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Center Innovation Fund: LaRC CIF

Flexible Composites for Space

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Typical test set up and test data from tension test of flexible composite

Payload mass reduction and packaging efficiency in launch vehicles are essential for deep space exploration.  Inflatable softgoods have been identified as attractive approaches to meet these needs.  Applications include crew habitation and collapsible airlocks (in-space and on planetary surfaces), and inflatable decelerators for planetary entry systems.  However, heritage softgoods approaches are based on woven, crimped fabric.  The new idea is to replace woven fabric softgoods with flexible composites made from non-carbon fibers and flexible matrix resins that were originally developed for racing sailboats.  This new approach will decrease the engineering development time and cost, and also enable mass reductions from the heritage approach.

A number of flexible composite layups were considered, fabricated, and tested under static tension to evaluate stiffness, stress-strain behavior, failure loads, and failure characteristics.  Results will be published and comparisons will be made to a woven structure approach for a space habitat in a planned NASA TM.

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