Mechanical Components

Liquid-Metal-Fed Pulsed Plasma Thrusters

A short document proposes liquid- metal- fed pulsed plasma thrusters for small spacecraft. The propellant liquid for such a thruster would be a low- melting- temperature metal that would be stored molten in an unpressurized, heated reservoir and would be pumped to the thruster by a magneto- hydrodynamic coupler. The liquid would enter the thruster via a metal tube inside an electrically insulating ceramic tube. A capacitor would be connected between the outlet of the metal tube and the outer electrode of the thruster. The pumping would cause a drop of liquid to form at the outlet, eventually growing large enough to make contact with the outer electrode. Contact would close the circuit through the capacitor, causing the capacitor to discharge through the drop. The capacitor would have been charged with enough energy that the discharge would vaporize, ionize, and electromagnetically accelerate the contents of the metal drop. The resulting plasma would be ejected at a speed of about 50 km/s. The vaporization of the drop would reopen the circuit through the capacitor, enabling recharging of the capacitor. As pumping continued, a new drop would grow and the process would repeat.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Ultrasonic Apparatus for Pulverizing Brittle Material

Characteristics include light weight, low preload, and low power demand. The figure depicts an apparatus that pulverizes brittle material by means of a combination of ultrasonic and sonic vibration, hammering, and abrasion. The basic design of the apparatus could be specialized to be a portable version for use by a geologist in collecting powdered rock samples for analysis in the field or in a laboratory. Alternatively, a larger benchtop version could be designed for milling and mixing of precursor powders for such purposes as synthesis of ceramic and other polycrystalline materials or preparing powder samples for x-ray diffraction or x-ray fluorescence measurements to determine crystalline structures and compositions. Among the most attractive characteristics of this apparatus are its light weight and the ability to function without need for a large preload or a large power supply: It has been estimated that a portable version could have a mass <0.5 kg, would consume less than 1 W·h of energy in milling a 1-cm 3 volume of rock, and could operate at a preload <10 N.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Centrifugal Adsorption System

Notable features include efficient collection of bioproducts and removal of bubbles. The centrifugal adsorption cartridge system (CACS) is an apparatus that recovers one or more bioproduct(s) from a dilute aqueous solution or suspension flowing from a bioreactor. The CACS can be used both on Earth in unit gravity and in space in low gravity. The CACS can be connected downstream from the bioreactor; alternatively, it can be connected into a flow loop that includes the bioreactor so that the liquid can be recycled. A centrifugal adsorption cartridge in the CACS (see figure) includes two concentric cylinders with a spiral ramp between them. The volume between the inner and outer cylinders, and between the turns of the spiral ramp is packed with an adsorbent material. The inner cylinder is a sieve tube covered with a gas- permeable, hydrophobic membrane.

Posted in: Machinery & Automation, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Motorcycle Design Optimized With Finite-Element Software

Sierra Design Engineering, Mount Aukum, California; BUB Enterprises, Grass Valley, California; and ALGOR, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania FEA software was used to analyze key components of a racing streamliner. A streamliner motorcycle designed and built by Sierra Design Engineering and BUB Enterprises achieved a new world-record speed of 350.884 miles per hour last year at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. In 1989, the original engine and transmission were designed by Joe Harralson of Sierra Design Engineering, with the rest of the streamliner being designed and built by BUB Enterprises.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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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: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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