Design Innovations Reduce Costs by Half, Decrease Production Time, and Increase Reliability of Spacecraft Solutions
Marotta Controls, a rapidly growing aerospace and defense supplier based in New Jersey, today announced that it will be supplying critical system valves to Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation. The two custom components—modular solenoid valves and fill & drain valves—will be used in Honeybee's Pneumatic Sampler, which will be deployed on the upcoming JAXA MMX Martian Moons eXploration mission under contract by NASA.
With a 65-year heritage in spaceflight, Marotta has based its new MV020 solenoid valve on designs currently used in manned space missions. The fill & drain valve is a first for the company and demonstrates Marotta's commitment to helping customers solve problems through innovation. Both can scale to meet various customer use cases beyond their initial Pneumatic Sampler applications.
Honeybee's Pneumatic Sampler is designed to collect regolith samples from the surface of Phobos, one of the two Martian moons. The system must adhere to rigorous contamination control and planetary protection measures while being attached to a dynamic lander leg interface on the MMX spacecraft. The system requires small, light, highly reliable valves made of limited materials to control the nitrogen gas flow to and through those systems.
"Pneumatic Sampler's systems must be hyper-ruggedized to withstand not only the harsh space environment during the interplanetary transit, but also the vibration and landing loads when the lander will ‘drop' from up to 100 meters above the surface of Phobos," said Dylan Van Dyne, Engineering Manager, Honeybee Robotics. "However, they also must be sensitive to internal application profiles, specifically with regards to the scientific research endeavors, which demand an extremely clean system that will not contaminate the collected sample. We needed a partner who understood the critical nature of those two factors and was willing to work with us to find the right solutions. Marotta Controls stepped up to the plate and we haven't looked back."
Simplified Topology Increases Development and Production Lead Times
Designed for satellite pressurization and propulsion systems, the MV020 is a robust 2-way, 2-position plunger-type solenoid valve weighing 0.75 pounds at 5 inches long. It delivers the following major advantages:
Simple, Fast Assembly: The MV020 uniquely employs a body machined out of a single piece of metal and uses a flux restrictor to control magnetics. This yields easier valve assembly. Traditional valves rely on bodies comprised of various stainless-steel alloys welded together to create the magnetic flux path; which can increase device cost and production complexity.
Efficient, Fast Testing: Given its single-piece body, the MV020 is purpose-built to be tested for design flaws before it is welded. This yields faster, more cost-effective production. Traditional components are welded together before testing and must be disassembled via machines to troubleshoot any issues, negatively impacting cost and production time.
Modularity: The MV020 is constructed via a modular approach, making it adaptable to a wide array of customer requirements. As a result, seat or internal component materials can be easily swapped for alternatives while flow capacity, coil size, and electrical design can be easily built to custom specifications. These capabilities are beneficial to system applications sensitive to specific temperatures, material compositions, chemical interactions, weights, or other factors.
New Products Solving Old Problems
The Pneumatic Sampler's nitrogen stores require fill and drain valves to safely and efficiently transfer the compressed gas. Though one of the most common parts on the market, Honeybee's specifications called for unique materials and functionality not readily available.
Marking its first time designing and manufacturing such parts, Marotta developed the FDV060 valves to meet stringent functionality, mass, and material selection requirements. Each valve must possess tertiary-redundant seals, weigh less than 150 grams and must contain no lubricants. The latter presents a challenge for commonly used sealing methods, which Marotta has worked around by utilizing techniques developed for low temperature solenoid valves. The FDV060 can be used with inert gases as well as various hypergolic propellants and oxidizers.
"We welcome the opportunity to reevaluate tried and true products, particularly when we can increase customer ROI. With the MV020, our engineering team developed the industry's most customizable solenoid valve available and, because of that design, we're able to reduce production costs as much as 50 percent," said Brian Ippolitto, Engineering Director, Aerospace Systems of Marotta Controls. "And, we now have a new offering that, for the longest time, we felt was well covered by other suppliers. Our work with Honeybee on the fill & drain valves reminded us that one size does not fit all. We're happy to fill those gaps."
Marotta began MV020 and FDV060 development in March 2020 and is slated to deliver the hardware by Q1 2021.
About Marotta Controls
Founded in 1943, Marotta Controls is a fully integrated solutions provider which designs, develops, qualifies and manufactures innovative systems and sub-systems for the aerospace and defense sectors. Our portfolio includes pressure, power, motion, fluid, and electronic controls for tactical systems, shipboard and sub-sea applications, satellites, launch vehicles, and aircraft systems. With over 200 patents, Marotta Controls continues to build on its legacy as a highly respected, family-owned small business based in the state of New Jersey. Twitter: @marottacontrols LinkedIn: Marotta Controls, Inc.
About Honeybee Robotics
Honeybee Robotics develops advanced robotic and electromechanical systems that operate in challenging environments in space and on Earth. The company serves as a research and development partner to help solve its customers' unmet needs with robotic systems that extend and enhance capabilities in extreme and unstructured environments. Since 1983, Honeybee Robotics has completed more than 350 advanced projects for NASA, the US Department of Defense, academia, and industry. Based in Longmont, CO, the company maintains offices in Pasadena, CA and Brooklyn, NY. For more, go to www.honeybeerobotics.com.