Reversible adhesives are an attractive option for assembly and disassembly of reconfigurable space structures due to the simplicity of the fastening concept. This enables space frame construction concepts where the unit members would quickly bond at the joints. Additionally, persistent asset structures that allow temporary or permanent rigid mechanical attachment at an arbitrary point on their surface at any time may enhance their long term utility. These would allow additional components to be held fast on the exterior surface of the deployed craft without the need for pre-built attachment points. A convenient method for producing this result would be an adhesive that could bond these structures following arbitrary lengths of time while in LEO, lunar, or deep space environments. ATSP Innovations has developed such a reversible adhesive concept based on solid state bond exchange reactions between polymeric interfaces composed of a novel thermoset resin system called aromatic thermosetting copolyester (ATSP). This concept has been successfully demonstrated on Earth including in radiation environments. ATSP Innovations proposes development of a flight package for a MISSE-FF experiment berth to validate these properties. A compact package that would be exposed to LEO would be designed and fabricated with exposed surfaces of the reversible adhesive for future testing on return to Earth. Prior to flight, mechanical, morphological, and chemical state of samples would be assessed via nanoindentation, 3D laser-based profilometry, and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to determine upon return other notable changes in the samples. This project would be the validation of the first polymeric structural adhesive concept usable in a space environment. This concept is potentially usable in any position in the solar system where the temperature is less than 300 °C.
This would have direct impact on future in-space assembly efforts. Reversible adhesives would allow future space structures to have more area for potential expansion for changes in scope, configuration, or location of the deployed structure. These may also allow novel sealing concepts for inflatable space structures by use of a reversible adhesive - drastically saving mass from these structures. In addition, assembly of spacecraft on Earth may benefit from the use of a very high temperature adhesive that has now been validated in LEO.
Commercial launch industry may benefit from availability of a high temperature adhesive validated in LEO. Future space resource exploitation may also benefit from reconfigurable structures based on reversible structural adhesives. Operators of larger and more permanent deployed structures may benefit from enhanced reconfigurability during the lifetime of the structure.