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Patent 8006937 Click For Printable Version of This Patent
Patent Information:  USPTO Site Listing

Patent Number: 8006937
Case ID: 0
Patent Title: Spacecraft docking interface mechanism
Status: ACTIVE
Status Date: 9/23/2011 8:45:02 AM
Issue Date: 8/30/2011
Filed Date: 2/6/2009
Serial #: 2/367,207
Assignee Name: The United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Navy (Washington, DC)
Inventor(s): Romano, Marcello , Oppenheimer, Paul
Lab Information:  View Lab Profile

Lab Name: Naval Postgraduate School
Location: Halligan Hall, Room 222
Monterey, CA 93493-5000
Contact: Contact Lab About This Patent

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to docking mechanisms for spacecraft.

2. Description of the Related Art

The ability to dock multiple spacecraft has an enormous benefit for many spacecraft applications. Spacecraft that do not fit in a single launch vehicle can be launched independently and assembled in orbit. Furthermore, for instance, a broken module of a spacecraft can be jettisoned and replaced by a new module without having to replace the entire spacecraft.

A current limitation of all existing docking interface designs is the limited reliability and high complexity of their designs. In particular, the current Orbital Express docking interface design (Starsys Research Corporation, Boulder, Colo.) uses motors, gears, and cams to reach mechanical connection loads that are high enough to transfer fluid. Additional moving parts may decrease reliability while increasing the mas . . . . More
A demountable docking interface mechanism and method for docking and undocking two spacecraft utilizing the demountable docking interface mechanism.
What is claimed is:

1. A docking interface mechanism for spacecraft comprising: a frame; at least one alignment pin extending outward from the frame, the at least one alignment pin comprising: a sleeve; a shape memory alloy coupling mounted within the sleeve, the shape memory alloy coupling formed of a shape memory alloy; an alignment pin pipe located within the sleeve; and at least one heater mounted within the sleeve, the heater for controlling the temperature of the shape memory alloy coupling, wherein the at least one alignment pin is configured for insertion within a corresponding alignment cup of another docking interface mechanism when the shape memory alloy coupling is below an associated austenitic temperature of the shape memory alloy, wherein the at least one alignment pin is further configured to form a rigid mechanical connection with an alignment cup pipe in the corresponding alignment cup when the temperature of the shape memory alloy coupling increases to a . . . . More