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Space Mechanisms Project

Developing novel mechanical assemblies and actuation methods for the extreme environments of aerospace.

Space Mechanisms

The mechanisms researchers and engineers at NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) are developing novel mechanical assemblies and actuation methods for the extreme environments of aerospace.

These designs include:

  • Shape memory alloys – tailored to specific temperature ranges, magnetic gearing, and dust tolerant assemblies.
  • Accelerated tribological testing of space mechanisms and components under applicable environmental conditions.

Applying advanced space mechanisms expertise to specific projects is necessary in order to mitigate potential anomalies and prevent failure of NASA missions. Providing information and lessons learned about space mechanism design is intended to improve our understanding of how specific mechanisms can affect sensitive and critical space systems.

GRC conducted a “Lessons Learned” study and published a Space Mechanisms Handbook in 1999 to help space industry engineers avoid recurring design, qualification, and application problems.

Space Mechanisms Lessons Learned Study

In preparation for the Space Mechanisms Handbook, a “Lessons Learned” study was performed to assess recurring problems and future needs in space mechanism design. Three engineers from Mechanical Technology Incorporated co-authored the lessons learned study. This study is being distributed with the handbook via digital download. The study is divided into two volumes: a summary of lessons learned and a literature review.

Space Mechanisms Handbook

The goal of this effort was to assemble a space mechanisms design guidelines handbook for use by NASA and its industry collaborators. The handbook presents a categorical overview of space mechanism design, qualification, and application issues. The handbook has been distributed on DVD-ROM, and is now available via secure download.

The DVD and download file are in pdf (Portable Document Format) developed by Adobe Acrobat. Engineers at Aerospace Corporation wrote most of the handbook with help from Battelle Corp.

Learn more about the DVD contents and handbook.

Review Space Mechanisms & Lubrication references.

Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium (

The symposium is held in even-numbered years, hosted by NASA centers on a rotating basis. The 2020 Symposium was to be hosted in May by the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, and was postponed until December, 2020.

Top image: Mars Pathfinder abrasive wheel experiment inside space mechanisms accelerated test chamber. Credit: NASA

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