Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Prolonging Microgravity on Parabolic Airplane Flights

Techniques for improving the approximation of free fall are proposed.

Three techniques have been proposed to prolong the intervals of time available for microgravity experiments aboard airplanes flown along parabolic trajectories. Typically, a pilot strives to keep an airplane on such a trajectory during a nominal time interval as long as 25 seconds, and an experimental apparatus is released to float freely in the airplane cabin to take advantage of the microgravitational environment of the trajectory for as long as possible. It is usually not possible to maintain effective microgravity during the entire nominal time interval because random aerodynamic forces and fluctuations in pilot control inputs cause the airplane to deviate slightly from a perfect parabolic trajectory (see figure), such that the freely floating apparatus bumps into the ceiling, floor, or a wall of the airplane before the completion of the parabola. Heretofore, free-float times have tended to be no longer than a few seconds.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Trajectory control, Aircraft operations, Education, Education and training, Fixed-wing aircraft, Spacecraft

Continuous Tuning and Calibration of Vibratory Gyroscopes

Vibrational excitation is periodically switched between orthogonal axes to derive calibration data.

A method of control and operation of an inertial reference unit (IRU) based on vibratory gyroscopes provides for continuously repeated cycles of tuning and calibration. The method is intended especially for application to an IRU containing vibratory gyroscopes that are integral parts of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and that have cloverleaf designs, as described in several previous NASA Tech Briefs articles. The method provides for minimization of several measures of spurious gyroscope output, including zero-rate offset (ZRO), angle random walk (ARW), and rate drift. These benefits are afforded both at startup and thereafter during continuing operation, in the presence of unknown rotation rates and changes in temperature.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Calibration, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Navigation and guidance systems, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Navigation and guidance systems, Vibration, Vibration

Improved Bearingless Switched-Reluctance Motor

Performance is better and design simpler, relative to a prior bearingless switched-reluctance motor.

The Morrison rotor, named after its inventor, is a hybrid rotor for use in a bearingless switched-reluctance electric motor. The motor is characterized as bearingless in the sense that it does not rely on conventional mechanical bearings: instead, it functions as both a magnetic bearing and a motor. Bearingless switched-reluctance motors are attractive for use in situations in which large variations in temperatures and/or other extreme conditions preclude the use of conventional electric motors and mechanical bearings.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Propellers and rotors, Product development, Magnetic materials, Electric motors

Compact, Pneumatically Actuated Filter Shuttle

This unit satisfies a special need for alternate observation in two spectral bands.

A compact, pneu- matically actuated filter shuttle has been invented to enable alternating imaging of a wind-tunnel model in two different spectral bands characteristic of the pressure and temperature responses of a pressureand temperature-sensitive paint. This filter shuttle could also be used in other settings in which there are requirements for alternating imaging in two spectral bands. Pneumatic actuation was chosen because of a need to exert control remotely (that is, from outside the wind tunnel) and because the power leads that would be needed for electrical actuation would pose an unacceptable hazard in the wind tunnel. The entire shuttle mechanism and its housing can be built relatively inexpensively [

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Architecture, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Architecture, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Pneumatic systems, Wind tunnel tests

Single-Vector Calibration of Wind-Tunnel Force Balances

Improved data quality with an order of magnitude reduction in cost and calibration cycle time over prior methods.

An improved method of calibrating a wind-tunnel force balance involves the use of a unique load application system integrated with formal experimental design methodology. The Single-Vector Force Balance Calibration System (SVS) overcomes the productivity and accuracy limitations of prior calibration methods.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Calibration, Wind tunnel tests

Microgyroscope With Vibrating Post as Rotation Transducer

Unlike in prior vibratory microgyroscopes, there is no cloverleaf structure.

The figure depicts a micromachined silicon vibratory gyroscope that senses rotation about its z axis. The rotation-sensitive vibratory element is a post oriented (when at equilibrium) along the z axis and suspended at its base by thin, flexible silicon bands oriented along the x and y axes, respectively. Unlike in the vibratory microgyroscopes described in the immediately preceding article ["Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post" (NPO-20688)] and other previous articles in NASA Tech Briefs, the rotation-sensitive vibratory element does not include a cloverleaf-shaped structure that lies (when at equilibrium) in the x-y plane.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Vibration, Vibration, Test equipment and instrumentation

Cloverleaf Vibratory Microgyroscope With Integrated Post

Modifications should lead to greater unit-to-unit consistency.

A modified design and fabrication sequence has been devised to improve the performance of a cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscope that includes an axial rod or post rigidly attached to the center of the cloverleaf structure. The basic concepts of cloverleaf vibratory microgyroscopes, without and with rods or posts, were described in two prior articles in NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 21, No. 9 (September 1997): "Micromachined Planar Vibratory Microgyroscopes" (NPO-19713), page 68 and "Planar Vibratory Microgyroscope: Alternative Configuration" (NPO-19714), page 70. As described in more detail in the second-mentioned prior article, the cloverleaf-shaped structure and the rod or post are parts of a vibratory element that senses rotation via the effect of the Coriolis force upon its vibrations.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Vibration, Vibration, Parts, Test equipment and instrumentation

Ultrasonic/Sonic Mechanisms for Drilling and Coring

These mechanisms imitate burrowing actions of gophers and crabs.

Two apparatuses now under development are intended to perform a variety of deep-drilling, coring, and sensing functions for subsurface exploration of rock and soil. These are modified versions of the apparatuses described in "Ultrasonic/Sonic Drill/Corers With Integrated Sensors" (NPO-20856), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 1 (January 2001), page 38. In comparison with the drilling equipment traditionally used in such exploration, these apparatuses weigh less and consume less power. Moreover, unlike traditional drills and corers, these apparatuses function without need for large externally applied axial forces.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Soils, Energy conservation, Drilling, Acoustics, Vibration, Acoustics, Vibration, Mining vehicles and equipment

Advances in Thrust-Based Emergency Control of an Airplane

It should be possible to land safely after a primary-flight-control failure.

Engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center have received a patent on an emergency flight-control method implemented by a propulsion-controlled aircraft (PCA) system. Utilizing the pre-existing auto-throttle and engine-pressure-ratio trim controls of the airplane, the PCA system provides pitch and roll control for landing an airplane safely without using aerodynamic control surfaces that have ceased to function because of a primary-flight- control-system failure. The installation of the PCA does not entail any changes in pre-existing engine hardware or software. [Aspects of the method and system at previous stages of development were reported in "Thrust-Control System for Emergency Control of an Airplane" (DRC-96-07), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 3 (March 2001), page 68 and "Emergency Landing Using Thrust Control and Shift of Weight" (DRC-96-55), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 26, No. 5 (May 2002), page 58.]

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Flight control systems, Flight control systems, Engine control systems, Throttles, Hazards and emergency management, Hazards and emergency operations, Entry, descent, and landing, Fixed-wing aircraft

Neutral-Axis Springs for Thin-Wall Integral Boom Hinges

A document proposes the use of neutral-axis springs to augment the unfolding torques of hinges that are integral parts of thin-wall composite-material booms used to deploy scientific instruments from spacecraft. A spring according to the proposal would most likely be made of metal and could be either flat or curved in the manner of a measuring tape. Under the unfolded, straight-boom condition, each spring would lie along the neutral axis of a boom. The spring would be connected to the boom by two supports at fixed locations on the boom. The spring would be fixed to one of the supports and would be free to slide through the other support. The width, thickness, and material of the spring would be chosen to tailor the spring stiffness to provide the desired torque margin to assist in deployment of the boom. The spring would also contribute to the stiffness of the boom against bending and torsion, and could contribute some damping that would help suppress unwanted vibrations caused by the deployment process or by external disturbances.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Springs, Spacecraft

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