The planned increase in satellite launches over the next decade will emphasize reduction of space hardware mass and launch costs. Inflatable structures present many benefits over current state-of-the-art +mechanical technologies and are principally attractive because they can be packaged into small volumes, thereby reducing program costs. Reduced costs are realized in development and production as well as in enabling smaller launch vehicle size. Inflatable structures will reduce total system mass and complexity, thereby increasing system reliability.
This paper describes several types of inflatable structures and applications being developed for space flight. Rigidization methods and results from preflight test programs are also presented to support the viability of the technology.