Expansable foam structures and their applications in the space industry
Satellites, spacecraft and other space products often require external structural elements that hold solar panels, measuring instruments, antennas or solar sails. These structures can be extremely slender and light due to the lack of gravity. At the same time, due to the extremely high transport costs, the mass of structures should be minimized, as well as reliable but effective opening solutions should be used.
Among the currently common structural solutions, it is worth highlighting telescopic and folding tubes and trusses, screw-together trusses, origami-like box structures, and foldable thin-walled tubes. They can also be extremely effective. For example, Astromast, an example of screw-on trusses, can be folded to 2% of its original length.
During my work, I examined the possibility of using expansable foam structures in the space industry. I’ve been experimenting with construction polyurethane foams. I defined several performance metrics and estimated them using physical experiments. Finally, using the data in literature, I compared them with the solutions that are common in the industry.