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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Macro-Fiber Composite-based actuators for space

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Macro-Fiber Composite-based actuators for space, Phase I
This SBIR project creates a CubeSat-based on-orbit Validation System (CVS) that provides performance data for Macro Fiber Composite (MFC) piezocomposite actuators operating in space and matures this precision deployable technology through validation tests in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). NASA customers include active structures like complex space-based deployable telescopes. Phases I/II advance MFC actuator materials to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 or better for space. Implications of the innovation While piezocomposites needed for active structure control have flown and are space qualified their performance under actuation and sensing has not been quantified under minimal thermal protection to enable large deployable precision structures like 10–30 m class space telescope observatories. Data is needed on the viability of piezocomposites as control actuators for space missions. MFCs also enable active structural health monitoring (SHM) techniques that expand the potential commercial market. Technical objectives CVS uses a CubeSat to conduct LEO tests. CubeSats provide low-cost rapid access to space-based testing. CVS leverages our previous NASA research and builds on our TRL 5 prototype, which is defined as a CubeSat payload. Our preliminary work found an unexpected deviation in the behavior of composite actuators reacting to thermal cycles like those experienced in LEO. Without suitable compensation, this atypical behavior could cause imprecise mechanical performance in active space structures. Phase I establishes feasibility by defining, modeling and controlling this behavior. Research description Phase I develops and validates compensation mechanisms for MFC actuators subjected to thermal cycling, and completes a TRL 5 prototype. Anticipated results Phase I provides weight, size, and power estimates updated for thermal cycle compensation and verifies that CVS fits in a CubeSat. Phase II delivers a fully operational and certified CVS CubeSat. More »

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