NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-S1.02-8546 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 034459)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Deep Space Propulsion
PROPOSAL TITLE:Fiber-Optic Shape Sensing for Intelligent Solar Sail Deployment

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Luna Innovations Incorporated
2851 Commerce Street
Blacksburg ,VA 24060 - 6657
(540) 552 - 5128

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Roger   Duncan
2851 Commerce Street
Blacksburg ,VA  24060 -6657
(540) 557 - 5893
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

Luna Innovations proposes to develop a distributed fiber-optic shape sensor to provide a control system for the deployment of ultra-lightweight inflatable support structures for solar sails. This shape sensing system will provide the full-field 3D shape of the lightweight inflatable booms of solar sails at all points to sub-millimeter accuracy, permitting the monitoring of the dynamics of the structure before, during, and after deployment. These shape sensors, when fully integrated with the booms of solar sails and other inflatable space structures, will permit real-time active control of the deployment by providing a closed-loop feedback mechanism. Because the sensors and the system to monitor them will cost and weigh substantially less than the stereoscopic cameras currently used to monitor the 3D shape, this approach is highly desirable. By providing a reliable, lightweight means to monitor the dynamic solar sail deployment process, the risks associated with employing sail technology as a means of spacecraft propulsion will be substantially mitigated. This development will broadly enhance NASAys yMissions in the Exploration of the Solar Systemy theme.

The product development accomplished during this program will enable Luna to provide deployable space structure manufacturers with a reliable, lightweight means of monitoring and providing closed-loop feedback on their solar sail support structure technology. Through its commercial partner in this effort, Luna has a path for immediate integration of the technology developed through Phase II into proven sail technology readily available to meet NASA needs. Upon the completion of Phase III, it is expected that Lunays partner will be able to offer NASA reliable ultra-lightweight inflatable solar sail support structures that are vastly superior to todayys state-of-the-art.

Shape sensing is also of significant interest in the private sector. From fiber-optic ysmart tethersy capable of tracking the position of search and rescue robots in places where GPS is either inaccessible or provides insufficient resolution, to providing closed-loop feedback for reconfigurable avionics systems and structures (i.e. - ysmart wingsy), to the direct monitoring of deflection in critical structures, an advanced shape sensing system would be eminently marketable. By integrating this technology into COTS products of immediate use to NASA and by commercializing this technology for the private sector, Luna will fulfill the congressional mandate of the SBIR program.