Tech Briefs

Two SMA-Actuated Miniature Mechanisms

These mechanisms represent two different approaches to latch/release operation. The figures depict two miniature mechanisms actuated by strips made of shape-memory alloy (SMA). A typical SMA is a nickel-titanium alloy known by the trade name “Flexinol” or “Nitinol.” In preparation for a typical application, a suitably sized and shaped piece of an SMA is deformed by a predetermined amount at the lower of two operating temperatures, then mounted in a mechanism. When stroking of the mechanism in one direction is desired, the piece of SMA is heated above a transition temperature to make it return to the “remembered” undeformed state. When stroking of the mechanism in the opposite direction is desired, the SMA is cooled below the transition temperature to make it return to the deformed state.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>

Two-Step Laser Ranging for Precise Tracking of a Spacecraft

A document proposes a two-step laser ranging technique for precise tracking of a coasting interplanetary spacecraft to determine the degree to which leakage of fuel, solar wind, and/or solar-radiation pressure causes it to deviate from a purely gravitational trajectory.

Posted in: Mechanics, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Ball Bearings Equipped for In Situ Lubrication on Demand

Operational lifetimes can be prolonged. In situ systems that provide fresh lubricants to ball/race contacts on demand have been developed to prolong the operational lives of ball bearings. These systems were originally intended to be incorporated into ball bearings in mechanisms that are required to operate in outer space for years, in conditions in which lubricants tend to deteriorate and/or evaporate. These systems may also be useful for similarly prolonging bearing lifetimes on Earth.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>

Formation Flying of Tethered and Nontethered Spacecraft

A paper discusses the effect of the dynamic interaction taking place within a formation composed of a rigid and a deformable vehicle, and presents the concept of two or more tethered spacecraft flying in formation with one or more separated freeflying spacecraft.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Microwave-Spectral Signatures Would Reveal Concealed Objects

This technique should prove superior to conventional ground-probing radar. A proposed technique for locating concealed objects (especially small antipersonnel land mines) involves the acquisition and processing of spectral signatures over broad microwave frequency bands. This technique was conceived to overcome the weaknesses of older narrow-band electromagnetic techniques like ground-probing radar and low-frequency electromagnetic induction.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>

Part 2 of a Computational Study of a Drop-Laden Mixing Layer

This second of three reports on a computational study of a mixing layer laden with evaporating liquid drops presents the evaluation of Large Eddy Simulation (LES)models.The LES models were evaluated on an existing database that had been generated using Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS).The DNS method and the data- tively coated thin electroactive-polymer (EAP)films be developed for use in spaceborne microwave and optical systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Digital Averaging Phasemeter for Heterodyne Interferometry

One instrument performs functions for which separate instruments were previously needed. A digital averaging phasemeter has been built for measuring the difference between the phases of the unknown and reference heterodyne signals in a heterodyne laser interferometer. This phasemeter performs well enough to enable interferometric measurements of distance with accuracy of the order of 100 pm and with the ability to track distance as it changes at a speed of as much as 50 cm/s. This phasemeter is unique in that it is a single, integral system capable of performing three major functions that, heretofore, have been performed by separate systems: (1) measurement of the fractional-cycle phase difference, (2) counting of multiple cycles of phase change, and (3) averaging of phase measurements over multiple cycles for improved resolution. This phasemeter also offers the advantage of making repeated measurements at a high rate: the phase is measured on every heterodyne cycle. Thus, for example, in measuring the relative phase of two signals having a heterodyne frequency of 10 kHz, the phasemeter would accumulate 10,000 measurements per second. At this high measurement rate, an accurate average phase determination can be made more quickly than is possible at a lower rate.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>