Mechanical Components

Lifting Mechanism for the Mars Explorer Rover

A report discusses the design of a rover lift mechanism (RLM) — a major subsystem of each of the Mars Exploration Rover vehicles, which were landed on Mars in January 2004. The RLM had to satisfy requirements to (1) be foldable as part of an extremely dense packing arrangement and (2) be capable of unfolding itself in a complex, multistep process for disengaging the rover from its restraints in the lander, lifting the main body of the rover off its landing platform, and placing the rover wheels on the platform in preparation for driving the rover off the platform. There was also an overriding requirement to minimize the overall mass of the rover and lander. To satisfy the combination of these and other requirements, it was necessary to formulate an extremely complex design that integrated components and functions of the RLM with those of a rocker-bogie suspension system, the aspects of which have been described in several prior NASA Tech Briefs articles. In this design, suspension components also serve as parts of a 4- bar linkage in the RLM.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Alignment Stage for a Cryogenic Dilatometer

A low-friction, low-thermal-expansion kinematic design affords stability and precise adjustability. A three degree of freedom alignment stage has been designed and built for use in a cryogenic dilatometer that is used to measure thermal strains. The alignment stage enables precise adjustments of the positions and orientations of optical components to be used in the measurements and, once adjustments have been completed, keeps the components precisely aligned during cryogenic dilatometer operations that can last as long as several days.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Rugged Iris Mechanism

Advantages include capability for full obscuration, low friction, and general adaptability of design. A rugged iris mechanism has been designed to satisfy several special requirements, including a wide aperture in the “open” position, full obscuration in the “closed” position, ability to function in a cryogenic or other harsh environment, and minimization of friction through minimization of the number of components. An important element of the lowfriction aspect of the design is maximization of the flatness of, and provision of small gaps between, adjacent iris blades. The tolerances of the design can be very loose, accommodating thermal expansions and contractions associated with large temperature excursions. The design is generic in that it is adaptable to a wide range of aperture sizes and can be implemented in a variety of materials to suit the thermal, optical, and mechanical requirements of various applications.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Rotating Desk for Collaboration by Two Computer Programmers

Two programmers can work together or alternately with minimal stress. A special-purpose desk has been designed to facilitate collaboration by two computer programmers sharing one desktop computer or computer terminal. The impetus for the design is a trend toward what is known in the software industry as extreme programming — an approach intended to ensure high quality without sacrificing the quantity of computer code produced. Programmers working in pairs is a major feature of extreme programming.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Variable-Pressure Washer

Clamping force would be applied in a specified nonuniform pattern. The variable-pressure washer (VPW) is a proposed device that is so named because (1) it would play the role similar to that played by an ordinary washer, except that (2) the clamping pressure applied by it would vary with either circumferential or radial position. In a typical contemplated application, the radially varying clamping pressure would be used to obtain more nearly uniform compression on a pair of concentric seals (e.g., an O-ring or a gasket) in an assembly that experiences larger deformations normal to the sealing surface for locations around the outer diameter of the attachment flange when compared to locations around the inner diameter.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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High-Temperature, High-Load-Capacity Radial Magnetic Bearing

Speed and temperature limits of rolling element bearings can be exceeded. A radial heteropolar magnetic bearing capable of operating at a temperature as high as 1,000 °F (≈540 °C) has been developed. This is a prototype of bearings for use in gas turbine engines operating at temperatures and speeds much higher than can be withstood by lubricated rolling-element bearings.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Improving Control in a Joule-Thomson Refrigerator

A report discusses a modified design of a Joule-Thomson (JT) refrigerator under development to be incorporated into scientific instrumentation aboard a spacecraft.In most other JT refrigerators (including common household refrigerators), the temperature of the evaporator (the cold stage) is kept within a desired narrow range by turning a compressor on and off as needed. This mode of control is inadequate for the present refrigerator because a JT-refrigerator compressor performs poorly when the flow from its evaporator varies substantially, and this refrigerator is required to maintain adequate cooling power. The proposed design modifications include changes in the arrangement of heat exchangers, addition of a clamp that would afford a controlled heat leak from a warmer to a cooler stage to smooth out temperature fluctuations in the cooler stage, and incorporation of a proportional + integral + derivative (PID) control system that would regulate the heat leak to maintain the temperature of the evaporator within a desired narrow range while keeping the amount of liquid in the evaporator within a very narrow range in order to optimize the performance of the compressor. Novelty lies in combining the temperature- and cooling-power-regulating controls into a single control system.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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