Dynamic behavior of space inflatable rigidized booms in exposure to large temperature gradients

ILC Dover inflation test of a boom in a thermal vacuum chamber at NASA-LaRC

The prohibitive cost of space missions and the limitations for launch volume and mass have driven a demand for innovations to reduce payload size and rocket fuel consumption. 

In this regard, inflatable space structures that can be compressed into far smaller packages and be deployed upon reaching the destination orbit is a great solution for placing large metrology systems ion space. While inflatable technology is a viable solution to reduce the launch costs; it is more susceptible to the disturbances present in the orbital environment. Large temperature gradients in space are among one of the main sources of disturbances. Current understanding of inflatable space structure material properties is considered insufficient to accurately predict the thermal effects on vibration behaviour of such structures. We are currently performing a research to characterize the Frequency Response Functions (FRFs) of an inflatable rigidized carbon fibre boom, a main component of an inflatable structure, over a large range of temperatures.