Mechanical Components

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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Inferring Gear Damage From Oil-Debris and Vibration Data

Data fusion increases the reliability and reduces the difficulty of gear-damage diagnosis. system for real-time detection of surface- fatigue-pitting damage to gears for use in a helicopter transmission is based on fuzzy-logic used to fuse data from sensors that measure oil-borne debris, referred to as “oil debris” in the article, and vibration signatures. A system to detect helicopter-transmission gear damage is beneficial because the power train of a helicopter is essential for propulsion, lift, and maneuvering, hence, the integrity of the transmission is critical to helicopter safety. To enable detection of an impending transmission failure, an ideal diagnostic system should provide real-time monitoring of the “health” of the transmission, be capable of a high level of reliable detection (with minimization of false alarms), and provide human users with clear information on the health of the system without making it necessary for them to interpret large amounts of sensor data.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Self-Deployable Spring-Strip Booms

These structures can be stowed compactly with small forces and become rigid once deployed. Booms and other structures consisting mainly of thin spring strips are undergoing development. These structures are designed to be lightweight, to be compactly stowable, and to be capable of springing to stable configurations at full extension once released from stowage. Conceived for use as self-deploying structures in outer space, portable structures of this type may also be useful on Earth in applications in which there are requirements for light weight and small transportation volume.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Lightweight Energy Absorbers for Blast Containers

Aluminum foam liners tested for possible replacement of solid lead liners. Kinetic-energy- absorbing liners made of aluminum foam have been developed to replace solid lead liners in blast containers on the aft skirt of the solid rocket booster of the space shuttle. The blast containers are used to safely trap the debris from small explosions that are initiated at liftoff to sever frangible nuts on hold-down studs that secure the spacecraft to a mobile launch platform until liftoff.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Brush-Wheel Samplers for Planetary Exploration

A report proposes brush-wheel mechanisms for acquiring samples of soils from remote planets. In simplest terms, such a mechanism would contain brush wheels that would be counter-rotated at relatively high speed. The mechanism would be lowered to the ground from a spacecraft or other exploratory vehicle. Upon contact with the ground, the counterrotating brush wheels would kick soil up into a collection chamber. Thus, in form and function, the mechanism would partly resemble traditional street and carpet sweepers. The main advantage of using of brush wheels (in contradistinction to cutting wheels or other, more complex mechanisms) is that upon encountering soil harder than expected, the brushes could simply deflect and the motor(s) could continue to turn. That is, sufficiently flexible brushes would afford resistance to jamming and to overloading of the motors used to rotate the brushes, and so the motors could be made correspondingly lighter and less power hungry. Of course, one could select the brush stiffnesses and motor torques and speeds for greatest effectiveness in sampling soil of a specific anticipated degree of hardness.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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