Space habitat inflatable structures require complex material configurations and manufacturing processes. There is a need to develop a standardized accelerated creep test methodology with analysis capability to compute the master creep curves for high strength aramid webbing/cord. Texas Research Institute Austin, Inc. (TRI Austin) in Phase I proposes to refine our in-house developed Step-Isothermal Method (SIM) and Accelerated Life Testing hardware and analysis capability on Kevlar fiber reinforced composites, leveraging the extensive research and development effort of NASA Langley and Ames Research centers. During Phase I we will develop an accelerated creep test methodology to compute baseline master creep curves for selected high strength aramid webbing/cord or other NASA directed structural materials. In Phase II, we will extend the accelerated creep test methodology and analysis capability to compute master creep curves for NASA-specified high strength aramid webbing and/or cord to include larger scale coupon testing. TRI currently offers conventional Creep/Stress Rupture and Stepped Isothermal (SIM) to support the geosynthetic/geotextile industries. TRI Austin is partnering with ILC Dover who is currently developing prototype space habitats for NASA. ILC Dover will supply materials and bring years of experience in selection, optimization, and evaluation of structural materials for current state of the art space habitats to this effort.
The primary NASA application is inflatable softgoods for next generation habitation systems. This research development effort will document creep test methodology and analysis capability to compute master creep curves for NASA specified high strength aramid webbing/cord and generating relevant lifetime material use data. The developed testing methodologies could be included in qualification testing and certification plan for human-rated inflatable space structures, advancing the state-of-the-art in this technology area.
It is anticipated that with a variety of corporations including Bigelow Aerospace LLC, ILC Dover, Maxar Technologies, Inc., The Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., and Blue Origin, among others, entering the area of space travel, that demand for evaluating the creep behavior of inflatable structures will increase in coming years as competition for, and quantity of, manned space travel increases.