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.