Mechanical Components

Bare Conductive Tether for Decelerating a Spacecraft

A document describes a prototype of electrically conductive tethers to be used primarily to decelerate spacecraft and/or generate electric power for the spacecraft. Like prior such tethers, this tether is designed so that when it is deployed from a spacecraft in orbit, its motion across the terrestrial magnetic field induces an electric current. The Lorentz force on the current decelerates the spacecraft. Optionally, the current can be exploited to convert some orbital kinetic energy to electric energy for spacecraft systems. Whereas the conductive portions of prior such tethers are covered with electrical insulation except for end electrodes that make contact with the ionosphere, this tether includes a conductive portion that is insulated along part of its length but deliberately left bare along a substantial remaining portion of its length to make contact with the ionosphere. The conductive portions of the tether are made of coated thin aluminum wires wrapped around strong, lightweight aromatic polyamide braids. The main advantages of the present partly-bare-tether design over the prior all-insulated-tether design include greater resistance to degradation by the impact of monatomic oxygen at orbital altitude and speed and greater efficiency in collecting electrons from the ionosphere.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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: Machinery & Automation, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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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: Mechanics, Machinery & Automation, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Variable-Tension-Cord Suspension/Vibration-Isolation System

Cord tensions are adjusted to optimize vibration-isolation properties. A system for mechanical suspension and vibration isolation of a machine or instrument is based on the use of Kevlar (or equivalent aromatic polyamide) cord held in variable tension between the machine or instrument and a surrounding frame. The basic concept of such a tensioned-cord suspension system (including one in which the cords are made of aromatic polyamide fibers) is not new by itself; what is new here is the additional provision for adjusting the tension during operation to optimize vibration-isolation properties.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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