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Publication numberUS3456445 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 22, 1969
Filing dateApr 17, 1967
Priority dateApr 17, 1967
Publication numberUS 3456445 A, US 3456445A, US-A-3456445, US3456445 A, US3456445A
InventorsBentele Max, Biehl Richard E, Loprete Joseph F
Original AssigneeCurtiss Wright Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Modular refueling system for astronaut maneuvering units and the like
US 3456445 A
Abstract  available in
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

July 22, 1969 BENTELE ET AL 3,456,445


EJKIKDEEFH F. LEJF'RETE AGENT United iStates Patent US. Cl. 60250 8 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE An astronaut maneuvering unit (AMU) having a reaction engine of the intermittent thrust pulse or cappistol type, is refueled by modular packs comprising a plurality of separate, standard-length feed tape sections, each section carrying a supply of solid propellant type capsules spaced thereon for linear feed to the engine and being individually packed in a supply canister of uniform size for modular interchangeability and replacement in the AMU fuel supply line. Each end of a tape section has a snap-fastener element for section splicing. Capsule supply to the AMU is continuous from the spliced sections of successive canisters. Empty or partially empty canisters are replaced as required by pre-packed supply canisters; a new pack is inserted by unsnapping the supply feed line at an appropriate point and resplicing the new section (or sections) into the line.

This invention concerns multiple-unit or modular refueling of reaction engines of the intermittent thrust pulse or cap-pistol type, such as are used for maneuvering and orienting objects in space. For example, in a specific application, a burst or train of jet pulses from a reaction engine (sometimes called pulser) has magnitude and direction for varying the attitude and/or translational movement of an astronaut maneuvering outside the space vehicle. Where such maneuvering requires considerable time, the problem of refueling the AMU may limit the usefulness of the maneuver due to the necessity of frequent return to the space vehicle for fresh supplies of propellant. The so-called cap-pistol reaction engine conveniently uses a feed tape carrying linearly spaced solid propellant type capsules that are progressively advanced, one by one, by a stepper motor and fired according to required thrust. Prior methods of refueling can be time-consuming and wasteful of unused capsules due to frequent rethreading of the reaction engine with fresh feed tape. A possible alternative to this procedure is manual splicing of the new tape supply to the unused supply connected to the engine; however, this method also is unsatisfactory as the splice must be precisely spaced from the adjacent capsules according to uniform capsule pitch, and the splice thickness must conform to the tape standard for proper feed through the engine.

In accordance with the invention, modular type refueling is used wherein a plurality of pre-packed canisters, each containing a separate, uniform length section of supply tape (fresh capsules) are replaceably positioned in the AMU for continuous and automatic capsule feed from successive canisters to the reaction engine. The entire supply tape is packed for ease of retrieval from the canisters in succession and the respective sections are serially connected by uniformly positioned and readily detachable splicing. When a canister or canisters in the pulser feed line are emptied at the end of a mission, the empty canisters are withdrawn. The regular feed line is interrupted at a convenient splice position and new pre- 3,456,445 Patented July 22, 1969 packed canister supply sections are inserted in modular manner in the line at the snap splices.

The invention will be more fully set forth in the following description referring to the accompanying drawings, and the features of novelty will be pointed out with particularity in the claims annexed to and forming a part of this specification.

Referring to the drawings, FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a back-pack type of AMU having a plurality of reaction engines and respective modular fuel supply units in pre-packed canisters;

FIG. 2 is a fragmentary view of FIG. 1 showing receptacle spaces in which the modular type canisters are positioned;

FIG. 3 is a detailed view showing in disconnected position snap-type splicing elements for joining the respective ends of two supply type sections;

FIG. 3A is a side view of the completed splice joining the tape sections of FIG. 3;

FIG. 4 illustrates schematically the packing arrangement for the individual modular canisters, and the seriessplicing of the corresponding tape sections for continuity of tape feed from successive canisters to the pulser; and

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of three pre-packed canisters with spliced tape sections for side-by-side positioning in one of the receptacle spaces of FIG. 2.

The assembly unit shown in FIG. 1 comprises a supporting frame 1 of generally rectangular shape constructed generally of suitable lightweight sheet material. The upper and lower sides 2 and 3 of the unit may comprise more rigid pre-formed portions for supporting at the opposite ends reaction engines at 4, 5, 6, and 7, respectively. The opposite ends of the frame also include similar canister receptacle spaces 8 and 9, FIG. 2, adjacent to the engines 5 and 6. Each receptacle space is defined by a rear wall or flange 10 and a bottom seat 11, the latter constituting a divider wall between the upper and lower receptacle spaces. The divider 11 has a lip-flange 11a for retaining the lower ends of the canisters,

.and a supporting rod 12 for the divider wall 11 extends the length of the entrance side for also guiding the canisters into the corresponding receptacle space.

The upper (or feed) end of each receptacle space opens into a funnel-shaped chute 13 leading to the respective reaction engine, and the front side of the chute has a hinged cover 14 providing access to the tape splices for facilitating canister loading and unloading operations, as presently described. The free edge of the cover has a depending lip-fiange 14a that cooperates with the lower divider lip 11a for retaining the canisters in position.

FIG. 1 shows three pre-packed supply canisters 15, 16, and 17 in operative position in the AMU, the upper ends of the canisters being open for progressive feed of [the capsule supply tape upward through the chute 13 to the reaction engine 5. The engine is indicated generally as having a tape feed sprocket Wheel 18 that is driven by a stepper motor at 19 (not shown). Live capsules on the feed tape portion 20 drawn from the first canister 15 are advanced by discrete steps, one at a time, to the engine for command firing. The reaction engine or pulser, including the sprocket wheel capsule feed may be, for example, of the character disclosed in a copending application, Ser. No. 438,943, filed Mar. 11, 1965, now Patent No. 3,316,719, by Joseph F. Loprete for Intermittent Thrust Device and owned by the assignee of the present invention.

The capsule firing positions are indicated by the directional nozzles 21, 22 and 23 that are located for obtaining vectoring of combined thrust pulses as indicated near the periphery of the sprocket wheel. As the present invention is not concerned with pulser thrust vectoring by simultaneous multiple-nozzle firing, the pulser nozzles may be arranged in number and direction with reference to a two or three axis system as preferred.

The spent (and any unused) capsules are carried from the pulser by the tape portion 24 to a bin at 25 that is adjacent to the supply canisters in the receptacle space 8, FIG. 2, and communicates with the chute 13. The bin may comprise a return-container (not shown) that is removable from the AMU at the side of the frame normally closed by a hinged cover 26. At the end of a mission, the bin container is simply slid from the frame, the spent tape line leading from the engine severed, .and an empty bin placed in collecting position. A central portion of the AMU located between the end bins forms a control equipment compartment 27 for the stepper motor control, firing circuitry, etc., (not shown).

Reference is made to the schematic of FIG. 4 for showing the preferred method of packing the supply canisters. For convenience of description, the pre-packed canisters 15, 16, and 17 are shown aligned end-to-end with the feed or No. 1 canister beneath the sprocket wheel 18 of pulser 5. The portion 20 of live feed tape, FIGS. 1 and 2, is in operative engagement with the sprocket wheel that has equally spaced pockets at the wheel periphery to correspond with the spacing or pitch distance of the capsules on the feed tape. As the sprocket wheel periphery to correspond with the spacing or pitch live capsules which are on the inner side of the tape approaching the sprocket wheel, nest in order in respective pockets as the feed tape is picked up by the wheel. At each step, respective capsules are advanced to positions opposite the direction nozzles for firing according to command.

The capsule tape portion 20 represents the trailing end of a nearly spent tape section that is threaded in the pulser. This portion is snap-spliced at 30, FIGS. 3 and 3A, to the leading end 31 of a fresh supply section packed in canister No. 1.

A simple and convenient form of snap-splice is that of the well-known snap-fastener type shown by FIGS. 3 and 3A. The socket element of the fastener is a thin, flexible rnetal disk 32 having a central aperture 33 with short radial slits 34 extending therefrom. The mounting 35 for the disk (socket) is secured to, say, the trailing end of the pulser tape portion 20, FIG. 4. The coacting plug element is a stud 36 mounted on a pad 37 secured to the loading end 31 of the No. l canister section. The stud 36 has a detent portion 36a at its extremity somewhat larger than the diameter of the disk aperture for interlocking engagement with the disk, FIG. 3A. The socket unit simulates a capsule in size and configuration and has uniform capsule pitch spacing with respect to the adjacent live capsules 38 and 39 on tape 20 and the No. 1 tape section respectively, FIGS. 3A and 4. For exact conformity, the disk 32 may be enclosed within a standard capsule casing. For ensuring uniform tape thickness and alignment, the socket casing is undercut or notched at 35a for receiving in flush relation the stud pad 37 in the fastened or spliced position. Axial alignment of the spliced tape is provided by the abutting pad and socket casing shoulders.

For eflicient packing and simplicity of retrieval, the No. 1 tape section, FIG. 4, is alternately folded starting with the trailing end 40 that extends into the open top of canister 15 and along one end wall thereof to the bottom, on which the supply tape is progressively laid in alternate folds to fill the canister. The top fold, i.e., the leading end 31 is connected to the snap-splice 30.

The No. 2 and 3 canisters are similarly packed with fresh supply sections, the trailing end 40 of No. 1 section being spliced at 41 to the leading end 42 of the No. 2 section, whose trailing end 43 is in turn spliced at 44 to the lead end 45 of the No. 3 section. The trailing end 46 and attached socket of the No. 3 section are, as shown, outside the canister for ready splicing to a storage reserve section, as required.

When the canisters schematically shown in FIG. 4 are stacked side-by-side in the AMU receptacle space 8, FIG. 1, the spliced ends of the canister tape sections are turned through a half-twist, as shown in FIG. 5. This counteracts the natural twisting motion as the tape is fed from one container to the next. Accordingly, when new canister sections are inserted in the main feed line, the trailing end of the No. 1 section, for example is given a half-twist at 47 for maintaining the proper capsule alignment on the tape. The same connection is made at 48 between the trailing end of the No. 2 section and the leading end of the No. 3 section. As the reaction engine uses the supply tape, the No. l canister is emptied by progressive unfolding of the tape. The trailing end of the section extending along the side wall 15a of No. 1 canister is then drawn clear of the canister; the No. 2 canister is emptied in the same manner as are the successive serially connected supply canisters.

Assuming that a space maneuver is completed, during which the pulser has emptied the No. 1 and No. 2 canisters, the AMU is refueled simply by sliding the empty canisters from the receptacle space 8, moving the No. 3 canister laterally against the receptacle wall 8 nearest the reaction engine and snap-splicing the trailing end of the No. 3 section to fresh supply canister packs, as required. Finger holes 50 for convenient removal are formed in the canister end walls, FIGS. 1 and 5; also suitable detents can be used for holding the canisters firmly in the AMU. It will be understood that the number of serially connected supply canisters is limited only by practical considerations.

This ivention is a practical and simple solution of the AMU propellant logistics problem. The fresh tape supply packs in book-like form, can be more readily stored in the limited space available in spacecraft; moreover, the solid propellant capsule and tape combination eliminates problems of toxicity, leakage, pressurization, shock sensitivity, environmental temperature limitations, and storage accommodation, all involved to greater or less degree in liquid propellants.

It should be understood that this invention is not limited to specific details of construction and arrangement thereof herein illustrated, and that changes and modifications may occur to one skilled in the art without departing from the spirit of the invention.

What is claimed is:

1. In an astronaut maneuvering unit having a supporting frame, a reaction thrust engine of the intermittent jet-pulse type mounted thereon, and a fed-tape with solid-propellant type capsules spaced thereon for linear feed to the engine for pulse command firing of the capsules, the improvement comprising:

(a) a plurality of interchangeable fuel supply modules consisting of containers for live capsules individually mounted in the supporting frame and separately removable therefrom for replacement;

(b) individual feed-tape sections of predetermined length, each having a supply of live capsules thereon and packed in layers for orderly retrieval in a respective container from which each end of the tape section extends to form respectively, a leading end and a trailing end;

(0) and means for detachably splicing the trailing end of a tape section in a first container to a leading end of a section in a second container, the containers being supported in said frame with all the respective tape sections therein serially connected with the leading end of the first section for continuity of capsule feed in order from successive containers to the engine.

2. In an astronaut maneuvering unit, as specified in claim 1, wherein the frame defines receptacle space for positioning of the containers in slide-drawer manner within the unit.

3. In an astronaut maneuvering unit, as specified in claim 1, wherein each capsule feed tape section is compactly folded in progressive layers within a respective container, one section end being the leading end and extending in order of layers to the container bottom, and thence along one side of the container to the trailing section end at the container top.

4. In an astronaut maneuvering unit, as specified in claim 1, wherein the feed tape splicing means is a detachable snap-fastener and the mating elements thereof are secured respectively to the trailing end of one section and the leading end of the next succeeding section, the fastener in splicing position simulating in size, and spacing on the tape, a feed capsule for uniform feed through the reaction engine.

5. In an astronaut maneuvering unit, as specified in claim 2, wherein the frame has a housing positioned between the engine and receptacle space containing stacked supply canisters, said housing having a cover for direct access to the receptacle space for disconnecting and connecting tape sections according to canister removal and replacement.

6. In an astronaut maneuvering unit, as specified in claim 2, wherein each container is a rectangular canister having height and width for accommodating a material number of layers of the capsule feed tape, and the depth corresponds to a single width of the feed tape.

7. In an astronaut maneuvering unit, as specified in claim 6, wherein the canisters are compactly stored sideby-side in the receptacle space and adjacent to a bin formed by the frame, said bin having a volume materially greater than the combined volume of the canisters for random reception of the spent capsules and tape from the reaction engine.

8. In an astronaut maneuvering unit, as specified in claim 7, wherein the frame forms a chute communicating with the reaction engine and the open feed ends of the canisters in the receptacle space and also with the reception bin for discharge of spent tape and capsules from the engine into the reception bin, said chute having access means for splicing and disconnecting canister tape sections without removal thereof from the receptacle space.

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,901,868 3/1933 Dabrasky 89-33.16 3,210,930 10/1965 Leeper et a1 250 XR 3,316,719 5/1967 Loprete 60-250 XR 3,328,963 7/ 1967 Kraus 60-250 CARLTON R. CROYLE, Primary Examiner U.S. Cl. X.R.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US1901868 *Sep 15, 1930Mar 21, 1933August DabraskyMethod and means for supplying cartridge belts to a feed mechanism
US3210930 *Feb 1, 1962Oct 12, 1965Atlantic Res CorpGas generator
US3316719 *Mar 11, 1965May 2, 1967Curtiss Wright CorpExpansible rocket engines
US3328963 *Dec 27, 1962Jul 4, 1967Curtiss Wright CorpAttitude control device for space vehicles
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4951548 *May 22, 1989Aug 28, 1990Lucas IndustriesApparatus and method for supply of belt-linked ammunition
U.S. Classification60/250, 60/255, 60/228, 89/35.1, 89/34
International ClassificationB64G1/22, B64G1/26, B64G1/24, B64G1/40, B64G6/00
Cooperative ClassificationB64G6/00, B64G1/26, B64G1/403
European ClassificationB64G1/40C, B64G6/00, B64G1/26