Mechanical Components

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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Acquisition and Retaining Granular Samples via a Rotating Coring Bit

This device is used in granular sample handling, and as a stand-alone regolith acquisition bit. This device takes advantage of the centrifugal forces that are generated when a coring bit is rotated, and a granular sample is entered into the bit while it is spinning, making it adhere to the internal wall of the bit, where it compacts itself into the wall of the bit. The bit can be specially designed to increase the effectiveness of regolith capturing while turning and penetrating the subsurface. The bit teeth can be oriented such that they direct the regolith toward the bit axis during the rotation of the bit. The bit can be designed with an internal flute that directs the regolith upward inside the bit. The use of both the teeth and flute can be implemented in the same bit. The bit can also be designed with an internal spiral into which the various particles wedge.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Counterflow Regolith Heat Exchanger

A problem exists in reducing the total heating power required to extract oxygen from lunar regolith. All such processes require heating a great deal of soil, and the heat energy is wasted if it cannot be recycled from processed material back into new material.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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, TSP

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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, TSP

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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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