Simple Systems for Detecting Spacecraft Meteoroid Punctures

A report describes proposed systems to be installed in spacecraft to detect punctures by impinging meteoroids or debris. Relative to other systems that have been used for this purpose, the proposed systems would be simpler and more adaptable, and would demand less of astronauts' attention and of spacecraft power and computing resources. The proposed systems would include a thin, hollow, hermetically sealed panel containing an inert fluid at a pressure above the spacecraft cabin pressure. A transducer would monitor the pressure in the panel. It is assumed that an impinging object that punctures the cabin at the location of the panel would also puncture the panel. Because the volume of the panel would be much smaller than that of the cabin, the panel would lose its elevated pressure much faster than the cabin would lose its lower pressure. The transducer would convert the rapid pressure drop to an electrical signal that could trigger an alarm. Hence, the system would provide an immediate indication of the approximate location of a small impact leak, possibly in time to take corrective action before a large loss of cabin pressure could occur.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Aircraft structures, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Sensors and actuators, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Sensors and actuators, Spacecraft

Mechanism for Self-Reacted Friction Stir Welding

This mechanism performs better than others that have been tried.

A mechanism has been designed to apply the loads (the stirring and the resection forces and torques) in self-reacted friction stir welding. This mechanism differs somewhat from mechanisms used in conventional friction stir welding, as described below.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Welding

Back Actuators for Segmented Mirrors and Other Applications

Actuation mechanisms could be simpler.

Back actuators have been proposed as alternatives to edge actuators considered previously for use in aligning hexagonal segments of lightweight segmented astronomical mirrors planned for use in outer space. The proposed back actuators could also be useful on Earth as parts of wafer-conveyance systems in the semiconductor industry.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Mirrors, Optics, Sensors and actuators, Optics, Sensors and actuators

Thermally Insulating, Kinematic Tensioned-Fiber Suspension

Tensioned polymer fibers afford both rigidity and high thermal resistance.

Figure 1 shows a salt pill and some parts of a thermally insulating, kinematic suspension system that holds the salt pill rigidly in an adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator (ADR). “Salt pill” in this context denotes a unit comprising a cylindrical container, a matrix of gold wires in the container, and a cylinder of ferric ammonium alum (a paramagnetic salt) that has been deposited on the wires. The structural members used in this system for both thermal insulation and positioning are aromatic polyamide fibers (Kevlar® or equivalent) under tension.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Kinematics, Fibers, Insulation, Polymers

Demonstration of a Pyrotechnic Bolt-Retractor System

A paper describes a demonstration of the X-38 bolt-retractor system (BRS) on a spacecraft-simulating apparatus, called the Large Mobility Base, in NASA Flight Robotics Laboratory (FRL). The BRS design was proven safe by testing in NASA Pyrotechnic Shock Facility (PSF) before being demonstrated in the FRL. The paper describes the BRS, FRL, PSF, and interface hardware. Information on the bolt-retraction time and spacecraft-simulator acceleration, and an analysis of forces, are presented. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the capability of the FRL for testing of the use of pyrotechnics to separate stages of a spacecraft. Although a formal test was not performed because of schedule and budget constraints, the data in the report show that the BRS is a successful design concept and the FRL is suitable for future separation tests.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Fasteners, Hardware, Spacecraft

Simulating Operation of a Planetary Rover

Simulating Operation of a Planetary Rover

Rover Analysis, Modeling, and Simulations (ROAMS) is a computer program that simulates the operation of a robotic vehicle (rover) engaged in exploration of a remote planet. ROAMS is a rover-specific extension of the DARTS and Dshell programs, described in prior NASA Tech Briefs articles, which afford capabilities for mathematical modeling of the dynamics of a spacecraft as a whole and of its instruments,actuators, and other subsystems. ROAMS incorporates mathematical models of kinematics and dynamics of rover mechanical subsystems, sensors, interactions with terrain, solar panels and batteries, and onboard navigation and locomotion-control software. ROAMS provides a modular simulation framework that can be used for analysis, design, development, testing,and operation of rovers. ROAMS can be used alone for system performance and trade studies. Alternatively, ROAMS can be used in an operator-in-the-loop or flight-software closed-loop environment. ROAMS can also be embedded within other software for use in analysis and development of algorithms,or for Monte Carlo studies, using a variety of terrain models, to generate performance statistics. Moreover, taking advantage of real-time features of the underlying DARTS/Dshell simulation software, ROAMS can also be used for real-time simulations.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Computer simulation, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles

Silicone-Rubber Microvalves Actuated by Paraffin

Relative to other microvalves, these would be simpler.

Microvalves containing silicone-rubber seals actuated by heating and cooling of paraffin have been proposed for development as integral components of microfluidic systems. In comparison with other microvalves actuated by various means (electrostatic, electro-magnetic, piezoelectric, pneumatic, and others), the proposed valves (1) would contain simpler structures that could be fabricated at lower cost and (2) could be actuated by simpler (and thus less expensive) control systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Elastomers, Valves

Flexible Shields for Protecting Spacecraft Against Debris

A report presents the concept of Flexshield —a class of versatile, light-weight, flexible shields for protecting spacecraft against impacts by small meteors and orbiting debris. The Flexshield concept incorporates elements of, but goes beyond, prior space-craft-shielding concepts, including those of Whipple shields and, more recently, multi-shock shields and multi-shock blankets. A shield of the Flexshield type includes multiple outer layers (called “bumpers” in the art) made, variously, of advanced ceramic and/or polymeric fibers spaced apart from each other by a lightweight foam.As in prior such shields, the bumpers serve to shock an impinging hypervelocity particle, causing it to disintegrate, vaporize, and spread out over a larger area so that it can be stopped by an innermost layer (back sheet). The flexibility of the fabric layers and compressibility of the foam make it possible to compress and fold the shield for transport,then deploy the shield for use. The shield can be attached to a spacecraft by use of snaps, hook-and-pile patches,or other devices. The shield can also contain multilayer insulation material, so that it provides some thermal protection in addition to mechanical protection.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Protective structures, Spacecraft

Controllable Curved Mirrors Made From Single-Layer EAP Films

A document proposes that light-weight, deployable, large- aperture, controllable curved mirrors made of reflectively coated thin electroactive-polymer (EAP) films be developed for use in spaceborne microwave and optical systems. In these mirrors, the EAP films would serve as both structures and actuators. EAPs that are potentially suit- able for such use include piezoelectric, electrostrictive, ferroelectric, and di-electric polymers. These materials exhibit strains proportional to the squares of applied electric fields. Utilizing this phenomenon,a curved mirror according to the proposal could be made from a flat film, upon which a nonuniform electrostatic potential (decreasing from the center toward the edge) would be imposed to obtain a required curvature. The effect would be analogous to that of an old-fashioned metalworking practice in which a flat metal sheet is made into a bowl by hammering it repeatedly, the frequency of hammer blows decreasing with distance from the center. In operation, the nonuniform electrostatic potential could be imposed by use of an electron gun. Calculations have shown that by use of a single-layer film made of a currently available EAP, it would be possible to control the focal length of a 2m-diameter mirror from infinity to 1.25 m.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Mirrors, Optics, Optics, Polymers

Centrifugal Adsorption System

Notable features include efficient collection of bioproducts and removal of bubbles.

The centrifugal adsorption cartridge system (CACS) is an apparatus that recovers one or more bioproduct(s) from a dilute aqueous solution or suspension flowing from a bioreactor. The CACS can be used both on Earth in unit gravity and in space in low gravity. The CACS can be connected downstream from the bioreactor; alternatively, it can be connected into a flow loop that includes the bioreactor so that the liquid can be recycled. A centrifugal adsorption cartridge in the CACS (see figure) includes two concentric cylinders with a spiral ramp between them. The volume between the inner and outer cylinders, and between the turns of the spiral ramp is packed with an adsorbent material. The inner cylinder is a sieve tube covered with a gas- permeable, hydrophobic membrane.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Containers, Biomaterials

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