Tech Briefs

Spacecraft Escape Capsule

A report discusses the Gumdrop capsule — a conceptual spacecraft that would enable the crew to escape safely in the event of a major equipment failure at any time from launch through atmospheric re-entry. The scaleable Gumdrop capsule would comprise a command module (CM), a service module (SM), and a crew escape system (CES). The CM would contain a pressurized crew environment that would include avionic, life-support, thermal control, propulsive attitude control, and recovery systems. The SM would provide the primary propulsion and would also supply electrical power, life-support resources, and active thermal control to the CM. The CES would include a solid rocket motor, embedded within the SM, for pushing the CM away from the SM in the event of a critical thermal-protection system failure or loss of control. The CM and SM would normally remain integrated with each other from launch through recovery, but could be separated using the CES, if necessary, to enable the safe recovery of the crew in the CM. The crew escape motor could be used, alternatively, as a redundant means of de-orbit propulsion for the CM in the event of a major system failure in the SM.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics

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Improved Oxygen-Beam Texturing of Glucose-Monitoring Optics

Textures can be more nearly optimized for greater utilization of light. An improved method has been devised for using directed, hyperthermal beams of oxygen atoms and ions to impart desired textures to the tips of polymethylmethacrylate [PMMA] optical fibers to be used in monitoring the glucose content of blood. The improved method incorporates, but goes beyond, the method described in “Texturing Blood- Glucose-Monitoring Optics Using Oxygen Beams” (LEW-17642- 1), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 29, No. 4 (April 2005), page 11a. The basic principle of operation of such a glucose-monitoring sensor is as follows: The textured surface of the optical fiber is coated with chemicals that interact with glucose in such a manner as to change the reflectance of the surface. Light is sent down the optical fiber and is reflected from, the textured surface. The resulting change in reflectance of the light is measured as an indication of the concentration of glucose.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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SiC Composite Turbine Vanes

Y-cloth was conceived to provide fiber reinforcement for sharp trailing edges. Turbine inlet guide vanes have been fabricated from composites of silicon carbide fibers in silicon carbide matrices. A unique design for a cloth made from SiC fibers makes it possible to realize the geometric features necessary to form these vanes in the same airfoil shapes as those of prior metal vanes.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials

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Thermoelectric Inhomogeneities in (Ag1-SbTe2)x(PbTe)1-x

A document presents a study of why materials of composition (Ag1–ySbTe2)0.05 (PbTe)0.95 [0=y=1] were previously reported to have values of the thermoelectric figure of merit [ZT (where Z = a2/??, a is the Seebeck coefficient, ? is electrical resistivity, ? is thermal conductivity, and T is absolute temperature)] ranging from 2. In the study, samples of (AgSbTe2)0.05(PbTe)0.95, (Ag0.67SbTe2)0.05 (PbTe)0.95, and (Ag0.55SbTe2)0.05(PbTe)0.95 were prepared by melting followed, variously, by slow or rapid cooling. Analyses of these samples by x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, and scanning microprobe measurements of the Seebeck coefficient led to the conclusion that these materials have a multiphase character on a scale of the order of millimeters, even though they appear homogeneous in x-ray diffraction and electron microscopy. The Seebeck measurements showed significant variations, including both n-type and p-type behavior in the same sample. These variations were found to be consistent with observed variations of ZT. The rapidly quenched samples were found to be less inhomogeneous than were the furnace-cooled ones; hence, rapid quenching was suggested as a basis of research on synthesizing more nearly uniform high-ZT samples.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials

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Oxygen-Permeable, Hydrophobic Membranes of Silanized α-Al2O3

These membranes perform better than do organic polymer oxygen-diffusion membranes. Membranes made of silanized alumina have been prepared and tested as prototypes of derivatized ceramic membranes that are both highly permeable to oxygen and hydrophobic. Improved oxygen-permeable, hydrophobic membranes would be attractive for use in several technological disciplines, including supporting high-temperature aqueous-phase oxidation in industrial production of chemicals, oxygenation of aqueous streams for bioreactors, and oxygenation of blood during open-heart surgery and in cases of extreme pulmonary dysfunction. In comparison with organic polymeric oxygen-permeable membranes now commercially available, the derivatized ceramic membranes are more chemically robust, are capable of withstanding higher temperatures, and exhibit higher oxygen-diffusion coefficients.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Tool for Torquing Circular Electrical-Connector Collars

A simple tool exerts a strong grip. An improved tool has been devised for applying torque to lock and unlock knurled collars on circular electrical connectors. The tool was originally designed for, and used by, astronauts working in outer space on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The tool is readily adaptable to terrestrial use in installing and removing the same or similar circular electrical connectors as well as a wide variety of other cylindrical objects, the tightening and loosening of which entail considerable amounts of torque.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics

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Retaining Device for the Interior Structure of a Spacecraft Payload

Device protects without penalizing interior space. A device denoted as a bumper assembly for a spacecraft payload container comprises an interior structure surrounded by skin or some other protective enclosure (see figure). When arranged with three or more like assemblies, this bumper assembly is designed to secure the interior structure within a payload’s protective enclosure during the stresses endured in flight and, if required, recovery of the payload. Furthermore, proper use of this innovation facilitates the ability of designers and engineers to maximize the total placement area for components, thus increasing utilization of very valuable and limited space.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Containers, Protective structures, Spacecraft

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