|Deployable Structures for Space Exploration|
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Deployable structures are a novel and unique type of engineering structures, which can be packaged for transportation and expanded automatically at the time and site of operation, and in some cases, can be retracted for re-use or other purposes. They retain the functionality of conventional structures and in addition, can undergo large geometric transformations. They are light-weight and very compact when folded. A few deployable structures are in very common use in almost every household umbrellas, folding chairs and tents; however proper research into deployable structures started only three decades ago. In this sense, it is relatively young subject in the long history of structural engineering. Space exploration critically depends on deployable structures, which make possible satellite communication and other space systems. The largest payload volume currently available, provided by NASA, reaches a diameter of 4.6 m and a length of 18.3 m; present and future space structures are more demanding in their volume requirements. Obviously, such structures cannot be delivered into space in their service geometry because launching vehicles are limited in their size. The limitation in payload volumes has urged the widespread use of deployable structures and presents considerable challenge and exciting opportunities for imaginative concepts and ideas. Of interest: The Cambridge University Deployable Structures Laboratory.
Deployable strutures Lab, University of Cambridge