Temperature-Controlled Clamping and Releasing Mechanism

A report describes the development of a mechanism that automatically clamps upon warming and releases upon cooling between temperature limits of ~180 K and ~293 K.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Tools and equipment, Product development, Cooling, Fastening, Thermal testing
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Fastener Starter

This tool is superior to prior screw and nut starters.

The Fastener Starter is a creative solution to prevent the loss of small fasteners during their installation. This is the only currently available tool that can firmly grip and hold a single screw, bolt, nut, washer, spacer, or any combination of these parts. Other commercially available fastener starters are unable to accommodate a variety of parts simultaneously. The Fastener Starter is a more capable and easier tool to use than prior tools. Its compact size allows it to be used effectively in cramped, difficult-to-see locations. Its design also allows it to be used with or without handles and extenders in other difficult-to-reach locations. It provides better protection against cross threading and loss of fasteners and associated parts. The Fastener Starter is non-magnetic and does not off-gas, thus meeting flight hardware requirements.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Tools and equipment, Fasteners
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Nanoactuators Based on Electrostatic Forces on Dielectrics

Large force-to-mass ratios could be achieved at the nanoscale.

Nanoactuators of a proposed type would exploit the forces exerted by electric fields on dielectric materials. As used here, “nanoactuators” includes motors, manipulators, and other active mechanisms that have dimensions of the order of nanometers and/or are designed to manipulate objects that have dimensions of the order of nanometers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Materials properties, Nanotechnology
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Two-Step Laser Ranging for Precise Tracking of a Spacecraft

A document proposes a two-step laser ranging technique for precise tracking of a coasting interplanetary spacecraft to determine the degree to which leakage of fuel, solar wind, and/or solar-radiation pressure causes it to deviate from a purely gravitational trajectory.
Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Trajectory control, Lasers, Lasers, Spacecraft
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Synthetic Bursae for Robots

Functions would be similar to those of natural bursae.

Synthetic bursae are under development for incorporation into robot joints that are actuated by motor-driven cables in a manner similar to that of arthropod joints actuated by muscle-driven tendons. Like natural bursae, the synthetic bursae would serve as cushions and friction reducers.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Kinematics, Robotics, Composite materials, Elastomers
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Robot Forearm and Dexterous Hand

The hand is highly anthropomorphic and even includes a folding palm.

An electromechanical hand-and-forearm assembly has been developed for incorporation into an anthropomorphic robot that would be used in outer space. The assembly is designed to offer manual dexterity comparable to that of a hand inside an astronaut’s suit; thus, the assembly may also be useful as a prosthesis or as an end effector on an industrial robot.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Kinematics, Robotics
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Formation Flying of Tethered and Nontethered Spacecraft

A paper discusses the effect of the dynamic interaction taking place within a formation composed of a rigid and a deformable vehicle, and presents the concept of two or more tethered spacecraft flying in formation with one or more separated freeflying spacecraft.
Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Mathematical models, Attitude control, Spacecraft guidance, Attitude control, Spacecraft guidance
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Ball Bearings Equipped for In Situ Lubrication on Demand

Operational lifetimes can be prolonged.

In situ systems that provide fresh lubricants to ball/race contacts on demand have been developed to prolong the operational lives of ball bearings. These systems were originally intended to be incorporated into ball bearings in mechanisms that are required to operate in outer space for years, in conditions in which lubricants tend to deteriorate and/or evaporate. These systems may also be useful for similarly prolonging bearing lifetimes on Earth.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Life cycle analysis, Lubricants, Bearings, Parts
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Software for Secondary-School Learning About Robotics

The ROVer Ranch is an interactive computer program designed to help secondary-school students learn about space-program robotics and related basic scientific concepts by involving the students in simplified design and programming tasks that exercise skills in mathematics and science.
Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Computer simulation, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Education, Education and training, Robotics
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Gifford-McMahon/Joule-Thomson Refrigerator Cools to 2.5 K

This system is relatively simple.

A compact refrigerator designed specifically for cooling a microwave maser low noise amplifier is capable of removing heat at a continuous rate of 180 mW at a temperature of 2.5 K. This refrigerator is a combination of (1) a commercial Gifford-McMahon (GM) refrigerator nominally rated for cooling to 4 K and (2) a Joule-Thomson (J-T) circuit. The GM refrigerator pre-cools the J-T circuit, which provides the final stage of cooling. The refrigerator is compact and capable of operating in any orientation. Moreover, in comparison with a typical refrigerator heretofore used to cool a maser to 4.5 K, this refrigerator is simpler and can be built at less than half the cost.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Amplifiers, Radar, Amplifiers, Radar, Product development, Cooling
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