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- Developing specialized Electro-Static grippers (commercially used in Semiconductor Manufacturing and in package handling) will allow gentle and secure Capture, Soft Docking, and Handling of a wide variety of materials and shapes (such as upper-stages, satellites, arrays, and possibly asteroids) without requiring physical features or cavities for a pincher or probe or using harpoons or nets. Combined with new rigid boom mechanisms or small agile chaser vehicles, flexible, high speed Electro-Static Grippers can enable compliant capture of spinning objects starting from a safe stand-off distance. Electroadhesion (EA) can enable lightweight, ultra-low-power, compliant attachment in space by using an electrostatic force to adhere similar and dissimilar surfaces. A typical EA enabled device is composed of compliant space-rated materials, such as copper-clad polyimide encapsulated by polymers. Attachment is induced by strong electrostatic forces between any substrate material, such as an exterior satellite panel and a compliant EA gripper pad surface. When alternate positive and negative charges are induced in adjacent planar electrodes in an EA surface, the electric fields set up opposite charges on the substrate and cause an electrostatic adhesion between the electrodes and the induced charges on the substrate. Since the electrodes and the polymer are compliant and can conform to uneven or rough surfaces, the electrodes can remain intimately close to the entire surface, enabling high clamping pressures. Clamping pressures of more than 3 N/cm2 in shear can be achieved on a variety of substrates with ultra-low holding power consumption (measured values are less than 20 microW/Newton weight held). A single EA surface geometry can be used to clamp both dielectric and conductive substrates, with slightly different physical mechanisms. Furthermore EA clamping requires no normal force be placed on the substrate, as conventional docking requires. Internally funded research and development has demonstrated that EA can function effectively in space, even in the presence of strong ultraviolet radiation, atomic oxygen, and free electrons. We created a test setup in an existing vacuum chamber to simulate low-Earth-orbit conditions. An EA mechanism was fabricated and installed in the chamber, instrumented, operated in a vacuum, and subjected to ultraviolet photons and free electrons generated by an in-chamber multipactor electron emitter. Extensions to EA that can add value include proximity and contact sensing and transverse motion or rotation, both of which could enhance docking or assembly applications. Possible next steps include development of targeted applications for ground investigation or on-orbit subsystem performance demonstrations using low cost access to space such as CubeSats.
- Other Subject(s):
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20150021399.
Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference; 15-18 Sep. 2015; Maui, HI; United States.
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