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Example Illustration - Spacecraft with Artificial Gravity Modules
Spacecraft with Artificial Gravity Modules
Conventionally, the approaches of creating artificial gravity in space was envisioned as a large rotating space station that creates an inertial force that mimics the effects of a gravitational force. However, generating artificial gravity with large rotating structures poses problems, including (1) the need to mass balance the entire rotating spacecraft in order to eliminate or minimize rotational imbalance causing gyroscopic precession/nutation motions and other oscillations of the rotating spacecraft; (2) the potentially prohibitive cost, time and schedule to build such a large rotating system; (3) the need to mass balance the spacecraft in real-time so as to minimize passenger discomfort and structural stress on the spacecraft; (4) the difficulty in docking other spacecraft to the rotating spacecraft; (5) the absence or minimal presence of non-rotating structure for 0G research and industrial use; and (6) the generation of extraneous Coriolis effect on spacecraft inhabitants. The novel technology can help solve the problems referenced above and other problems by (1) providing a non-rotating space station or structure, and connecting modules that generate artificial gravity by traveling along a circular path around the non-rotating space station; (2) providing modules that are more easily built and balanced; (3) providing a stationary structure that can provide a platform for other components that do not need gravity to function; (4) providing capability to actively interrogate what levels of mass imbalance are acceptable, for use in determining operational constraints; and (5) reducing or eliminating Coriolis effect on occupants in habitation modules. The concepts of the invention are very cost-effective and allow for building a minimal initial system to produce artificial gravity at the first phases of construction, before the full structure is built. An additional benefit is that construction and assembly of new capabilities can be performed without disrupting the ongoing artificial gravity environment of the existing structure.
propulsion
Anode Manifold Plug for Hall Effect Thrusters
Flow-restricting features in a Hall thruster anode manifold assembly, typically precision manufactured orifices, can contribute to significant flow non-uniformity if tolerances on the features are not properly controlled. Non-uniformity in flow distribution negatively impacts thruster performance. The anode assembly is usually a complex and expensive assembly to manufacture. Removing the flow restricting elements from the anode manifold structure in favor of modular insertable subcomponents (i.e., plugs) enables the use of more reliable and repeatable precision manufacturing techniques. The resulting components can be tested, characterized, and sorted for acceptance before being installed into the larger anode assembly (i.e., quality control can be performed at the subcomponent level). This may lead to increased performance and yield rate of the final assembly. The flow restrictor plugs can be made in many different ways. The most basic flow restrictor takes the form of a precision hole machined into a cylinder, where the cylinder is then press fit into a hole drilled into the anode base. Alternate embodiments of the flow restrictor include precision machined nozzles, laminar flow elements, or sintered porous metal elements. The flow restrictor can also be made from a different material than the anode base, such as a precision ruby orifice contained in a metal carrier which is installed in a metal anode base. The plugs can be installed in a variety of ways, all of which create hermetic seals. Installation can include a press fit relying on plastic deformation or threading the plug component into the anode base. Welding on the top surface of the anode base can also be done to provide a robust hermetic seal.
propulsion
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High Propellant Throughput Small Spacecraft Electric Propulsion Thruster
NASAs High Propellant Throughput Small Spacecraft Electric Propulsion thruster offers a propellant throughput capability of greater than 120 kg with a nominal thruster efficiency greater than 50%. The new thruster design combines heritage Hall thruster component design approaches with recent NASA GRC advancements in the areas of advanced magnetic circuit design, robust propellant manifolds, and center mounted cathodes. Prototypes of the High Propellant Throughput Small Spacecraft Electric Propulsion thruster have been fabricated and proof-of-concept has been demonstrated. A significant advancement in the High Propellant Throughput Small Spacecraft Electric Propulsion thruster is NASA's optimized magnetically shielded (OMS) field topology. The new OMS configuration reduces discharge channel erosion rates compared to conventional Hall thrusters, while reducing front pole cover erosion rates compared to traditional magnetically shielded Hall thrusters. This system also includes a largely unibody structure to reduce fabrication cost, increase strength, and optimize thermal management. A coupling plate between the high voltage discharge channel and low voltage thruster body allows more efficient thruster assembly and verification processes. Other design advancements further simplify assembly, improve robustness, and optimize performance.
materials and coatings
Computer-implemented energy depletion radiation shielding
The difference between Layered Energy Depletion Radiation Shielding (LEDRS) and Stacked Energy Depletion Radiation Shielding (SEDRS) is how the piece of matter, or shield, is analyzed as radiation passes through the matter. SEDRS involves using a defined and ordered stack of layers of shielding with different material properties such that the thickness and chemical properties of each material maximizes the absorption of energy from the radiation particles that are most damaging to the target. The SEDRS shielding method aims to provide the maximum level of energy absorption while still keeping shielding mass and volume low. The process of LEDRS involves using layers of shielding material such that the thickness of each material is designed to absorb the maximum amount of energy from the radiation particles that are most damaging to the target after subsequent layers of shielding. The more energy is absorbed by the shielding material, the less energy will be deposited in the target minimizing the required mass to achieve a resulting lower dose for a given geometrical feature. The LEDRS shielding method aims to provide the maximum level of energy absorption. The process for designing LEDRS views potential radiation shields as a cascade of effects from each shielding layer to the next and is helpful for investigating the particular effects of each layer. SEDRS and LEDRS can improve any technology that relies on the controlled manipulation of a radiation field by interaction with a material element.
mechanical and fluid systems
Spacecraft Atmosphere Carbon Dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) Capture via Deposition
Spacecraft Atmosphere Carbon Dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) Capture via Deposition is an air revitalization architecture that utilizes the different physical phase-change properties of International Space Station (ISS) cabin-like constituents (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and various trace contaminants) to selectively separate constituents of interest, such as carbon dioxide and trace contaminants. As the main target constituent is CO<sub>2</sub>, which does not condense in atmospheric conditions, this architecture is referred to as CO<sub>2</sub> deposition, or CDep. The technology addresses future CO<sub>2</sub> removal and life support system needs using a completely different technical approach than currently employed on the ISS. Instead of using a sorbent, this technology utilizes cooling to directly freeze CO<sub>2</sub> out of the atmosphere. Specifically, it involves forcing a phase change of CO<sub>2</sub> from the cabin atmosphere by solidifying it onto a cold surface. The technology for spacecraft atmosphere CO<sub>2</sub> capture uses sequential heat exchangers to cool airflow from the spacecraft atmosphere, and uses deposition coolers that can operate in a deposition mode, in which CO<sub>2</sub> from the airflow is deposited to generate said CO<sub>2</sub> depleted air, and a sublimation mode in which deposited CO<sub>2</sub> is sublimated into CO<sub>2</sub> gas. The system can alternately cycle between the deposition mode and the sublimation mode. A deposition system can also remove humidity in addition to CO<sub>2</sub> via a multi-stage process, and can also significantly assist in controlling the trace contaminants.
propulsion
Small Spacecraft Electric Propulsion (SSEP) Technology Suite
Innovators at GRC have developed a suite of SSEP technologies for small, low-power spacecraft using Hall effect thrusters including a high propellant throughput small spacecraft electric propulsion thruster (LEW-TOPS-158), a power processing unit for SSEP (LEW-TOPS-157), an anode manifold plug for Hall effect thrusters (LEW-TOPS-159), and additional Hall effect technologies (LEW-TOPS-34). See the <i>Additional Information</i> section at the bottom of the page for more information on each technology suite component. GRC is making these technologies available to U.S. companies through a no-cost*, non-exclusive license agreement and companion Space Act Agreement. Licensees may receive a comprehensive package of design and process documents including issued and pending patents, design drawings, materials specifications, and test data. Licensees will assist in defining system requirements and creating new platforms to use the SSEP technologies. This streamlined, collaborative commercialization strategy helps satisfy NASA exploration and science mission requirements while improving U.S. competitiveness in the global electric propulsion market and improving the success of new electric propulsion developments. Working alongside our licensees, GRC hopes to generate a compendium of SSEP knowledge as a living document, maintained by all users in a consortia-like environment. *Although the license and Space Act Agreement are no cost to the licensees, licensees would be responsible for setting up and maintaining an EAR restricted file sharing space.
manufacturing
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Modular Artificial-Gravity Orbital Refinery Spacecraft
Modular Artificial-Gravity Orbital Refinery Spacecraft is a solution for refining in-situ materials collected in space, such as from asteroids and Mars moons, as well as recycling spacecraft debris, while orbiting in micro-gravity conditions. The spacecraft is coupled with refining modules for refining and recycling different types of materials. It generates artificial gravity for operation in low-gravity environments. The spacecraft is comprised of rotating rings, each generating artificial gravity and angular momentum. When the rotating rings are combined on the spacecraft platform, however, they have a net near-zero angular momentum such that the spacecraft can change its attitude with minimal propellant or rotate at the rate of the object the spacecraft platform is attached to. The spacecraft platform can self-balance to accommodate different sized modules and modules with moving loads. The refined and recycled materials can be used to create products in-situ as well as products too large to launch from Earth, such as construction of orbiting space habitats, large spacecraft, solar-power stations, and observatories.
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