Mechanical Components

A Kinematic Calibration Process for Flight Robotic Arms

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) robotic arm is ten times more massive than any Mars robotic arm before it, yet with similar accuracy and repeatability positioning requirements. In order to assess and validate these requirements, a higher-fidelity model and calibration processes were needed.

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

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Method to Increase Performance of Foil Bearings Through Passive Thermal Management

Bearing load capacity is improved by multiples and reliability is enhanced. This invention is a new approach to designing foil bearings to increase their load capacity and improve their reliability through passive thermal management. In the present case, the bearing is designed in such a way as to prevent the carryover of lubricant from the exit of one sector to the inlet of the ensuing sector of the foil bearing. When such passive thermal management techniques are used, bearing load capacity is improved by multiples, and reliability is enhanced when compared to current foil bearings. This concept has recently been tested and validated, and shows that load capacity performance of foil bearings can be improved by a factor of two at relatively low speeds with potentially greater relative improvements at higher speeds. Such improvements in performance with respect to speed are typical of foil bearings. Additionally, operation of these newly conceived bearings shows much more reliability and repeatable performance. This trait can be exploited in machine design to enhance safety, reliability, and overall performance. Finally, lower frictional torque has been demonstrated when operating at lower (non-load capacity) loads, thus providing another improvement above the current state of the art.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Propellant-Flow-Actuated Rocket Engine Igniter

A pneumatically driven hammer initiates ignition. A rocket engine igniter has been created that uses a pneumatically driven hammer that, by specialized geometry, is induced into an oscillatory state that can be used to either repeatedly impact a piezoelectric crystal with sufficient force to generate a spark capable of initiating combustion, or can be used with any other system capable of generating a spark from direct oscillatory motion.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Unibody Composite Pressurized Structure

An integrated, generic unibody composite pressurized structure (UCPS) combined with a positive expulsion device (PED), consisting of an elastomeric bladder for monopropellant hydrazine, has been quasi-standardized for spacecraft use. The combination functions as an all-composite, nonmetallic, propellant tank with bladder. The integrated UCPS combines several previous innovations — specifically, the linerless, all-composite cryogenic tank technology; all-composite boss; resin formulation; and integrated stringer system. The innovation combines the UCPS with an integrated propellant management device (PMD), the PED or bladder, to create an entirely unique system for in-space use.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Lightweight Liquid Helium Dewar for High-Altitude Balloon Payloads

A factor-of-five or better reduction in mass is achieved. Astrophysical observations at millimeter wavelengths require large (2-to-5- meter diameter) telescopes carried to altitudes above 35 km by scientific research balloons. The scientific performance is greatly enhanced if the telescope is cooled to temperatures below 10 K with no emissive windows between the telescope and the sky. Standard liquid helium bucket dewars can contain a suitable telescope for telescope diameter less than two meters. However, the mass of a dewar large enough to hold a 3-to-5-meter diameter telescope would exceed the balloon lift capacity.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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High-Efficiency Nested Hall Thrusters for Robotic Solar System Exploration

This work describes the scaling and design attributes of Nested Hall Thrusters (NHT) with extremely large operational envelopes, including a wide range of throttleability in power and specific impulse at high efficiency (>50%). NHTs have the potential to provide the game changing performance, powerprocessing capabilities, and cost effectiveness required to enable missions that cannot otherwise be accomplished. NHTs were first identified in the electric propulsion community as a path to 100-kW class thrusters for human missions. This study aimed to identify the performance capabilities NHTs can provide for NASA robotic and human missions, with an emphasis on 10-kW class thrusters well-suited for robotic exploration. A key outcome of this work has been the identification of NHTs as nearly constant-efficiency devices over large power throttling ratios, especially in direct-drive power systems. NHT systems sized for robotic solar system exploration are predicted to be capable of high-efficiency operation over nearly their entire power throttling range.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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UltraSail CubeSat Solar Sail Flight Experiment

Solar sail will feature new approaches that will result in larger sail areas and larger payloads. UltraSail is a next-generation, highrisk, high-payoff sail system for the launch, deployment, stabilization, and control of very large (km2 class) solar sails enabling high payload mass fractions for interplanetary and deep space spacecraft. UltraSail is a non-traditional approach to propulsion technology achieved by combining propulsion and control systems developed for formation- flying microsatellites with an innovative solar sail architecture to achieve controllable sail areas approaching 1 km2, sail subsystem area densities approaching 1 g/m2, and thrust levels many times those of ion thrusters used for comparable deep space missions. UltraSail can achieve outer planetary rendezvous, a deep-space capability now reserved for high-mass nuclear and chemical systems.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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