Motion Control/​Automation

Explore the latest developments in motion control and automation. Discover innovative advances from NASA and major research labs in robotics, autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, PID controller applications, motor drives and power transmissions.

The figure shows a robot arm that is essentially a miniature crane actuated by electroactive polymers. This mechanism has been constructed as part of a continuing effort to develop lightweight,...

The Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) has been a partner in many uninhabited-aerial-vehicle (UAV) test programs. Our participation has largely been in the areas of...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Active Homopolar Magnetic Bearing

A report presents information on an earlier work on active magnetic bearings with high-critical-temperature superconducting coils. To recapitulate, the device is a homopolar radial-type active magnetic bearing with a bias coil and control coils made of a high-critical-temperature superconductor. The report...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Experiment on Quasi-Tailless Flight of an X-31A Airplane

An experiment consisting of flight tests on the X-31A airplane (see figure) has demonstrated the ability to use thrust vectoring to replace the functions of stabilization and turn...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Human-Powered Centrifuges and Stationary Exercise Stations

Human-powered machines that can be operated as centrifuges or as stationary exercise stations have been invented. These machines are suitable for a variety of terrestrial and...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers
Mobile System for Control of a Remote Rocket-Launching Range

The Wallops Flight Facility of the Goddard Space Flight Center has designed and built in-house a Mobile Range Control System (MRCS), which is a self-contained system to be deployed in support of rocket launches at remote ranges in cases in which termination of flight may be required...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Miniature Lambda Sensors for Engine-Control Systems

Small, lightweight sensors that exploit the unique characteristics of nanoceramics are being developed for use in measuring air/fuel ratios in the exhaust gas flows of advanced aircraft...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Thermal Batteries Made With Nanostructured Material

Early experiments in a continuing research program have demonstrated that thermal batteries made from powdered solid electrode and electrolyte materials can be improved by use of smaller...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Solar Heating of Batteries in Cold Environments

According to a proposal for small electric-power systems that must operate in cold environments, heat released in the operation of solar photovoltaic arrays with solar concentrators would be...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Liquid-Circulation System Keeps Aircrew Members Cool

Each member of the aircrew of an advanced fighter airplane wears a complex, multilayered ensemble that imposes a significant thermal burden by inhibiting normal transport of heat from the...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Engines for Remotely Piloted Atmospheric-Science Airplanes

A spark-ignited reciprocating gasoline engine, intake-pressurized with three cascaded stages of turbocharging, was selected by NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor...

Wiping devices that exploit fingerlike bending motions produced by electroactive polymeric (ionomeric) actuators are undergoing development. These wiping devices function similarly to...

It is not necessary to allocate valuable forebody volume to strake-deployment mechanisms.

The figure presents a partial cross section of two poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) tubes with machined ends butted and sealed together in a special coupling fixture. This coupling scheme,...

A surface-micromachining process has been devised for use in fabricating microscopic polycrystalline diamond structures (e.g., bridges and cantilevers) as integral...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Ceramic Hybrid Electromechanical Systems

Ceramic hybrid electromechanical systems (CHEMS) have been proposed to overcome some of the disadvantages while retaining most of the advantages of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Whereas MEMS are fabricated mostly by micromachining of silicon and have typical feature sizes of the order of microns...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Performance of an Arc-Jet Thruster

A report discusses the design and testing of a laboratory-model arc-jet thruster designed to operate at a nominal power level of 300 W. This thruster is an intermediate product of continuing efforts to develop smaller, lower-power, higher-specific-impulse thrusters for use in a forthcoming generation of small...

Harmonic drive gearing is recognized by designers for its zero backlash, high gear ratios, and compact design features. A recent development by HD Systems incorporates a large hollow shaft...

When developing the guidance system of a missile, it is necessary to know the resonant frequencies and mode shapes of the missile in flight. Simulating the free vibration condition in the...

The automated propellant-blending machine, a Johnson Space Center (JSC) innovation, refines the production processes of commercial rocket-propellant manufacturers by: (1) generating inert blends that...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Miniature Joule-Thomson Rankine-Cycle Refrigerators

Miniature, lightweight, low-power, low-vibration Joule-Thomson Rankine-Cycle refrigerators have been proposed for cooling portable scientific instruments. These refrigerators would be made...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Collision-Avoidance Experiments on 7-DOF Robot Arms

A report describes experiments on the concept described in "Real-Time Collision Avoidance for a Robot Arm" (NPO-19861), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 20, No. 12 (December 1996), page 98. Under this concept, collision-avoidance software processes data computed by model-based obstacle-detection...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Update on System for Robot-Assisted Microsurgery

Two reports present updated information on a robotic system that extends the dexterity of a microsurgeon. The system was described in two articles in NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 21, No. 10 (October 1997); namely, "Telerobot Control for Microsurgery" (NPO-19823), on page 46 and "Force-Feedback Device...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Swivel-Head Sampling Drill Bit

A swivel-head drill bit has been invented for use in acquiring a sample of a possibly hard material at a predetermined depth. This mechanism is a simpler and thus potentially cheaper alternative to deep-coring...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Sorption Compressor for Collecting Atmospheric CO₂ on Mars

A report describes a small, lightweight sorption compressor that is now undergoing development for use in collecting CO2 from the atmosphere on Mars. This compressor would be part of a system that would use the CO2 to generate oxygen and a carbon-based fuel for a...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Vacuum Three-Ball Tribometer for Testing Liquid Lubricants

A three-ball tribometer has been developed for use in evaluating the performances of oils and greases as lubricants in a vacuum at room temperature. This apparatus differs from the...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Mars Lander

A brief report presents drawings for the conceptual design of a spacecraft that would land on Mars or another remote planet. The spacecraft would have a tetrahedral shape, would include airbags to cushion impact, and would have a self-righting capability. The drawings show the general appearance of the spacecraft and show the...

Two types of gear drives have been devised to improve the performances of robotic mechanisms. One type features a dual-input/single-output differential-drive configuration intended to...

The figure schematically illustrates part of an accelerometer in which a feedback control subsystem applies voltages to generate electrostatic forces to minimize the displacement of a...

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