Mechanical & Fluid Systems

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: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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System Regulates the Water Contents of Fuel-Cell Streams

An assembly of devices provides for both humidification of the reactant gas streams of a fuel cell and removal of the product water (the water generated by operation of the fuel cell). The assembly includes externally-sensing forward-pressure regulators that supply reactant gases (fuel and oxygen) at variable pressures to ejector reactant pumps. The ejector supply pressures depend on the consumption flows. The ejectors develop differential pressures approximately proportional to the consumption flow rates at constant system pressure and with constant flow restriction between the mixer-outlet and suction ports of the ejectors. For removal of product water from the circulating oxygen stream, the assembly includes a water/gas separator that contains hydrophobic and hydrophilic membranes. The water separator imposes an approximately constant flow restriction, regardless of the quality of the two phase flow that enters it from the fuel cell. The gas leaving the water separator is nearly 100 percent humid. This gas is returned to the inlet of the fuel cell along with a quantity of dry incoming oxygen, via the oxygen ejector, thereby providing some humidification.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Five-Axis, Three-Magnetic-Bearing Dynamic Spin Rig

Higher-order vibrational modes can be excited and higher rotational speeds attained. The Five-Axis, Three-Magnetic-Bearing Dynamic Spin Rig is an apparatus for vibration testing of turbomachine blades in a vacuum at rotational speeds from 0 to 40,000 rpm. This rig (see figure) includes (1) a vertically oriented shaft on which is mounted an assembly comprising a rotor holding the blades to be tested, (2) two actively controlled heteropolar radial magnetic bearings at opposite ends of the shaft, and (3) an actively controlled magnetic thrust bearing at the upper end of the shaft.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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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: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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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: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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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: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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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: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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