NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center scientists have invented a novel valve actuator where the primary actuating system and return spring system are arranged non-collinearly. In the past, valve actuators have employed pressureactuated piston and return spring systems with a linear arrangement that requires bulky return springs.
The need to reduce the mass of valve actuators for flight systems resulted in NASA’s non-collinear valve actuator. The actuator may be used in a variety of applications that will benefit from lighter actuating systems or a smaller system footprint. A prototype of the NASA actuator has been built to regulate the flow of a quarter-turn ball valve. NASA is seeking partners who are interested in co-development or licensure of this novel technology.
The actuator and return spring are connected non-collinearly using a rotably affixed four-bar linkage arm. The non-collinearity of the primary actuating system and return spring system of the NASA actuator allows the system to use a larger stroke while the return spring system experiences significantly less displacement. Therefore, the length and mass of the return spring may be minimized and more efficiently packaged as a smaller actuator. Belleville springs are identified as a useful return spring in the NASA system due to their low cost, small size and weight, and nearly constant force exertion over variable displacement distances.