Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Robot Forearm and Dexterous Hand

The hand is highly anthropomorphic and even includes a folding palm. An electromechanical hand-and-forearm assembly has been developed for incorporation into an anthropomorphic robot that would be used in outer space. The assembly is designed to offer manual dexterity comparable to that of a hand inside an astronaut’s suit; thus, the assembly may also be useful as a prosthesis or as an end effector on an industrial robot.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Formation Flying of Tethered and Nontethered Spacecraft

A paper discusses the effect of the dynamic interaction taking place within a formation composed of a rigid and a deformable vehicle, and presents the concept of two or more tethered spacecraft flying in formation with one or more separated freeflying spacecraft.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Ball Bearings Equipped for In Situ Lubrication on Demand

Operational lifetimes can be prolonged. In situ systems that provide fresh lubricants to ball/race contacts on demand have been developed to prolong the operational lives of ball bearings. These systems were originally intended to be incorporated into ball bearings in mechanisms that are required to operate in outer space for years, in conditions in which lubricants tend to deteriorate and/or evaporate. These systems may also be useful for similarly prolonging bearing lifetimes on Earth.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Software for Secondary-School Learning About Robotics

The ROVer Ranch is an interactive computer program designed to help secondary-school students learn about space-program robotics and related basic scientific concepts by involving the students in simplified design and programming tasks that exercise skills in mathematics and science.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Gifford-McMahon/Joule-Thomson Refrigerator Cools to 2.5 K

This system is relatively simple. A compact refrigerator designed specifically for cooling a microwave maser low noise amplifier is capable of removing heat at a continuous rate of 180 mW at a temperature of 2.5 K. This refrigerator is a combination of (1) a commercial Gifford-McMahon (GM) refrigerator nominally rated for cooling to 4 K and (2) a Joule-Thomson (J-T) circuit. The GM refrigerator pre-cools the J-T circuit, which provides the final stage of cooling. The refrigerator is compact and capable of operating in any orientation. Moreover, in comparison with a typical refrigerator heretofore used to cool a maser to 4.5 K, this refrigerator is simpler and can be built at less than half the cost.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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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: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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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: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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