Mechanical and Fluid Systems
NASA has a wealth of expertise and technology in the area of mechanical and fluid systems, developed through decades of research and exploration. Whether you're a small business looking to bring cutting-edge technology to market or a large corporation seeking to advance your capabilities, NASA's mechanical and fluid systems technology can help you take your products and services to new heights.
Smallsat attitude control and energy storage
Reaction spheres technology operate on a physics similar to reaction wheels, which by the conservation of angular momentum uses a rotating flywheel to spin a body in the opposite direction. Sphere systems that utilize magnetic torqueing rather than mechanical are also smaller, are more reliable, have low friction losses, and have improved lifetime performance. The proposed reaction sphere provides improved performance over traditional wheels and satisfies the push for component miniaturization, increased pointing accuracy, and power efficiency on CubeSats. Primary aims are to develop a low-friction method to contain a sphere in spaceflight and determine the feasibility of on-orbit momentum storage to supplement battery power. With appropriate placement of permanent magnets, the sphere systems can generate relatively equal value of momentum and torques for any spin axis. This sphere at any speed, produces more momentum than the wheels, resulting in faster attitude stability.
Normally-closed (NC) Zero Leak Valve
The valve consists of two major sub-assemblies: the actuator and the flow cavity. The actuator is preloaded to 1,250 N by adjusting the preload bolt, pressing the Terfenol-D against the now-deflected belleville springs. When actuation is needed, either solenoid coil is charged in a pulsed mode, causing magnetostriction or elongation in the Terfenol-D which deflects the belleville spring stack, supplying an increasing load to the stem until the parent metal seal is fractured. Once fractured, the spring inside the bellows drives the bellows base downward, onto a raised boss at the top of the fracture plate. When fracture has occurred, the stem and its spring stack is left, separated from the actuator column. The Terfenol-D is unloaded and returns to its original length. The valve remains open due to the spring inside the bellows.
This NASA Glenn innovation comprises a non-pneumatic, compliant tire utilizing shape memory alloys (mainly NiTi and its derivatives) as load bearing components. These shape memory alloys are capable of undergoing significant reversible strain (up to 10%), enabling the tire to withstand an order of magnitude more deformation than other non-pneumatic tires before undergoing permanent deformation. Commonly used elastic-plastic materials (e.g. spring steels, composites, etc.) can only be subjected to strains on the order of ~ 0.3-0.5% before yielding. Hence, the use of a NiTi shape memory alloy produces a superelastic tire that is virtually impervious to plastic deformation. In addition, the utilization of shape memory alloys provides enhanced control over the effective stiffness as a function of the deformation, providing increased design versatility. For instance, the Glenn Superelastic Tire can be made to soften with increased deflection, reducing the amount of energy transferred to the vehicle during high deformation events. In addition, the use of shape memory alloys in the form of radial stiffeners, as opposed to springs, provides even more load carrying potential and improved design flexibility. This type of compliant tire would allow for increased travel speeds in off-road applications.
Shape Memory Alloy Mechanisms for CubeSats
Most spacecraft feature release, retention, and deployment devices as key components, because these devices achieve on-demand configurability of solar panels, probes, antennas, scientific instruments, fairings, etc. Until now, designing and using such devices in small spacecraft has been a challenge, because their mass, volume, and power requirements are significant and can impose design constraints. CubeSats, in particular, often need to deploy several structures (such as solar arrays) simultaneously, which prior-art deployment devices have not been able to manage effectively. Glenn's innovation embeds SMAs within the components so the structures can be retained during launch, then released and deployed in orbit. The release and retention device is controlled by an SMA activated pin puller to disengage the release plate from the hooks holding the solar arrays. Once released, the SMA hinge is passively enabled to the deployed state. When ready on orbit, the mechanism is commanded to release and electrical power is sent to the SMA actuator, releasing the component to its deployed state. The component is deployed to its final position through the use of hinges, which are activated passively with SMA spring strips. The retention and release device and hinge are substantially smaller and lighter than deployment mechanisms have ever been and can deploy simultaneously with great reliability. Having already been successfully deployed on a NASA mission, Glenn's innovation is a game-changing technology for CubeSats and other small satellites.
High-Temperature Single Crystal Preloader
For extremely high-temperature sealing applications, Glenn researchers have devised novel methods for fabricating single-crystal preloaders. NASA's high-temperature preloaders consist of investment cast or machined parts that are fabricated in various configurations from single crystal superalloys. Machined preloaders include a variety of spring configurations, compressed axially or radially, fabricated from single crystal slabs. Before machining, the slabs are carefully oriented in a special goniometer using x-diffraction techniques. This helps to maintain proper crystal orientation relative to the machined part and the applied loads. For more complex geometry components which cannot be easily and economically machined, an investment casting approach would be used. Complex preloader geometries include wire coil springs of various configurations. These single crystal preloaders would be designed with the appropriate stiffness for the intended thermal barrier/seal application and placed underneath, or integrated within, the seal/barrier. At extrememly high temperature, the preload device keeps the seal/barrier mated against the opposing surface as the gap between the two surfaces changes, maintaining contact between surfaces and preventing convective heat transfer.
Feedthrough for Severe Environments and Temperatures
Space and ground launch support related hardware often operate under extreme pressure, temperature, and corrosive conditions. When dealing with this type of equipment, it is frequently necessary to run wiring, tubes, or fibers through a barrier separating one process from another with one or both operating in extreme environments. Feedthroughs used to route the wiring, tubes, or fibers through these barriers must meet stringent sealing and leak tightness requirements. This affordable NASA feedthrough meets or exceeds all sealing and leak requirements utilizing easy-to-assemble commercial-off-the-shelf hardware with no special tooling. The feedthrough is a fully reconfigurable design; however, it can also be produced as a permanent device. Thermal cycling and helium mass spectrometer leak testing under extreme conditions of full cryogenic temperatures and high vacuum have proven the sealing capability of this feedthrough with or without potting (epoxy fill) on the ends. Packing material disks used in the construction of the device can be replaced as needed for rebuilding a given feedthrough for another job or a different set of feeds if potting is not used for the original feedthrough build. (Potting on one or both sides of the sleeve provides double or triple leak sealing protection). Variable Compression Ratio (VCR) connectors were adapted for the pressure seal on the feedthrough; however, any commercial connector can be similarly adapted. The design can easily be scaled up to larger (2" diameter) and even very large (12" or more) sizes.
Dust Tolerant Quick Disconnect With Self-Sealing Barrier
Dusty, dirty environments can be very tough on connectors. The abrasive nature of dust and dirt particles can rub and wear down connector surfaces through friction, and have a negative effect on coatings used on gaskets to seal equipment. Dust on umbilical connections can also make mating and de-mating electrical and fluid connections difficult, hazardous, and unreliable. NASA's Quick Disconnect (QD) design consists of columnar arrays of parallel filaments. All the pins of the electrical connector easily penetrate the barriers when the umbilicals are brought together. They are wiped clean of dust when they penetrate the barrier and mate cleanly and reliably. Likewise, the male end of a fluid connector penetrates the filament arrays of both connector ends. Since the filament arrays are oriented perpendicular to each other, the entire circumference of the connector is contacted by the filaments that stretch around, conform to, and sweep off dust from the mating surface ensuring a clean and secure connection.
Drain System for Pools, Spas, and Tanks
This drain system, originally created to increase safety in neutral buoyancy tanks, has a high potential for increasing safety and performance in any application using a recirculation system. As opposed to a traditional cover for a drainage system, this device is comprised of many long, narrow channels through which water can flow. The openings are configured in a way that there is never a suction force large enough to trap one or multiple human bodies. In addition, the channels are deep enough that hair or other objects cannot become entangled or knotted because they cannot reconnect once in the channel. The drain system can be patterned to suit any pool (or spa, tank, container, etc.), and it can be placed on the floor, walls, or both. The technology is suitable for mass production methods such as extruding or molding. Why It's Better: The NASA innovation combines many desirable safety features into one simple system. Along with the decreased risk of limb entrapment and entanglement, the drain system also does a more thorough job of mixing chemicals, which diminishes bacteria growth and decreases operating costs. The system requires no protrusive drain cover, thereby eliminating the risk of injury due to bodily contact with the drain.
Quick Disconnect for High Pressure Mate/De-Mate
Dusty, dirty environments can be very tough on connectors. The abrasive nature of dust and dirt particles can rub and wear down connector surfaces through friction, and have a negative effect on coatings used on gaskets to seal equipment. Dust on umbilical connections can also make mating and de-mating electrical and fluid connections difficult, hazardous, and unreliable. NASA's Quick Disconnect (QD) design uses the gas supplied by the umbilical to spray the connector surfaces prior to mating to remove dust and debris. The QD uses a novel dual-poppet design and springs that balance forces on umbilical components. This allows a controlled release of gas to clear away dust from the end of the connector before it it inserted in the supply umbilical. The connector assembly is capable of mating and de-mating under 3500 psi fluid/gas. One poppet seals the QD while de-mated and automatically cleans the front surface of the QD during mating. A second poppet seals the QD while de-mated and automatically cleans the cylindrical surface of the QD during mating. The internal cavity of the QD is specifically designed such that the pressure in the line is reduced from 3500 psi to 450 psi while surface cleaning occurs. Finally, all exterior connector surfaces are designed to minimize the entrapment of dust while in the de-mated position.
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