Orbital Thermal Analyses of “Rigidization-on-Command” (ROC) Materials for Inflatable Spacecraft 2001-01-2220
Large space-deployed antennas are of interest in the NASA, military, and commercial sectors for a variety of applications that include communications, long baseline interferometry, microspacecraft, and space-based radar. A need exists for a controlled, clean rigidization technology to harden inflatable spacecraft once they have achieved the required shape. This study addressed the space environment for typical orbits, development of UV curing cationic epoxy resin systems, mechanical properties of UV cured composites, and fabrication of demonstration tubes using the photocurable resin technology. Transient thermal analyses were run on a candidate tube configuration to determine the power required for internal UV lamps to initiate cure (15.50 W/m2) and the temperature range of the thermal processing windows. A UV-curable cationic epoxy matrix resin formulation was developed for curing at low temperatures that exhibits mechanical properties equivalent to those of thermally cured epoxy systems. The resin has long term thermal stability and low outgassing characteristics. Demonstration tubes were successfully rigidized with exposure to UV light and displayed similar properties to thermally cured tubes of similar construction. When optimized, this Rigidization On Command technology will provide a badly needed technology for the inflatables community.