NASA 1998 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 98-1 19.10-1411

PROJECT TITLE: Self-Rigidizing Inflatable Composite Material for Large Space Structures

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)

ITN proposes a new, innovative material system and rigidizing approach for self-rigidizing inflatable space structures, comprising: graphite fiber/thermoplastic matrix composite (Gr/TP) material with an inflatable inner bladder and an outer restraining skin; thermal softening of the thermoplastic matrix to allow inflation-driven deployment of the Gr/TP tube over a close-fit mandrel. We propose to stow a Gr/TP tube "bellows-style" around a mandrel. To deploy the tube, an insulated cavity is heated to soften the thermoplastic matrix, and internal pressure is applied to "extrude" the tube over the mandrel. As the tube deploys, the matrix cools, "locking" the fibers in place and forming a rigidized tube. By virtue of its thermoplastic matrix, ITN"s system can then be reheated and restowed, allowing thorough ground-testing, on-orbit reconfiguration, or other manipulation. The key advantages of ITN"s reversible self-rigidizing inflatable composite structures include: -Low Mass, High Performance Gr/TP Material -Low Stowed Volume -Reversible Deployment, Retraction (ground testing, on-orbit reconfiguration, ...) -Controlled, High-Rigidity Deployment

POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

Our self-rigidizing inflatable composite system has significant utility for commercial, civil, and defense spacecraft components including solar arrays, antennae, booms, reflectors, and sunshields. ITN also foresees a number of spin-off applications, such as to control and/or damp the deployment of spring, steel, or shape memory hinges. In this case, a composite strip would be integrated into a stored-energy hinge (i.e., carpenter"s hinge). The cold composite would keep the hinge closed for launch then, as it is heated, would slowly let the hinge deploy, thus eliminating the violent end-of-stroke shock common in these hinges. Our self-rigidizing inflatables technology may also have utility for portable pontoons for floating bridges and quick-erect shelters.

NAME AND ADDRESS OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Robert R. Hanson
ITN Energy Systems, Inc.
12401 West 49th Avenue
Wheat Ridge , CO 80033

NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR

ITN Energy Systems, Inc.
12401 West 49th Avenue
Wheat Ridge , CO 80033