Mechanical Components

Semiautomated, Reproducible Batch Processing of Soy

Processing conditions are selectable and are consistent from batch to batch. A computer-controlled apparatus processes batches of soybeans into one or more of a variety of food products, under conditions that can be chosen by the user and reproduced from batch to batch. Examples of products include soy milk, tofu, okara (an insoluble protein and fiber byproduct of soy milk), and whey. Most processing steps take place without intervention by the user. This apparatus was developed for use in research on processing of soy. It is also a prototype of other soy-processing apparatuses for research, industrial, and home use.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Powder-Collection System for Ultrasonic/Sonic Drill/Corer

Powder is blown from the drill/rock interface to sampling locations. A system for collecting samples of powdered rock has been devised for use in conjunction with an ultrasonic/sonic drill/corer (USDC) — a lightweight, lowpower apparatus designed to cut into, and acquire samples of, rock or other hard material for scientific analysis. The USDC was described in "Ultrasonic/Sonic Drill/Corers With Integrated Sensors" (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 1 (January 2001), page 38. To recapitulate: The USDC includes a drill bit, corer, or other tool bit, in which ultrasonic and sonic vibrations are excited by an electronically driven piezoelectric actuator. The USDC advances into the rock or other material of interest by means of a hammering action and a resulting chiseling action at the tip of the tool bit. The hammering and chiseling actions are so effective that unlike in conventional twist drilling, a negligible amount of axial force is needed to make the USDC advance into the material. Also unlike a conventional twist drill, the USDC operates without need for torsional restraint, lubricant, or a sharp bit.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Stable Satellite Orbits for Global Coverage of the Moon

A document proposes a constellation of spacecraft to be placed in orbit around the Moon to provide navigation and communication services with global coverage required for exploration of the Moon. There would be six spacecraft in inclined elliptical orbits: three in each of two orthogonal orbital planes, suggestive of a linked-chain configuration. The orbits have been chosen to (1) provide 99.999-percent global coverage for ten years and (2) to be stable under perturbation by Earth gravitation and solar-radiation pressure, so that no deterministic firing of thrusters would be needed to maintain the orbits. However, a minor amount of orbit control might be needed to correct for such unmodeled effects as outgassing of the spacecraft.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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On Release of Microbe-Laden Particles From Mars Landers

A paper presents a study in which rates of release of small particles from Mars lander spacecraft into the Martian atmosphere were estimated from first principles. Because such particles can consist of, or be laden with, terrestrial microbes, the study was undertaken to understand their potential for biological contamination of Mars. The study included taking account of forces and energies involved in adhesion of particles and of three mechanisms of dislodgement of particles from the surface of a Mars lander: wind shear, wind-driven impingement of suspended dust, and impingement of wind-driven local saltating sand particles. Wind shear was determined to be effective in dislodging only particles larger than about 10 microns and would probably be of limited interest because such large particles could be removed by preflight cleaning of the spacecraft and their number on the launched spacecraft would thus be relatively small. Dislodgement by wind-driven dust was found to be characterized by an adhesion half-life of the order of 10,000 years — judged to be too long to be of concern. Dislodgement by saltating sand particles, including skirts of dust devils, was found to be of potential importance, depending on the sizes of the spacecraft-attached particles and characteristics of both Mars sand-particle and spacecraft surfaces.

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Platform for Testing Robotic Vehicles on Simulated Terrain

Slope, ground material, and obstacles can be varied. The variable terrain tilt platform (VTTP) is a means of providing simulated terrain for mobility testing of engineering models of the Mars Exploration Rovers. The VTTP could also be used for testing the ability of other robotic land vehicles (and small vehicles in general) to move across terrain under diverse conditions of slope and surface texture, and in the presence of obstacles of various sizes and shapes.

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Low-Cost Propellant Launch From a Tethered Balloon

A document presents a concept for relatively inexpensive delivery of propellant to a large fuel depot in low orbit around the Earth, for use in rockets destined for higher orbits, the Moon, and for remote planets. The propellant is expected to be at least 85 percent of the mass needed in low Earth orbit to support the NASA Exploration Vision. The concept calls for the use of many small (≈10 ton) spin-stabilized, multistage, solid-fuel rockets to each deliver ≈250 kg of propellant. Each rocket would be winched up to a balloon tethered above most of the atmospheric mass (optimal altitude 26 ±2 km). There, the rocket would be aimed slightly above the horizon, spun, dropped, and fired at a time chosen so that the rocket would arrive in orbit near the depot. Small thrusters on the payload (powered, for example, by boil-off gasses from cryogenic propellants that make up the payload) would precess the spinning rocket, using data from a low-cost inertial sensor to correct for small aerodynamic and solid rocket nozzle misalignment torques on the spinning rocket; would manage the angle of attack and the final orbit insertion burn; and would be fired on command from the depot in response to observations of the trajectory of the payload so as to make small corrections to bring the payload into a rendezvous orbit and despin it for capture by the depot. The system is low-cost because the small rockets can be mass-produced using the same techniques as those to produce automobiles and low-cost munitions, and one or more can be launched from a U.S. territory on the equator (Baker or Jarvis Islands in the mid-Pacific) to the fuel depot on each orbit (every 90 minutes, e.g., any multiple of 6,000 per year).

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Integral Flexure Mounts for Metal Mirrors for Cryogenic Use

These mounts are compact and relatively inexpensive. Semi-kinematic, six-degree-of-freedom flexure mounts have been incorporated as integral parts of metal mirrors designed to be used under cryogenic conditions as parts of an astronomical instrument. The design of the mirrors and their integral flexure mounts can also be adapted to other instruments and other operating temperatures. In comparison with prior kinematic cryogenic mirror mounts, the present mounts are more compact and can be fabricated easily using Ram-EDM (electrical discharge machining) process.

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