The technical objective of the proposed effort is to establish the feasibility of using shape memory alloy (SMA) actuators for selected components of the automatic cryogenic coupling transfer system. This coupling will be built for space rendezvous and docking operations between a host spacecraft (e.g., fuel depot) and the client spacecraft (e.g., satellites, shuttles, stages), primarily for fluid resupply. As part of this work, a locking mechanism will be developed to provide a necessary holding force between a host orbital depot and the client spacecraft transfer fluid lines to allow for cryogen transfer. The locking motion will be obtained automatically through spring loading, while the unlocking function will be obtained using a novel SMA actuator design. SMA based coupling can integrate sensing, control, and actuation functions in a single entity, which significantly reduces design complexities and the overall weight and volume of the system. Performance parameters and sub-zero temperature alloys development will be explored.
In the proposed effort, we will demonstrate the feasibility of SMA-based actuation system by designing and fabricating a prototype sub-component of a locking mechanism for automatic cryogenic coupling transfer system. The prototype will incorporate a semi-automatic locking/unlocking device, where the locking function can be accomplished automatically during docking (without a user/program input), and the unlocking function can be executed by an external command once undocking was initiated. Near-equiatomic NiTi shape memory alloys (SMAs) will be used as the sensing and actuating elements, but since the coupler needs to operate at cryogenic temperatures, effort will be directed towards developing and characterizing new sub-zero (< 0 °C) ternary NiTiFe SMA for this purpose.
The proposed effort addresses one of the key technical challenges (cryogenic storage and transfer that enables long-term storage and transfer of cryogens in space) identified in the OCT Roadmap –TA2-In-Space Propulsion.
The proposed effort also directly supports another technical challenge (automatic alignment, coupling, and assembly system) identified in another OCT roadmap, TA-13 Ground and Launch System Processing Roadmap. This is also relevant to the NRC's "NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities" which identified on-orbit cryogenic storage and transfer to be at a “tipping point.
Through this innovation, knowledge gained will provide the pathway for using SMAs in space structures, with the potential for significant reduction in design complexity that otherwise would not be possible. This work will expand the use of SMAs in complex mechanical systems.
Advancing development and NASA intellectual property in the area of multifunctional materials and Structures for Aerospace Applications. These smart materials that will operate at cryogenic temperatures and enable Novel, lightweight actuation system and morphing structures by changing the shape of components on demand without the need for heavy hydraulic mechanisms.More »
|Organizations Performing Work||Role||Type||Location|
|Glenn Research Center (GRC)||Lead Organization||NASA Center||Cleveland, OH|