Gyroscope-aided bikes and cars may one day rule the road. But before the technology reaches the ground, a University at Buffalo research team will test similar equipment in outer space.
The Canfield joint actuation manipulator — nicknamed “CanJam” by the researchers — was selected by NASA to join the first commercial research flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.
The tennis-ball sized device was designed by Manoranjan Majji, lead researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “CanJam” can automatically control a satellite using a Canfield joint — a spherical joint that can point anywhere on a hemisphere — as well as an automated program that stabilizes the device when disturbed, and a wheel.
The manipulator allows a user to steer satellites using a wheel with three degrees of freedom — tilting forward and backward, swiveling left and right, and pivoting side to side. Unlike traditional joints, the device also contains three motors as a failsafe if by chance one motor fails.
Traditional technologies used by NASA and other agencies occasionally don’t produce the necessary torque to rotate aircraft, also known as singularities, which make it difficult to build attitude-control systems. Due to its design, the “CanJam” system doesn’t create singularities, simplifying attitude control, says Majji.