The Sample Capture Mechanism (SCM) is a remotely actuated, spring-driven mechanism designed to remotely capture and seal a 15-mL sample in less than 1 second. It was used to capture a 10-g sample of simulated regolith dispensed from a drill in a thermal vacuum chamber with a minimum temperature of –100 ºC. The sample crucible temperature is controllable from ambient temperature to 70 ºC.

The mechanism is latched open prior to the test and uses an electric solenoid to initiate release. A four-bar mechanism moves the lid of the crucible from the stowed position to a position above the crucible. Then, a cam provides 500 N of clamping force between the Teflon seal in the lid to the metal knife edge on the crucible while keeping the mating surfaces parallel, ensuring a uniform seal. An inertial damper consisting of an acme screw and nut slows the initial speed of the mechanism while providing additional clamping force at the end of stroke.

Once the SCM is accessible, the crucible lid can be fastened to the crucible, allowing it to be removed from the mechanism while maintaining seal integrity. The mass of the crucible is less than 100 g, which allows for the measurement of the sample before and after bake out to determine the mass of volatiles in the sample.

This device could be used in harsh environments where a sample needs to be quickly and remotely captured and sealed.

This work was done by John Trautwein, James Smith, Landon Moore, Beau Peacock, James Niehoff, David Rowell, Eric Roessler, Gerard Moscoso, Roger Cartier, Kevin Boughner, Robert Breakfield, David McLaughlin, and Philip Stroda of Kennedy Space Center. NASA is seeking partners to further develop this technology through joint cooperative research and development. For more information about this technology and to explore opportunities, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. KSC-13957


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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