Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Magnet-Based System for Docking of Miniature Spacecraft

The capture envelope for this system is approximated by a 5-in. (12.7-cm) cube.

A prototype system for docking a miniature spacecraft with a larger spacecraft has been developed by engineers at the Johnson Space Center. Engineers working on Mini AERCam, a free-flying robotic camera, needed to find a way to successfully dock and undock their miniature spacecraft to refuel the propulsion and recharge the batteries. The subsystems developed (see figure) include (1) a docking port, designed for the larger spacecraft, which contains an electromagnet, a ball lock mechanism, and a service probe; and (2) a docking cluster, designed for the smaller spacecraft, which contains either a permanent magnet or an electromagnet.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Attitude control, Electromagnetic compatibility, Robotics, Magnetic materials, Refueling, Spacecraft

Electromechanically Actuated Valve for Controlling Flow Rate

A ball screw would be both an actuator and a flow-control component.

A proposed valve for controlling the rate of flow of a fluid would include an electric-motor-driven ball-screw mechanism for adjusting the seating element of the valve to any position between fully closed and fully open. The motor would be of a type that can be electronically controlled to rotate to a specified angular position and to rotate at a specified rate, and the ball screw would enable accurate linear positioning of the seating element as a function of angular position of the motor. Hence, the proposed valve would enable fine electronic control of the rate of flow and the rate of change of flow.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Microelectromechanical devices, Fasteners, Fittings, Valves, Electric motors

Plumbing Fixture for a Microfluidic Cartridge

A fixture has been devised for making the plumbing connections between a microfluidic device in a replaceable cartridge and an external fluidic system. The fixture includes a 0.25-in. (6.35-mm) thick steel plate, to which the cartridge is fastened by two 10-32 thumb screws. The plate holds one plumbing fitting for the inlet and one for the outlet of the microfluidic device. Each fitting includes a fused-silica tube of 0.006-in. (≈0.15-mm) inside diameter within a fluorinated ethylene-propylene (FEP) tube of 0.0155-in. (≈0.39-mm) inside diameter and 0.062-in. (≈1.57-mm) outside diameter. The FEP tube is press-fit through the steel plate so that its exposed end is flush with the surface of the plate, and the silica tube protrudes 0.03 in. (≈0.76 mm) from the plate/FEPtube- end surface. The cartridge includes a glass cover plate that contains 0.06-mm-wide access ports. When the cartridge is fastened to the steel plate, the silica tubes become inserted through the access ports and into the body of the cartridge, while the ends of the FEP tubes become butted against the glass cover plate. An extremely tight seal is thereby made.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Seals and gaskets, Hydraulic equipment

Camera Mount for a Head-Up Display

A mounting mechanism was designed and built to satisfy requirements specific to a developmental head-up display (HUD) to be used by pilots in a Boeing 757 airplane. This development was necessitated by the fact that although such mounting mechanisms were commercially available for other airplanes, there were none for the 757. The mounting mechanism supports a miniature electronic camera that provides a forward view. The mechanism was designed to be integrated with the other HUD instrumentation and to position the camera so that what is presented to the pilot is the image acquired by the camera, overlaid with alphanumeric and/or graphical symbols, from a close approximation of the pilot’s natural forward perspective. The mounting mechanism includes an L-shaped mounting arm that can be adjusted easily to the pilot’s perspective, without prior experience. The mounting mechanism is lightweight and flexible and presents little hazard to the pilot.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Imaging and visualization, Head-up displays, Commercial aircraft

Estimation Filter for Alignment of the Spitzer Space Telescope

A document presents a summary of an onboard estimation algorithm now being used to calibrate the alignment of the Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility). The algorithm, denoted the S2P calibration filter, recursively generates estimates of the alignment angles between a telescope reference frame and a star-tracker reference frame. At several discrete times during the day, the filter accepts, as input, attitude estimates from the star tracker and observations taken by the Pointing Control Reference Sensor (a sensor in the field of view of the telescope). The output of the filter is a calibrated quaternion that represents the best current mean-square estimate of the alignment angles between the telescope and the star tracker. The S2P calibration filter incorporates a Kalman filter that tracks six states — two for each of three orthogonal coordinate axes. Although, in principle, one state per axis is sufficient, the use of two states per axis makes it possible to model both short- and long-term behaviors. Specifically, the filter properly models transient learning, characteristic times and bounds of thermomechanical drift, and long-term steady-state statistics, whether calibration measurements are taken frequently or infrequently. These properties ensure that the S2P filter performance is optimal over a broad range of flight conditions, and can be confidently run autonomously over several years of in-flight operation without human intervention.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Calibration, Mathematical models, Imaging and visualization, Spacecraft

Spiral Orbit Tribometer

Friction and lubricant degradation rate can be quantified rapidly.

The spiral orbit tribometer (SOT) bridges the gap between full-scale life testing and typically unrealistic accelerated life testing of ball-bearing lubricants in conjunction with bearing ball and race materials. The SOT operates under realistic conditions and quickly produces results, thereby providing information that can guide the selection of lubricant, ball, and race materials early in a design process.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Life cycle analysis, Tribology, Bearings, Performance tests, Test equipment and instrumentation

Asymmetric Bulkheads for Cylindrical Pressure Vessels

These bulkheads would offer advantages over prior concave, convex, and flat bulkheads.

Asymmetric bulkheads are proposed for the ends of vertically oriented cylindrical pressure vessels. These bulkheads, which would feature both convex and concave contours, would offer advantages over purely convex, purely concave, and flat bulkheads (see figure). Intended originally to be applied to large tanks that hold propellant liquids for launching spacecraft, the asymmetric-bulkhead concept may also be attractive for terrestrial pressure vessels for which there are requirements to maximize volumetric and mass efficiencies.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Bulkheads

Code Assesses Risks Posed by Meteoroids and Orbital Debris

BUMPER II version 1.92e is a computer code for assessing the risk of damage from impacts of micrometeoroids and orbital debris on the International Space Station (ISS), including those parts of the ISS covered by shielding that affords partial protection against such impacts. (Other versions of BUMPER II have been written for other spacecraft.) Bumper II quantifies the probability of penetration of shielding and the damage to spacecraft equipment as functions of the size, shape, and orientation of the spacecraft; the parameters of its orbit; failure criteria that quantify impact damage at the threshold of failure for each spacecraft surface; and the impact-damage resistance of each spacecraft surface as defined by “ballistic limit equations” that return the size of a failure causing particle as a function of target parameters (including materials, configurations, thicknesses, and gap distances) and impact conditions (impact velocity and the density and shape of the impactor). BUMPER II version 1.92e contains several dozen ballistic limit equations that are based on results from thousands of hypervelocity impact tests conducted by NASA on ISS shielding and other hardware, and on results from numerical simulations of impacts.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Computer software and hardware, Risk assessments, Spacecraft

Self-Regulating Water-Separator System for Fuel Cells

This system would not depend on hydrophobic or hydrophilic surfaces.

A proposed system would perform multiple coordinated functions in regulating the pressure of the oxidant gas (usually, pure oxygen) flowing to a fuel-cell stack and in removing excess product water that is generated in the normal fuel-cell operation. The system could function in the presence or absence of gravitation, and in any orientation in a gravitational field.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Fuel cells

Staggering Inflation To Stabilize Attitude of a Solar Sail

A document presents computational simulation studies of a concept for stabilizing the attitude of a spacecraft during deployment of such structures as a solar sail or other structures supported by inflatable booms. Specifically, the solar sail considered in this paper is a square sail with inflatable booms and attitude control vanes at the corners. The sail inflates from its stowed configuration into a square sail with four segments and four vanes at the tips. Basically, the concept is one of controlling the rates of inflation of the booms to utilize in mass distribution properties to effect changes in the system’s angular momentum.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Simulation and modeling, Solar energy, Spacecraft

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