquiring permafrost (RATRAP), which is being developed for acquiring samples of permafrost on Mars or another remote planet and immediately delivering the samples to adjacent instruments for analysis. The prototype RATRAP includes a rasp that protrudes through a hole in the bottom of a container that is placed in contact with the permafrost surface. Moving at high speed, the rasp cuts into the surface and loads many of the resulting small particles of permafrost through the hole into the container. The prototype RATRAP has been shown to be capable of acquiring many grams of permafrost simulants in times of the order of seconds. In contrast, a current permafrost-sampling system that the RATRAP is intended to supplant works by scraping with tines followed by picking up the scrapings in a scoop, sometimes taking hours to acquire a few grams. Also, because the RATRAP inherently pulverizes the sampled material, it is an attractive alternative to other sampling apparatuses that generate core or chunk samples that must be further processed by a crushing apparatus to make the sample particles small enough for analysis by some instruments.

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

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Graphite Composite Booms With Integral Hinges

A document discusses lightweight instrument booms under development for use aboard spacecraft. A boom of this type comprises a thin-walled graphite-fiber/matrix composite tube with an integral hinge that can be bent for stowage and later allowed to spring back to straighten the boom for deployment in outer space. The boom design takes advantage of both the stiffness of the composite in tubular geometry and the flexibility of thin sections of the composite. The hinge is formed by machining windows in the tube at diametrically opposite locations so that there remain two opposing cylindrical strips resembling measuring tapes. Essential to the design is a proprietary composite layup that renders the hinge tough yet flexible enough to be bendable as much as 90° in either of two opposite directions. When the boom is released for deployment, the torque exerted by the bent hinge suffices to overcome parasitic resistance from harnesses and other equipment, so that the two sections of the hinge snap to a straight, rigid condition in the same manner as that of measuring tapes. Issues addressed in development thus far include selection of materials, out-of-plane bending, edge cracking, and separation of plies.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Nuclear Reactor Cooling Valve Design Optimized With FEA

Finite element analysis simulated the valve’s condition following an earthquake. Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd., a subcontractor of Societatea Nationala Nucleoelectrica S.A. (SNN) of Romania, contracted Badger Meter to model, test, and produce a set of precision valves for Cernavoda Unit 2, the second nuclear power plant in Cernavoda, Romania. The main concern for the construction and operation of the valves was their survivability and continued functioning after enduring an earthquake. In nuclear power plants, such valves control the cooling of the nuclear reactors where continued flow of water around the nuclear core is essential for safety. After the earthquake that precipitated the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in 1980, testing criteria for valves routinely has included their capability to ensure the safe functioning of the reactor after seismic events, at least in terms of cooling capacity.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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