NASA 1996 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER : 96-1 17.01-5000

PROJECT TITLE : Aerodynamic Materials Processing in Low-g Environments (AMPLE)

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)

ORBITEC proposes to conduct innovative research and development that will finish with a Aerodynamic Materials Processing in Low-g Environments (AMPLE) technology demonstration on the International Space Station. The innovation is based on: the use of gas-jet rectifier hardware concept, an expert system software architecture concept, and a containment concept for on-orbit position control of small spherical samples. In Phase I, we propose to develop the preliminary design for a Phase II prototype flight unit to be tested on a reduced-gravity parabolic aircraft. A fully- developed space-flight version of a gas-jet-based AMPLE facility on the Space Station is expected to provide NASA an "overdue" capability; the first basic demonstration of the unique technology that can be later applied to a wide variety of microgravity research efforts. The AMPLE technology coupled with heating and cooling capacity will lead to a most powerful research tool for development of metallic, ceramic, glass, and other materials in a high-temperature microgravity environment, as well as a very low-g, vibrationally isolated, float zone capability that can enhance protein crystal growth, fluid dynamics and combustion research.
POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS
A fully developed facility for space-flight applications provides the opportunity to: make significant progress in heating, melting, and controlled slow and very rapid cooling of materials in a free-float zone; conduct crystal structure studies; measure viscosity in melts and other liquids/solutions; and conduct various fluid dynamic and combustion studies in a micro-g environment. This environment would be much more conducive to sensitive microgravity research needs. Research areas that could benefit include: protein crystal growth, biological cell research, combustion research, solution crystal growth, meltzone crystal growth, vapor crystal growth, fluid property studies, undercooling of metals, and formation of new glasses and ceramics. The use of aerodynamic position control and vibration isolation solves a number of significant complexities present in magnetic, electrostatic, and acoustic approaches and should allow significant improvements in the on-orbit acceleration environment. AMPLE will also reduce the need for "quiet time crew scheduling" as research experiments can become independent of crew activities or other vibration generating activities or operations. Cost savings will also be realized in a reduction in the need for extra-ordinary technologies to quiet the environment. Parabolic aircraft low-g flights of the basic approach have proven that superior performance and experimental flexibility is achievable over other techniques, including acoustic, electromagnetic, and electrostatic levitation.
NAME AND ADDRESS OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
Dr. Eric E. Rice
Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITECTM)
Space Center, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison, WI 53717
NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR
Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITECTM)
Space Center, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison, WI 53717