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NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts

High-Temperature Superconductors as Electromagnetic Deployment and Support Structures in Spacecraft

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

This technique uses the magnetic fields from current passing through coils of high-temperature superconductors (HTSs) to support spacecraft structures and deploy them to operational configurations from their positions as stowed inside a launch vehicle fairing. The chief limiting factor in spacecraft design today is the prohibitively large launch cost per unit mass. Therefore, the reduction of spacecraft mass has been a primary design driver for the last several decades. The traditional approach to the reduction of spacecraft mass is the optimization of actuators and structures to use the minimum material required for support, deployment, and interconnection. Isogrid panels, aluminum or composites, and gas-filled inflatable beams all reduce the mass of material necessary to build a truss or otherwise apply surface forces to a spacecraft structure. We instead look at using electromagnetic body forces generated by HTSs to reduce the need for material, load bearing support, and standoffs on spacecraft by maintaining spacing, stability, and position of elements with respect to one another.

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