Friday, February 4, 2011
"Toroidal bladders are inflated to grasp a rocket nozzle from the inside.
An apparatus called a "pneumatic stinger" has been developed to enable a first spacecraft, operating under remote control, to grasp a second spacecraft that is in orbit or other unpowered flight. The pneumatic stinger, which is mounted on the first spacecraft, is inserted in a rocket-engine nozzle of the second spacecraft, then actuated to grasp the nozzle from the inside, as explained below. Both NASA and the Department of Defense could use this apparatus for servicing satellites. The design of the pneumatic stinger might also be adaptable to soft-docking mechanisms or grappling mechanisms for use on Earth."
I wonder about the use of bladders in upper stage nozzles and combustion chambers to hold liquid propellant. (This is not unlike a previous post about the merging of solid rocket stages.) Cryogenics probably would not work (unless flexible aerogel powder insulation could be included) but kerosene would be OK.