Mechanical/​Mechatronics

Propulsion

Explore the key advances impacting propulsion technologies and applications involved in aircraft propulsion, turbo-electric distributed propulsion, and hybrid electric aircraft propulsion systems.

Blog : Aerospace
HAMMER Time: A New Spacecraft Idea Aims to Ram an Asteroid Off-Course
Scientists have an idea to deflect Earth-bound asteroids: a 9-meter-tall, 8.8-ton spacecraft dubbed the HAMMER.
Briefs : Propulsion
Flexible, Gravity-Fed Heat Pipe

The advent of cryocooler technology ushers in an era where a cryogenic environment is created and maintained locally. It is no longer necessary to transport cryogen from a factory where it is produced to the...

Briefs : Propulsion
Efficient Packaging Process for One-Piece Deployable Thin Membrane

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is building a small CubeSat that uses an 85-m2 solar sail deployed from a central location to capture the push of photons...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Gimbal for Steering Propelled CubeSats

NASA is preparing for the next generation of CubeSats that are propelled and will make directional maneuvers. The new gimbal mount provides a seat for the motor, and controls the position of the...

Briefs : Propulsion
SolidSense: Gas Analyzer on a Chip

The SolidSense sensor platform measures all EPA-regulated gas emissions (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons), in addition to ammonia, with high accuracy and sensitivity. The chip-scale gas...

Blog : Energy
Will Electric Vehicles Surpass Combustion Engine Vehicles?
Is the future electric? A reader asks an expert from Mercedes-Benz.
News : Aerospace
How Model Rockets Launch Tomorrow’s Engineers
If you ask engineers about their early days, many can't avoid talking about a favorite toy: the model rocket.
News : Aerospace
A Q&A with Orbital ATK: Exploring the Roots of Rocketry

At Orbital ATK, Mark Ogren works on the preliminary design of the company’s propulsion technologies, including targets, interceptors, or space launch vehicles. Ogren spoke with Tech...

News : Aerospace
From the Earth to the Moon: How Robert Goddard Launched Present-Day Spaceflight

On a snowy day in 1926, a 44-year-old physicist named Robert Goddard went with his wife Esther and some colleagues to his Aunt Effie’s ranch in Auburn,...

News : Propulsion
Sound-Off: Which Vehicle Power-Plant Choices Will Win in 2020?

Today's vehicles feature traditional internal combustion engines, hybrid, plugin, and electric drivetrains. A reader asks: "Which power-plant choice will take the lead in 2020?"

Briefs : Propulsion
Wireless Ultrasonic Inspection Propulsion System

During inspection of pressure vessels and other large structures, an industry-accepted fixture is used to hold the search unit a predetermined distance from the area of interest under inspection. This fixture is then moved manually around the area of interest so that data can be collected and...

Briefs : Propulsion
Towed-Glider Airborne Launch System Cuts Costs and Increases Efficiency and Safety

Putting a satellite into low Earth orbit requires a lot of energy, with ground-launched rockets expending two-thirds of their propellant fighting to get...

Briefs : Propulsion
Multi-Pulse Motor (MPM) for Use with Electric Solid Propellants (ESP)

The purpose of this work was to create a safe, green, controllable solid rocket motor that can be pulsed a number of times with electricity to control the ignition and extinguishment times to produce a required thrust or impulse bit. The innovation features an Electric Solid...

Briefs : Propulsion
Rotary Piston Engine

There are many applications where a high power-to-weight engine is either necessary or helpful. Uses for this type of engine range from handheld power equipment, to motorcycles and aircraft — uses multiply when fuel efficiency, compactness, and versatility are added. Currently, there are few viable options available to...

Briefs : Propulsion
Green Liquid Monopropellant Thruster for In-Space Propulsion

Hydrazine has been the standard baseline liquid monopropellant for space propulsion over many decades since replacing hydrogen peroxide. Hydrazine was preferred over peroxide due to its easier storability and higher performance. Like peroxide, hydrazine can be readily decomposed by...

News : Aerospace
The Newest Way to Propel Nanosatellites? Water.

Although maneuvering nanosatellites in space is a complex procedure, a new micro-propulsion method features the simplest of ingredients: water.

News : Propulsion
Sound-Off: Can Hydrogen be Stored in Carbon Nanotubes?

The fuel cell, an increasingly popular device in the automotive sector, creates a power source when coupled with hydrogen. The hydrogen can be made from natural gas or electrolysis of water and then compressed for storage. The challenge: How do you store hydrogen at low pressure?

Briefs : Propulsion
Green Monopropellant Secondary Payload Propulsion System

Small satellites, launched as secondary payloads, are increasingly being fielded. Advances in liquid rocket propulsion that enhance the on-orbit maneuverability, increase the on-orbit life, and decrease the time between identified need for and deployment of such spacecraft are of great...

Briefs : Propulsion
Flame Holder System

NASA's Langley Research Center is seeking to improve upon stock stainless steel flame holders. Researchers at NASA Langley have developed a new ceramic design with a service temperature of 4000 °F. The combination of high strength and high temperature capability, and a twist lock mounting method to the steel burner, sets...

Briefs : Propulsion
Magnetically Conformed, Variable-Area Discharge Chamber for Hall Thruster, and Method

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a Hall thruster with a variable-area discharge chamber that improves the performance and lifetime of the thruster. Conventional Hall thrusters have poor ionization efficiency, which limits the thrust-to-power ratio...

Briefs : Propulsion
Multi-Thruster Propulsion Apparatus

Two different types of electrostatic thrusters are used to propel spacecraft: ion thrusters and Hall-effect thrusters. Ion thrusters have the benefit of relatively high exhaust velocities with higher overall thrust efficiencies. Hall-effect thrusters typically offer higher thrust-to-power ratios, but they...

Briefs : Propulsion
Propellant Distributor for a Thruster

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed several new technological innovations to improve the capability of Hall-effect thrusters, which are used primarily on Earth-orbiting satellites and can also be used for deep-space robotic vehicles. Hall thrusters are susceptible to discharge channel...

News : Physical Sciences
Is Pluto a Planet? Scientists Seek New Definition

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to "non-planet" status. Johns Hopkins University scientist Kirby Runyon led a group of six researchers to draft a new definition of "planet" — one that includes more than 100 other celestial bodies, including Pluto. The proposal was...

Briefs : Aerospace
High Speed Idle Engine Control Mode

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed an engine control mode that improves an engine's responsiveness to throttle commands during emergency landing conditions. The high speed idle (HSI) control mode increases the speed of the engine's fan and core shafts, allowing faster response and...

Articles : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Servo Couplings for High-Tech Systems

Couplings are a critical part of system performance in high-tech applications, yet they are often one of the last components to be specified. Selecting the proper coupling ensures the equipment will meet performance requirements and have a long, trouble-free life. Poor coupling selection can lead to high...

Articles : Materials
Metallic Glass Shatters Gear Limitations

Gears play an essential role in precision robotics, and they can become a limiting factor when the robots must perform in space missions. In particular, the extreme temperatures of deep space pose numerous problems for successful gear operation. At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA,...

Articles : Aerospace
Rocket Technology Stops Shaking in Its Tracks

NASA Technology

Rocket launches—or earthquakes—are already punishing experiences. But it turns out there are some things that can make them worse: like if the vibrations hit the...

INSIDER : Motion Control
Dike Inspection Robot is Energy-Autonomous

Inspecting the condition of dikes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for robots, working in a team and in a highly autonomous way. But if they move around across the dikes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day, they use a lot of energy.

News : Propulsion
Rocket Motor Design Could Boost Small Satellite Missions

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a rocket motor concept that could be used to power CubeSat low-cost satellites. The Los Alamos team recently tested a six-motor CubeSat-compatible propulsion array with tremendous success.

Briefs : Aerospace
Film Cooled Surface

Turbine film cooling flows typically are subject to jet detachment and reduced cooling effectiveness for high blowing rates. Current concepts to improve jet attachment involve impractical or overly complex hole designs due to manufacturing or durability constraints. Novel film cooling concepts from NASA’s Glenn Research...

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