One of the challenges of exploring space and other locations is extreme cold. During NASA’s “Artemis” lunar mission, the temperature at the moon’s south pole will drop sharply at night. At some point in the future, NASA hopes to explore Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, where equatorial temperatures have never exceeded minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA has been preparing for these freezing temperatures by developing special gears that can withstand extreme temperatures.
At low temperatures, the housings of the gears and transmissions are heated. After being heated, a lubricant helps the gears work properly and prevents the steel alloy from being brittle and eventually breaking. NASA has been working on a project called “Bulk Metal Glass Gears” (BMGG), which has created a material made of “metal glass” that works and survives in extremely cold environments without heating.
Eliminate the need to heat gearboxes and reduce the energy required for spacecraft to operate. NASA says operations are currently restricted in cold and dark conditions due to limited power for rovers or landers. The energy saved with the new transmission can extend mission time or allow more instruments to be placed on the spacecraft rover.
In JPL tests, engineers mounted motors and gearboxes on a turntable beam designed to measure response to shocks or strong shocks. Liquid nitrogen is used to cool the gear to about minus 279 degrees Fahrenheit. The steel ejaculation is then fired at the beam to simulate the impact event.
This type of impact test is used to determine whether the spacecraft’s hardware will break during events such as re-entry, landing, and landing. The test also simulated what might happen to gears when ordinary samples are collected at night on the moon. Before each shock test, the researchers poured liquid nitrogen on the motor and gearbox. After draining liquid nitrogen within a few seconds, the impactor fires at the steel beams installed in the motor and gearbox. The gearbox and motor were tested twice in three different directions, each demonstrating that the gears had weathered the shock event at very low temperatures.