Walker, Scott J.I., McDonald, Anthony D., Niki, Toshihko and Aglietti, Guglielmo S.
Initial performance assessment of hybrid inflatable structures
Acta Astronautica, 68, (7-8), . (doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2010.10.009).
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Inflatable technology for space applications is under continual development and advances in high strength fibres and rigidizable materials have pushed the limitations of these structures. This has lead to their application in deploying large-aperture antennas, reflectors and solar sails. However, many significant advantages can be achieved by combining inflatable structures with structural stiffeners such as tape springs. These advantages include control of the deployment path of the structure while it is inflating (a past weakness of inflatable structure designs), an increased stiffness of the structure once deployed and a reduction in the required inflation volume. Such structures have been previously constructed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory focusing on large scale booms. However, due to the high efficiency of these designs they are also appealing to small satellite systems.
This article outlines ongoing research work performed at the University of Southampton into the field of small satellite hybrid inflatable structures. Inflatable booms have been constructed and combined with tape spring reinforcements to create simple hybrid structures. These structures have been subjected to bending tests and compared directly to an equivalent inflatable tube without tape spring reinforcement. This enables the stiffness benefits to be determined with respect to the added mass of the tape springs. The paper presents these results, which leads to an initial performance assessment of these structures
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