Failure of Harmonic Gears During Verification of a Two-Axis Gimbal for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter SpacecraftThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft has three two-axis gimbal assemblies that support and move the High Gain Antenna and two solar array wings. The gimbal assemblies are required to move almost continuously throughout the mission's seven-year lifetime, requiring a large number of output revolutions for each actuator in the gimbal assemblies. The actuator for each of the six axes consists of a two-phase brushless dc motor with a direct drive to the wave generator of a size-32 cup-type harmonic gear. During life testing of an actuator assembly, the harmonic gear teeth failed completely, leaving the size-32 harmonic gear with a maximum output torque capability less than 10% of its design capability. The investigation that followed the failure revealed limitations of the heritage material choices that were made for the harmonic gear components that had passed similar life requirements on several previous programs. Additionally, the methods used to increase the stiffness of a standard harmonic gear component set, while accepted practice for harmonic gears, is limited in its range. The stiffness of harmonic gear assemblies can be increased up to a maximum stiffness point that, if exceeded, compromises the reliability of the gear components for long life applications.
Johnson, Michael R. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Gehling, Russ (Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. Denver, CO, United States)
Head, Ray (Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. Denver, CO, United States)