University of Colorado, Boulder
The future of space exploration needs highly sophisticated deployable space structure technology in order to achieve the ambitious goals being set today. Several contemporary missions and mission concepts require structures on the order of 10, 100, and even 1000 meters in size, far exceeding the 5 meter diameter constraint of launch vehicle fairings. For these cases where the deployed structure is several factors greater in size than the spacecraft bus, the dynamics of the deployment and the effect on the host bus is of significant concern. The current approach in the field relies on experimental testing and Finite Element Analysis software to verify deployment for developing structure designs, a slow and resource expensive process. However, modeling the dynamics of deployable structure and spacecraft systems using a more efficient approach have not been investigated due to the complexity and lack of approach precedence in the literature. The deployment dynamics of complex deployable systems must be understood to verify deployment and to ensure mission success, and should be available early in the design process to enable more efficient and reliable designs. This project investigates modeling dynamics of deployable space structures and host spacecraft systems to address this technology need. This project focuses on materials and stowing techniques on the cutting edge of deployable space structures technology research. A promising new field of space structures research draws inspiration from origami folding techniques to design efficient packaging schemes. Additionally, high strain composite materials have been demonstrated to provide highly lightweight and elegant solutions for deployable structure design. Incorporating these highly flexible elastic materials into folding deployable systems presents novel challenges, where the physical engineering reality of building such structures makes certain simplifying assumptions of origami approaches invalid. This project will investigate how to address these engineering realities through dynamics modeling and analysis of origami folded structures. Analyzing deployment behavior through dynamic models will make demonstrating concept feasibility possible, and will push the capabilities of deployable structures technology forward.
This project will achieve the proposed goal by investigating three key gaps in modeling method knowledge and integrating these methods into one powerful software tool. These include models and representations of flexible elastic hinges, system parameterization and fold pattern design, and spacecraft and system dynamics, energy, and momentum analysis. Together, these areas will enable the structural and deployment dynamics analysis needed to understand and design efficient deployable space structures. This analysis will enrich the field of deployable structures technology by considering these structures from a systems-level point of view that has not yet been taken but is key to successful development. Rapid modeling of these dynamic behaviors will enable the design process to address the primary concerns that high level mission developers raise when considering the use of complex deployable structures on their spacecraft. By developing the means to capture the full system dynamics, this project will push large scale, folding deployable structures technology toward implementation, enhancing spacecraft and mission capabilities to the sophistication needed to meet mission objectives of the future.