Deployment Dynamics of Thin-Shell Space Structures
A recently proposed structural architecture for space solar power satellites exploits the high specific stiffness of thin-shell components, forming a space frame, to develop large-area deployable structures.The predicted realization of these structures requires an understanding of the kinematic and dynamic behavior of multiple thin shells folded together, as well as the development of new deployment mechanism concepts.The research presented in this talk proposes high-fidelity models to capture the deployment dynamics of complex space structures, in which multiple thin shells are folded together and deploy under their own strain energy. First, the folding and deployment of a rectangular strip with two thin-shell longerons connected by transverse battens is introduced as a building block for more complex structures. Its deployment from a folded configuration is investigated both experimentally, through tests in air and vacuum, and numerically. Then, a space solar power spacecraft, composed of multiple strips, is considered. A kinematic study of its folding process and a novel deployment mechanism concept are proposed to implement a complete packaging scheme on a 2 m-scale prototype. Finally, the deployment dynamics of this structure is characterized experimentally, and it is shown that it can be simulated accurately.By advancing the current tools for simulating the deployment behavior of complex thin-shell structures and developing predictive models, this work contributes to enabling a new generation of lightweight deployable structures for future space applications.
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