Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Lightweight Exoskeletons With Controllable Actuators

Resistive or assistive forces and torques would be generated on command. A proposed class of lightweight exoskeletal electromechanical systems would include electrically controllable actuators that would generate torques and forces that, depending on specific applications, would resist and/or assist wearers’ movements. The proposed systems would be successors to relatively heavy, bulky, and less capable human strength amplifying exoskeletal electromechanical systems that have been subjects of research during the past four decades. The proposed systems could be useful in diverse applications in which there are needs for systems that could be donned or doffed easily, that would exert little effect when idle, and that could be activated on demand: examples of such applications include (1) providing controlled movement and/or resistance to movement for physical exercise and (2) augmenting wearers’ strengths in the performance of military, law-enforcement, and industrial tasks.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Simple Systems for Detecting Spacecraft Meteoroid Punctures

A report describes proposed systems to be installed in spacecraft to detect punctures by impinging meteoroids or debris. Relative to other systems that have been used for this purpose, the proposed systems would be simpler and more adaptable, and would demand less of astronauts' attention and of spacecraft power and computing resources. The proposed systems would include a thin, hollow, hermetically sealed panel containing an inert fluid at a pressure above the spacecraft cabin pressure. A transducer would monitor the pressure in the panel. It is assumed that an impinging object that punctures the cabin at the location of the panel would also puncture the panel. Because the volume of the panel would be much smaller than that of the cabin, the panel would lose its elevated pressure much faster than the cabin would lose its lower pressure. The transducer would convert the rapid pressure drop to an electrical signal that could trigger an alarm. Hence, the system would provide an immediate indication of the approximate location of a small impact leak, possibly in time to take corrective action before a large loss of cabin pressure could occur.

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Mechanism for Self-Reacted Friction Stir Welding

This mechanism performs better than others that have been tried. A mechanism has been designed to apply the loads (the stirring and the resection forces and torques) in self-reacted friction stir welding. This mechanism differs somewhat from mechanisms used in conventional friction stir welding, as described below.

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Back Actuators for Segmented Mirrors and Other Applications

Actuation mechanisms could be simpler. Back actuators have been proposed as alternatives to edge actuators considered previously for use in aligning hexagonal segments of lightweight segmented astronomical mirrors planned for use in outer space. The proposed back actuators could also be useful on Earth as parts of wafer-conveyance systems in the semiconductor industry.

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Thermally Insulating, Kinematic Tensioned-Fiber Suspension

Tensioned polymer fibers afford both rigidity and high thermal resistance. Figure 1 shows a salt pill and some parts of a thermally insulating, kinematic suspension system that holds the salt pill rigidly in an adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator (ADR). “Salt pill” in this context denotes a unit comprising a cylindrical container, a matrix of gold wires in the container, and a cylinder of ferric ammonium alum (a paramagnetic salt) that has been deposited on the wires. The structural members used in this system for both thermal insulation and positioning are aromatic polyamide fibers (Kevlar® or equivalent) under tension.

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Demonstration of a Pyrotechnic Bolt-Retractor System

A paper describes a demonstration of the X-38 bolt-retractor system (BRS) on a spacecraft-simulating apparatus, called the Large Mobility Base, in NASA Flight Robotics Laboratory (FRL). The BRS design was proven safe by testing in NASA Pyrotechnic Shock Facility (PSF) before being demonstrated in the FRL. The paper describes the BRS, FRL, PSF, and interface hardware. Information on the bolt-retraction time and spacecraft-simulator acceleration, and an analysis of forces, are presented. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the capability of the FRL for testing of the use of pyrotechnics to separate stages of a spacecraft. Although a formal test was not performed because of schedule and budget constraints, the data in the report show that the BRS is a successful design concept and the FRL is suitable for future separation tests.

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Simulating Operation of a Planetary Rover

Simulating Operation of a Planetary Rover Rover Analysis, Modeling, and Simulations (ROAMS) is a computer program that simulates the operation of a robotic vehicle (rover) engaged in exploration of a remote planet. ROAMS is a rover-specific extension of the DARTS and Dshell programs, described in prior NASA Tech Briefs articles, which afford capabilities for mathematical modeling of the dynamics of a spacecraft as a whole and of its instruments,actuators, and other subsystems. ROAMS incorporates mathematical models of kinematics and dynamics of rover mechanical subsystems, sensors, interactions with terrain, solar panels and batteries, and onboard navigation and locomotion-control software. ROAMS provides a modular simulation framework that can be used for analysis, design, development, testing,and operation of rovers. ROAMS can be used alone for system performance and trade studies. Alternatively, ROAMS can be used in an operator-in-the-loop or flight-software closed-loop environment. ROAMS can also be embedded within other software for use in analysis and development of algorithms,or for Monte Carlo studies, using a variety of terrain models, to generate performance statistics. Moreover, taking advantage of real-time features of the underlying DARTS/Dshell simulation software, ROAMS can also be used for real-time simulations.

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