Mechanical Components

Very-Low-Cost, Rugged Vacuum System

Applications include portable analytical instruments such as mass spectrometers and leak detectors. NASA, DoD, DHS, and commercial industry have a need for miniaturized, rugged, low-cost vacuum systems. Recent advances in sensor technology have led to the development of very small mass spectrometer detectors as well as other miniature analytical instruments. However, the vacuum systems to support these sensors remain large, heavy, and power-hungry. To meet this need, a miniaturized vacuum system was created based on a very small, rugged, and inexpensive- to-manufacture molecular drag pump (MDP). The MDP is enabled by the development of a miniature, very-high- speed, rugged, low-power, brushless DC motor optimized for wide temperature operation and long life. Such a pump represents an order-of-magnitude reduction in mass, volume, and cost over current, commercially available, state-of-the-art vacuum pumps.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Mechanism for Deploying a Long, Thin-Film Antenna From a Rover

The deployment mechanism consists of two rollers to automatically deploy the antenna at a rate proportional to the wheel speed. Observations with radio telescopes address key problems in cosmology, astrobiology, heliophysics, and planetary science including the first light in the Universe (Cosmic Dawn), magnetic fields of extrasolar planets, particle acceleration mechanisms, and the lunar ionosphere. The Moon is a unique science platform because it allows access to radio frequencies that do not penetrate the Earth's ionosphere and because its far side is shielded from intense terrestrial emissions. A radio antenna can be realized by using polyimide film as a substrate, with a conducting substance deposited on it. Such an antenna can be rolled into a small volume for transport, then deployed by unrolling, and a robotic rover offers a natural means of unrolling a polyimide film-based antenna. An antenna deployment mechanism was developed that allows a thin film to be deposited onto a ground surface, in a controlled manner, using a minimally actuated rover.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Radial Internal Material Handling System (RIMS) for Circular Habitat Volumes

The novelty of this system is its configuration as a circular habitat. On planetary surfaces, pressurized human habitable volumes will require a means to carry equipment around within the volume of the habitat, regardless of the partial gravity (Earth, Moon, Mars, etc.). On the NASA Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU), a vertical cylindrical volume, it was determined that a variety of heavy items would need to be carried back and forth from deployed locations to the General Maintenance Work Station (GMWS) when in need of repair, and other equipment may need to be carried inside for repairs, such as rover parts and other external equipment.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Impact-Actuated Digging Tool for Lunar Excavation

NASA’s plans for a lunar outpost require extensive excavation. The Lunar Surface Systems Project Office projects that thousands of tons of lunar soil will need to be moved. Conventional excavators dig through soil by brute force, and depend upon their substantial weight to react to the forces generated. This approach will not be feasible on the Moon for two reasons: (1) gravity is 1/6th that on Earth, which means that a kg on the Moon will supply 1/6 the down force that it does on Earth, and (2) transportation costs (at the time of this reporting) of $50K to $100K per kg make massive excavators economically unattractive.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Conical Seat Shut- Off Valve

This valve has applications in high-pressure and high-flow conditions. A moveable valve for controlling flow of a pressurized working fluid was designed. This valve consists of a hollow, moveable floating piston pressed against a stationary solid seat, and can use the working fluid to seal the valve. This open/closed, novel valve is able to use metal-to-metal seats, without requiring seat sliding action; therefore there are no associated damaging effects.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Flexible Mechanical Conveyors for Regolith Extraction and Transport

A report describes flexible mechanical conveying systems for transporting fine cohesive regolith under microgravity and vacuum conditions. They are totally enclosed, virtually dust-free, and can include enough flexibility in the conveying path to enable an expanded range of extraction and transport scenarios, including nonlinear drill-holes and excavation of enlarged subsurface openings without large entry holes.

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Microgravity Drill and Anchor System

This system has applications in rock-climbing and cave exploration, as well as in drilling into rock on the sea floor. This work is a method to drill into a rock surface regardless of the gravitational field or orientation. The required weight-on-bit (WOB) is supplied by a self-contained anchoring mechanism. The system includes a rotary percussive coring drill, forming a complete sampling instrument usable by robot or human. This method of in situ sample acquisition using microspine anchoring technology enables several NASA mission concepts not currently possible with existing technology, including sampling from consolidated rock on asteroids, providing a bolt network for astronauts visiting a near-Earth asteroid, and sampling from the ceilings or vertical walls of lava tubes and cliff faces on Mars.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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