Large Space Structures
PSI is an industry expert in the design, analysis and testing of space structures .
Large Space Structures
PSI is currently performing a contract for DARPA to investigate the use of lunar regolith to form large space-trusses on orbit.
Past PSI customers in the large-space structures (LSS) research area include NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory – Space Vehicles Directorate. PSI’s specialties include system engineering, concept development, flexible composite structures, deployment mechanisms, deployable RF antennas, cable drag measurements, and metrology systems.
Mass-Efficient Orbital Structures of Regolith Glass
Physical Science’s space structure fabrication from lunar regolith employs almost 100% materials/energy available from the moon or orbit.
Capability Description: PSI is currently developing material processing and assembly capabilities to form glass truss structures from molten lunar regolith. The processed regolith glass material exhibits high stiffness and a low coefficient of thermal expansion. Technologies being developed include:
1. Extrusion of regolith glass rod stock (“cane”)
2. Welding to join rods together.
3. Glass casting to create nodes that couple welded trusses together. Working initially in surrogate glass material (see image to right)
PSI is building the equipment necessary to process the corrosive molten regolith (high-fidelity simulant) into the needed glass parts.
- Truss structure materials employ nearly 100% ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization)
- Furnace systems could employ PSI concentrated solar power technology to leverage 100% ISRU energy
- Regolith glass production hardware is extensible to multiple forms of glass part generation, including additive manufacture (AM)
- Regolith (simulant) glass has ~85GPa elastic modulus and 5×10-6 m/m-°C coefficient of thermal expansion
- ~100% ISRU: Shipping large volumes of materials to space is expensive. Building with materials and energy already on orbit provides great cost savings.
- Desirable space-structure properties: High stiffness and strength characteristics. Low coefficient of thermal expansion. Joining methods conducive to easy repair/replace.
- Simple processing: Melt & extrude process requires no sample preparation, additives, or complex material refinement steps.
Space Antenna Metrology Systems
Large, on-orbit, high-frequency antennas are necessary for high data rate communications and high-resolution remote sensing. Due to the scale of the antenna relative to the operating wavelength, shape sensing and RF phase compensation systems are required to accommodate aperture structural distortions.
Capability Description: PSI is developing a methodology to estimate the shape of large, on-orbit RF apertures during operation with sufficient accuracy that positional errors due thermal, structural dynamics, and other effects can be compensated electronically via precise emitter element phasing.
- Use of low-cost sensors (i.e. thermocouples and strain gauges) for real-time shape estimation.
- State estimator powered by machine learning algorithms and trained with ground tests, high-fidelity measurement systems, and on-orbit simulation tools.
- Improved antenna gain performance
- Higher data rate communication
- Smaller ground test equipment
- Higher resolution radar images