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SBIR/STTR

On-orbit validation system for space structure composite actuators, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

This SBIR project delivers an On-orbit Validation System (OVS) that provides performance and durability data for Macro Fiber Composite (MFC) active piezocomposite materials operating in the space environment. Our NASA customer is the Macro Fiber Composite Actuator Experiment (MFCX), which uses the Materials International Space Station Experiment-X (MISSE-X) platform. MISSE-X will expand ISS utilization by advancing the Technology Readiness Level of new materials, devices, and subsystems. OVS uses the impedance method to validate both MFCs and in situ self-health monitoring methods. Implications of the innovation: MFC piezocomposites have been flown, but only in a shielded enclosure for a short duration. MFC materials will need to operate continuously with minimal thermal protection to enable active composite reflector structures, large solar array active control, and structural self-health monitoring. Data is needed on the viability of MFC materials for long-duration space applications. Technical objectives: OVS leverages our previous NASA SBIR research. Our initial impedance method prototype exists as a TRL 5 unit. We have demonstrated both analog and digital MFC operation. However, it is not clear which approach (analog or digital) is best for OVS. Each approach has different power, mechanical, electrical, and computational needs—it is not clear which is the best match for MISSE-X. Indeed, a new configuration may be required. Phase I addresses these concerns and establishes feasibility through validation tests and experiments. Research description: We have already developed an impedance-based electronics package and validated it under simulated launch conditions. Phase I transforms this implementation for MISSE-X compatibility and produces a Phase II road map. Anticipated results: Phase I addresses the main barrier to MISSE-X operation, and completes a TRL 5 prototype that is MFCX compatible. Phase II delivers a fully operational TRL 7 unit. More »

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Technology Maturity (TRL)

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