Mechanical Components

Compact, Low-Force, Low-Noise Linear Actuator

This actuator has potential uses in military and automotive applications. Actuators are critical to all the robotic and manipulation mechanisms that are used in current and future NASA missions, and are also needed for many other industrial, aeronautical, and space activities. There are many types of actuators that were designed to operate as linear or rotary motors, but there is still a need for low-force, low-noise linear actuators for specialized applications, and the disclosed mechanism addresses this need.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Loop Heat Pipe With Thermal Control Valve as a Variable Thermal Link

New arrangement reduces energy demands while maintaining circuits and batteries within optimal temperature range. Future lunar landers and rovers will require variable thermal links that allow for heat rejection during the lunar daytime and passively prevent heat rejection during the lunar night. During the lunar day, the thermal management system must reject the waste heat from the electronics and batteries to maintain them below the maximum acceptable temperature. During the lunar night, the heat rejection system must either be shut down or significant amounts of guard heat must be added to keep the electronics and batteries above the minimum acceptable temperature. Since guard heater power is unfavorable because it adds to system size and complexity, a variable thermal link is preferred to limit heat removal from the electronics and batteries during the long lunar night. Conventional loop heat pipes (LHPs) can provide the required variable thermal conductance, but they still consume electrical power to shut down the heat transfer. This innovation adds a thermal control valve (TCV) and a bypass line to a conventional LHP that proportionally allows vapor to flow back into the compensation chamber of the LHP. The addition of this valve can achieve completely passive thermal control of the LHP, eliminating the need for guard heaters and complex controls.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Process for Measuring Over-Center Distances

Over-center mechanisms were used in the orbiter payload bay to lock down the robotic arm during the launch of the space shuttle. These mechanisms were unlocked while in orbit in order to release the arm for use. Adjusting the mechanism such that it would not inadvertently release during launch, but could be released when needed by use of the motor, required accurate adjustments that were difficult to perform. A procedure was developed to allow these mechanisms to be adjusted to within the specifications required for the Space Shuttle Program. This approach is significantly more accurate than any other technique, and is the only technique known that met the launch requirements of the program.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Mars Technology Rover with Arm-Mounted Percussive Coring Tool, Microimager, and Sample-Handling Encapsulation Containerization Subsystem

A report describes the PLuto (programmable logic) Mars Technology Rover, a mid-sized FIDO (field integrated design and operations) class rover with six fully drivable and steerable cleated wheels, a rocker-bogey suspension, a pan-tilt mast with panorama and navigation stereo camera pairs, forward and rear stereo hazcam pairs, internal avionics with motor drivers and CPU, and a 5-degrees-of-freedom robotic arm.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Mars Science Laboratory Drill

This device also has applications for drilling in mines and other dangerous areas. This drill (see Figure 1) is the primary sample acquisition element of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that collects powdered samples from various types of rock (from clays to massive basalts) at depths up to 50 mm below the surface. A rotary-percussive sample acquisition device was developed with an emphasis on toughness and robustness to handle the harsh environment on Mars. It is the first rover-based sample acquisition device to be flight-qualified (see Figure 2). This drill features an autonomous tool change-out on a mobile robot, and novel voice-coilbased percussion.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Shape Memory Composite Hybrid Hinge

The hinge can be used for in-space deployment of antennas, reflectors, cameras, solar panels, and sunshields, as well as in any structure requiring hinges. There are two conventional types of hinges for in-space deployment applications. The first type is mechanically deploying hinges. A typical mechanically deploying hinge is usually composed of several tens of components. It is complicated, heavy, and bulky. More components imply higher deployment failure probability. Due to the existence of relatively moving components among a mechanically deploying hinge, it unavoidably has microdynamic problems. The second type of conventional hinge relies on strain energy for deployment. A tape-spring hinge is a typical strain energy hinge. A fundamental problem of a strain energy hinge is that its deployment dynamic is uncontrollable. Usually, its deployment is associated with a large impact, which is unacceptable for many space applications. Some damping technologies have been experimented with to reduce the impact, but they increased the risks of an unsuccessful deployment.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Ultra-Compact Motor Controller

Applications include industrial robotic arms, industrial machinery, and automobiles. This invention is an electronically commutated brushless motor controller that incorporates Hall-array sensing in a small, 42-gram package that provides 4096 absolute counts per motor revolution position sensing. The unit is the size of a miniature hockey puck, and is a 44-pin male connector that provides many I/O channels, including CANbus, RS-232 communications, general-purpose analog and digital I/O (GPIO), analog and digital Hall inputs, DC power input (18–90 VDC, 0–l0 A), three-phase motor outputs, and a strain gauge amplifier.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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