NASA SBIR 02-1 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:02- E2.01-9598 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 022401 )
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Structures and Materials
PROPOSAL TITLE: Flexible, Low CTE Composites for Precision Deployable Structures

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Foster-Miller Inc
350 Second Ave
Waltham , MA   02154 - 1196
(781 ) 684 - 4368

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr. Peter Warren
350 Second Ave
Waltham , MA   02154 - 1196
(781 ) 684 - 4242

Future spacecraft will deploy optical apertures large enough to detect life on planets around distant stars. These apertures must maintain their shape to within small percentages of a wavelength over long observations. Current deployment technologies require hinges, latches and actuators, experimentally shown to make structures unstable and unpredictable at the micron level. Compensating for thermal expansion of mechanisms adds cost and complexity and even newly developed, low CTE mechanisms add mass to the spacecraft.

Foster-Miller, Kodak and the University of Colorado have teamed to develop low CTE flexible composite materials, enabling the deployment of large, optically precise structures for spacecraft instruments. The team will combine new deployable structures, ultrasonic manufacturing, and low CTE composite design technologies to provide novel, innovative instrument support structures.

By incorporating the proposed low CTE flexible composite materials into hinges that are integral to the overall structure, this program will enable the production of instrument structures that can be repeatably deployed on the ground, folded compactly for launch, self-deploy and lock on orbit, and are thermally and dynamically stable. Because the material itself provides the deployment actuation and locking, the structures weigh no more than if they were fabricated as a monolithic, non-deployed structure. (P-020675)

The proposed innovation will provide lightweight deployable structures that are dimensionally stable for a wide range of applications. Spacecraft have been deploying antennae and solar arrays since the dawn of the space age. The development of this technology will provide all spacecraft with a means of deploying all manner of components with thermally stable structures that do not introduce unwanted dynamics or static loads as the spacecraft thermal load change throughout its orbit.

In addition to the myriad of applicable spacecraft structures, many terrestrial applications use flexures as a means of constraining optical components. From scientific research optical benches to production microchip photolithography tools, there are literally thousands of places where a flexible, high performance, dimensionally stable composite material would increase performance and provide market potential.

The NASA applications that require the most dimensional stability in deployed structures are large aperture infra-red and optical telescopes. The two immediate missions that would benefit from this technology are Next Generation Space Telescope and Terrestrial Planet Finder. These missions would be able to deploy very large, stiff and dimensionally stable primary apertures in a manner not feasible with existing technology.

Many other systems would benefit from increased dimensional stability. Large radar and other antennae do not have the optical level stability requirements, but their greatly increased size makes them equally sensitive to thermally induced distortions. Large aperture systems have the additional complication that their size makes insulation impractical, increasing the need for material level thermal stability. Magnetometers, Synthetic Aperture Radars, Interferometers are all non-aperture based science instruments that also require large, precise and predictable structures.

Form Printed on 09-05-02 10:10