Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Variable-Specific-Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket

This rocket is expected to enable long-term human exploration of outer space. Johnson Space Center has been leading the development of a high-power, electrothermal plasma rocket — the variable- specific-impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) — that is capable of exhaust modulation at constant power. An electrodeless design enables the rocket to operate at power densities much greater than those of more conventional magnetoplasma or ion engines. An aspect of the engine design that affords a capability to achieve both high and variable specific impulse (Isp) places the VASIMR far ahead of anything available today. Inasmuch as this rocket can utilize hydrogen as its propellant, it can be operated at relatively low cost.

Posted in: Mechanics, Briefs

Read More >>

Water Containment Systems for Testing High-Speed Flywheels

Water-filled containers are stacked like bricks. Water-filled containers are used as building blocks in a new generation of containment systems for testing high-speed flywheels. Such containment systems are needed to ensure safety by trapping high-speed debris in the event of centrifugal breakup or bearing failure. Traditional containment systems for testing flywheels consist mainly of thick steel rings. While steel rings are effective for protecting against fragments from conventional and relatively simple metal flywheels, they are also expensive. Moreover, it is difficult and expensive to configure steel-ring containment systems for testing of advanced flywheel systems that can include flywheels made of composite materials, counter-rotating flywheels, and/or multiple flywheels rotating about different axes. In contrast, one can quickly, easily, and inexpensively stack waterfilled containers like bricks to build walls, (and, if needed, floors, and ceilings) of sufficient thickness to trap debris traveling in any debris traveling in any possible direction at the maximum possible kinetic energy that could be encountered in testing a given flywheel system.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

System Finds Horizontal Location of Center of Gravity

Mass and center-of-mass data are updated at a rate of = 267 Hz. An instrumentation system rapidly and repeatedly determines the horizontal location of the center of gravity of a laboratory vehicle that slides horizontally on three air bearings (see Figure 1). Typically, knowledge of the horizontal center-of- mass location of such a vehicle is needed in order to balance the vehicle properly for an experiment and/or to assess the dynamic behavior of the vehicle.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Predicting Tail Buffet Loads of a Fighter Airplane

Airframes can be designed to be more robust. Buffet loads on aft aerodynamic surfaces pose a recurring problem on most twin-tailed fighter airplanes: During maneuvers at high angles of attack, vortices emanating from various surfaces on the forward parts of such an airplane engine inlets, wings, or other fuselage appendages) often burst, immersing the tails in their wakes. Although these vortices increase lift, the frequency contents of the burst vortices become so low as to cause the aft surfaces to vibrate destructively.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>

Periodically Discharging, Gas-Coalescing Filter

In effect, small bubbles would be made to coalesce into very large ones. A proposed device would remove bubbles of gas from a stream of liquid (typically water), accumulate the gas, and periodically release the gas, in bulk, back into the stream. The device is intended for use in a flow system (1) in which there is a requirement to supply bubble-free water to a downstream subsystem and (2) that includes a sensor and valves, just upstream of the subsystem, for sensing bubbles and diverting the flow from the subsystem until the water stream is again free of bubbles. By coalescing the gas bubbles and then periodically releasing the accumulated gas, the proposed device would not contribute to net removal of gas from the liquid stream; nevertheless, it would afford an advantage by reducing the frequency with which the diverter valves would have to be activated.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>

Large Deployable Reflectarray Antenna

A report discusses a 7-meter-diameter reflectarray antenna that has been conceived in a continuing effort to develop large reflectarray antennas to be deployed in outer space. Major underlying concepts were reported in three prior NASA Tech Briefs articles: “Inflatable Reflectarray Antennas” (NPO-20433), Vol. 23, No. 10 (October 1999), page 50; “Tape-Spring Reinforcements for Inflatable Structural Tubes” (NPO- 20615), Vol. 24, No. 7 (July 2000), page 58; and “Self-Inflatable/Self-Rigidizable Reflectarray Antenna” (NPO-30662), Vol. 28, No. 1 (January 2004), page 61. Like previous antennas in the series, the antenna now proposed would include a reflectarray membrane stretched flat on a frame of multiple inflatable booms. The membrane and booms would be rolled up and folded for compact stowage during transport. Deployment in outer space would be effected by inflating the booms to unroll and then to unfold the membrane, thereby stretching the membrane out flat to its full size. The membrane would achieve the flatness for a Ka-band application. The report gives considerable emphasis to designing the booms to rigidify themselves upon deployment: for this purpose, the booms could be made as spring-tape-reinforced aluminum laminate tubes like those described in two of the cited prior articles.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Buckling and Fracture Analysis of Composite Skin-Stringer Panel Using VCCT and FEA Software

New finite element analysis simulation capabilities predict crack propagation in composites. In the continuing goal of developing products with better performance at a lower cost, composites are becoming increasingly prevalent in the aerospace industry. Composite structures offer exceptional performance due to their high strength at a low weight. Additionally, one large integrated composite component can replace ten or more traditional metal parts, dramatically reducing manufacturing costs. For the first time in the aviation industry, companies are beginning to use composites for primary load-bearing components. Boeing announced that the new 787 aircraft will be the first airliner to use composite materials in the majority of the aircraft construction.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>