A report discusses the development of a kit of mechanisms intended for use aboard future spacecraft having masses between 10 and 100 kg. The report focuses mostly on two prototypes of one of the mechanisms: a miniature linear actuator based on a shape-memory-alloy (SMA) wire. In this actuator, as in SMA-wire actuators described previously in NASA Tech Briefs, a spring biases a moving part toward one limit of its stroke and is restrained or pulled toward the other limit of the stroke by an SMA wire, which assumes a slightly lesser or greater "remembered" length, depending on whether or not an electric current is applied to the wire to heat it above a transition temperature. Topics addressed in the report include the need to develop mechanisms like these, the general approach to be taken in designing SMA actuators, tests of the two prototypes of the miniature linear actuators,and improvements in the second prototype over the first prototype resulting in reduced mass and increased stroke. The report also presents recommendations for future development, briefly discusses problems of tolerances and working with small parts, states a need for better understanding of behaviors of SMAs, and presents conclusions.

This work was done by Cliff E. Willey and Stuart W. Hill of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Machinery/Automation category. GSC-14706-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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