Mechanical/​Mechatronics

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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
Lightweight, Low-Backlash Robot Wrist With Epicyclic Drive

A unique lightweight wrist with three degrees of rotational freedom has been developed as a prototype of wrists for future anthropomorphic robots that would perform a variety of tasks on Earth and in outer space. The three degrees of freedom (two rolling, one bending) intersect at the...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Ice-Melting Probe Using Steam and Jets of Hot Water

An improved probe has been proposed for burrowing vertically into ice for scientific exploration of polar icecaps, glaciers, and the like. The predecessor of the improved probe is a Philbert probe, which contains an electric heater to melt the ice in contact with it and thereby make it descend...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Pneumatic Accelerator for Launching a Spacecraft

A report proposes the development of a ground-based launch-assist apparatus that would accelerate a spacecraft to a speed of about 270 m/s. The apparatus would include a track along which the spacecraft would ride on a sled coupled to a large piston driven by compressed air along a tube (more...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

An active-control surface modal (ACSM) device has been developed as an improved means of alleviating buffet of an aircraft. The ACSM device is a "smart" actuator system that includes an...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Improved Lightweight Freeze-Tolerant Tubes

Improved designs have been conceived for lightweight tubes that can withstand the large (as much as 8 or 9 volume percent) freeze/thaw expansions and contractions of typical heat-transfer fluids like water and ammonia. Intended originally for radiators for rejecting waste heat from spacecraft, these...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Simple mechanisms have been devised to facilitate the blowdown of large diesel engines. As explained below, these mechanisms reduce the amount of time and effort that must be expended to...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Uncertainty Models From Ground Vibration Testing

Structural dynamics are often an important consideration when evaluating system characteristics. A concern related to structural dynamics is the analysis of flutter for a flight vehicle. The instability associated with flutter can be quite sensitive to the structural dynamics; therefore, analysis...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Spacecraft Nuclear Reactor Would Be Fueled in Orbit

Two reports summarize progress thus far in the continuing development of a spacecraft nuclear reactor, some or all of the fuel rods of which would not be loaded until the spacecraft was in orbit. (Keeping the fuel rods out of the reactor core before and during launch is intended to...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Designs for Safer Launching of Spacecraft Fission System

A report proposes the development of two different mechanisms that would prevent inadvertent startup of reactors in nuclear-fission-based propulsion and power systems in future spacecraft. The purpose of this development is to contribute to safety by ensuring that radioactivity is kept...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

An improved technique of limited-precision arithmetic has been devised for use in convolutional filtering of image data prior to conversion of the data to binary form. Both...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

The figure schematically illustrates a portable life-support apparatus for any of a variety of protective suits to be worn in hostile environments. A prototype of the apparatus has been...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Thermoelectric Contact Cooler/Freezer

A thermoelectric contact cooler/ freezer is designed to utilize thermal conduction to rapidly freeze blood and urine samples in test tubes and syringes. This apparatus is dependable, wastes little energy, contains no moving parts other than a fan, can operate in a wide temperature range and in any...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Theory of Formation-Flying Control for Multiple Spacecraft

A report presents the mathematical basis of a method of controlling multiple spacecraft flying in formation, subject to control constraints. The spacecraft are assumed to be equipped with relative-position-sensing, relative-velocity-sensing, and communication infrastructure, and...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Onboard Estimation of Times of Periapsis During Aerobraking

A report proposes a technique for onboard updating of the orbital period of an aerobraking spacecraft in order to estimate the time of the next periapsis. The time of periapsis is nearly centered in the middle of the drag pass, and provides a convenient reference time for events in the...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Improved Micromachined Vaporizing-Liquid Microthruster

A report describes an improved micromachined vaporizing-liquid microthruster (VLM), now under development as a prototype of thrusters for microspacecraft. This thruster is of the resistojet type: the energy for vaporization and expansion of a propellant liquid is provided through...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

The term "actuated ball-and-socket" (ABS) characterizes a proposed class of ball-and-socket joints that would incorporate ultrasonic motors and other piezoelectric actuators to generate multidimensional...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Flex wedges have been proposed for use in brakes and clutches like those in which, heretofore, basic wedges have been used. Flex wedges (see Figure 1) offer advantages of superior braking and clutching performance and less...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Figure 1 depicts mockups of lightweight metal heat-shield panels that have been proposed for use on spacecraft of the reusable-launch-vehicle type. These panels are designed for simplicity of...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Modular Propulsion Clusters

A report proposes the development of modular propulsion clusters (MPCs) — small, self-contained propulsion systems that would be standardized, mass-produced, and readily installed on a variety of miniature future spacecraft. The MPCs would be inexpensive, "turn-key" alternatives to expensive conventional...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Positioning System for a Human Habitat in a Large Centrifuge

A report describes the system for controlling the radial position and tilt of a spacecraftlike habitat for humans in NASA's Space Flight Environmental Simulator (SFES) — a 16-m-diameter centrifuge used previously to evaluate effects of hypergravitational acceleration on...

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

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...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

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

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...

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