NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-E2.01-7367 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 035640)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Structures and Materials
PROPOSAL TITLE:Ultra-Lightweight Large Aperture Support Structures

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
United Applied Technologies, Inc.
11506 Gilleland Rd
Huntsville ,AL 35803 - 4327
(256) 650 - 5120

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Larry   Bradford
11506 Gilleland Rd
Huntsville ,AL  35803 -4327
(256) 650 - 5120
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

Ultra-lightweight membranes may prove to be very attractive for large aperture systems, but their value will be fully realized only if they are mated with equally high strength, low-mass support structures. The objective of this proposal is to demonstrate the feasibility of a new innovative structure concept using space qualified flexible thin film polyimide to produce large ultra-lightweight inflation deployed self-rigidizing structural tubes/booms with very low areal density, small packaging volume, and extremely high buckling/bending strength to accurately deploy and provide precision structural support to very large aperture systems. This material can be thermally formed to virtually any shape to produce booms, elbows, tees, flanges, and flat or curved panels to support or connect aperture system components and facilitate in-space assembly. Thermally formed polyimide (TFP) tubes are deflated for launch packaging, pressurized for deployment, and then self-rigidizing for the operational lifetime without any maintenance gas required. This innovative collapsible/deployable structure can potentially revolutionize the manufacture and use of structures for space applications. Phase-I will result in design, fabrication, and testing of sub-scale tubes and modular multifunction components. Phase-II will produce and demonstrate full-scale mission applicable tubes, booms, or truss assemblies and associated interface hardware.

The deployable self-rigidizing technology is of direct relevance to any future space mission under consideration that includes large structures. The optimized stiffener design and related manufacturing processes are applicable to large space telescope, satellite communications antennae, support structure for large solar reflectors for solar thermal propulsion, large space deployable radiators, and many other as yet not envisioned large space structures where launch volume and weight is critical.

Commercial space applications include support structures for large communications satellite antennas. Non-space commercial applications include: packaged mast/antenna to be deployed in remote areas for both military and civilian use (firefighters/law enforcement/rescue operations, etc); small packaged, deployable portable emergency shelters; wings/fuselage for both model airplanes and unmanned expendable aerial vehicles; emergency deployable life rafts; and other applications where small volume stowable/deployable articles have substantial merit. These markets have yet to be explored in detail and numerous additional applications will present themselves as time is devoted to potential business planning.