This paper presents a NASTRAN finite element analysis for evaluation of the effectiveness of viscoelastic damping treatments as passive controls for large flexible space manipulators. The passive damping could be used alone or as an augmentation to active control. Perhaps the best existing example of a practical flexible manipulator is the space shuttle Remote Manipulator System (RMS). The authors use the RMS as an example for this investigation, subjecting it to a detailed dynamic analysis which can be used to evaluate the critical modes for control and to distinguish the modes which are good candidates for active control from those which are well suited for passive control. Modal potential energy analysis (MPE) is used to examine the modal energy distribution in each structural member of the complex flexible chained system. The results indicate that the most dominant contributors to end-point oscillations fall into two categories. These include very low frequency modes due to joint flexibility and higher frequency modes due to bending in the booms. Significant end-point motions result from each category, but the most significant motions are associated with joint flexibility. Finally, a finite element analysis is performed to evaluate the effectiveness of constrained viscoelastic layer damping treatments for passive vibration control. Passive damping augmentation is introduced through the use of a constrained viscoelastic layer damping treatment applied to the surface of the manipulator’s flexible booms. It is shown that even the joint compliance dominated modes can be damped to some degree through appropriate design of the treatment.

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