Stay updated on advancements in mechanical components and mechatronics systems. New technologies in MEMs, fluid systems, and propulsion are driving breakthroughs in transportation, electrification, autonomous driving, and manufacturing.

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Launch-on-Demand Servicing Microsatellites

A report describes an emerging class of miniature, highly capable, relatively inexpensive satellites that could be launched rapidly by nontraditional methods. Of particular interest is a subclass of proposed launch-on-demand microsatellites for inspecting and servicing other satellites (targets)...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Miniature Electrothermal Thruster

A report proposes a miniature electrothermal spacecraft engine. The engine would include a chamber with an inside length of ≈1.5 cm and inside diameter of ≈0.25 cm, with a dielectric (ideally diamond) sidewall lining, a metal-coated expansion nozzle at one end, and a metal electrode at the other end. A...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Variable-Specific-Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket

Johnson Space Center has been leading the development of a high-power, electrothermal plasma rocket — the variable- specific-impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) — that is capable of exhaust modulation at constant power. An electrodeless design enables the rocket to operate at power densities...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Carbon Nanotube Bimorph Actuators and Force Sensors

A proposal has been made to develop bimorph actuators and force sensors based on carbon nanotubes. The proposed devices could make it possible to generate, sense, and control displacements...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Robot for Positioning Sensors in a Plant-Growth Chamber

The Advanced Life Support Automated Remote Manipulator (ALSARM) is a three-degree-of-freedom robotic system that positions an array of sensors inside a closed-system hydroponic chamber used in research on the production of biomass and the use of hydroponic subsystems of life-support...

The magnetic/extendible boom docking aid is an improved mechanism that enables two spacecraft to capture and structurally mate with each other without inducing the large (and...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Vapor-Compression Solar Refrigerator Without Batteries

A solar-powered vapor-compression refrigeration system developed for Johnson Space Center operates without batteries. The design of this system will make the cost of solar-powered refrigeration systems competitive and enable the use of such systems in long-distance spaceflights, military...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Airlocks for Pressurized Rovers

A report presents a survey of the design engineering and scientific literature on airlocks and on planetary-exploration vehicles ("rovers"), from the perspective of evaluating existing and potential design concepts for airlocks for pressurized rovers. The airlocks are the key to designing a pressurized rover...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Quasi-Fractal Lenticular Booms

An improved configuration for large, thin-walled lenticular booms has been proposed to reduce their susceptibility to buckling. Lenticular booms have been used on spacecraft because they can be flattened and...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Nonintrusive Pressure Gauges

The state of the art of pressure gauging has been advanced by the development of a new technique, and of a nonintrusive gauge based on the technique, for measuring the pressure of a fluid in the same segment of pipe in which the mass-flow rate of the fluid is also measured. NASA anticipates the first use of the...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
PVP-MP Method for Wrinkling Analysis of Space Membrane Structures

Parameter-Variation-Principle (PVP) based Mathematical Programming (MP) is the basis of a computational method of analyzing wrinkles in membranes. Devised for original application to lightweight membrane structures in outer space, the method can also be applied on Earth to similar...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Vacuum Pumping Station

A proposed valve unit called a "vacuum pumping station" would be incorporated into a plumbing system that supplies a vacuum for vacuum insulated cryogenic equipment. The vacuum pumping station is intended to perform functions now performed by, and to be a simpler and more reliable alternative to, an assembly of components...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Gas Generator for Inflating Structures in Outer Space

A report proposes a system that would supply gas for inflating one or more inflatable structure(s) in outer space. The system would include a small tank of helium for initial inflation, plus a catalytic hydrazine gas generator that would supply makeup gas over the long term. After...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Martian Landing Balls

A report describes Martian landing balls, which are under development for use in delivering scientific payloads to Mars. Martian landing balls are related to other soft-landing devices that resemble beach balls and that have been described in several previous NASA Tech Briefs articles. They are also related to the...

A lightweight, collapsible hyperbaric chamber/airlock system has been proposed as a portable unit for treating decompression sickness. Copies of the system could be stowed compactly...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Reconfigurable Exploratory Robotic Vehicles

A family of rugged, modular, reconfigurable, instrumented robotic vehicles has been proposed for use in exploration of the surfaces of Mars and other remote planets. These or similar vehicles could...

A compact, low-power device measures pressure via the pressure-induced damping of oscillation of a small mechanical resonator. To achieve compactness and low mass — and thus...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Micromachined Double Resonator

A double-resonator design has been devised for a cloverleaf-shaped silicon microelectromechanical resonator. The double-resonator design provides for an inner, higher-frequency resonator suspended on an outer,...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Mechanical Breakaway Clutch

A proposed mechanical breakaway clutch would not rely on friction. The clutch would be useful in environments in which the inherent inaccuracies of friction would make friction clutches erratic. The proposed clutch would comprise two primary assemblies: a driver assembly and a slip flange. The slip flange would be...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Molten-Carbonate Oxidation of Solid Waste

The molten-carbonate oxidation (MCO) process shows promise as a means of safe disposal and/or recycling of solid waste. The MCO process is being developed for use in regenerative life-support systems in outer space, but may also prove useful in managing institutional, industrial, and/or municipal solid...

An improved robotic water-jet system for stripping paint from a ship or other large metallic structure is undergoing development. In addition to utilizing a high-pressure water jet...

Experiments have shown that an assembly of multiple free-piston Stirling engines can be designed and constructed in such a way as to both (1) make the vibrations of the engines...

An important secondary topic addressed in the research and development effort described in the preceding article is the use of artificial neural networks to improve the monitoring...

A special-purpose grinding tool and fixtures have been developed for reworking an edge of a seal surface on a nozzle-throat-support housing in a rocket engine (see Figure 1) to...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Stable Microwave-Beam-Riding Spacecraft

The work considers passive dynamic stability of sail craft, propelled by microwave beams. Such systems are under consideration as low-cost means of interstellar travel. Sail-craft shapes offering passive dynamic (neutral) stability are identified. Passive stability is a key mission-enabling attribute. Very...

Extensive redundancy is designed into aircraft flight-control systems to ensure a low probability of failure. During recent years, however, major failures of flight-control systems...

A first-order mathematical model has been developed in a theoretical study of the dynamics of a load suspended by a cable from a crane that moves along a straight track. The model...

The tail boom of a single-rotor helicopter is subjected to a complex flow field that includes the wakes of the main and tail rotors, the freestream, and the wake from the forward...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Computer Program Predicts Rocket Noise

A computer program predicts the noise and ignition over pressure in the vicinity of a rocket during launch. The program has been developed to complement the vibroacoustic-prediction effort for rockets now in use and to provide the capability for prediction of vibroacoustic loads associated with...

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