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Design and Characterization of Dual-Matrix Composite Deployable Space Structures


Sakovsky, Maria (2018) Design and Characterization of Dual-Matrix Composite Deployable Space Structures. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/CNPY-A883.


Dual-matrix composites are a promising approach to deployable high performance antennas for small satellites. Several techniques exist for packaging large antenna apertures. Assemblies of rigid bars and hinges obtain high deployed precision but are heavy and mechanically complex. Thin shell structures deployed using stored strain energy are a lightweight alternative offering efficient packaging but reduced surface precision. Moreover, elastomer composites shells attain even smaller fold radii upon packaging but are limited by the deployed structure's stiffness. Dual-matrix composites combine the advantages of several of these approaches to enable larger antenna apertures. They consist of a continuous woven fiber reinforcement with an elastomer matrix embedded in localized hinge regions and a stiff epoxy resin elsewhere. Such structures can achieve small fold radii, are strain energy deployable, and promise high deployed stiffness.

This research demonstrates the capabilities of the proposed dual-matrix structures through direct comparison to existing antenna designs. Analytic scaling relations between structural and electromagnetic performance of various deployable antenna designs are developed. These are used to rapidly predict achievable antenna performance as a function of a common set of antenna geometric parameters. Plotting of this data on a coordinated set of 2D design plots enables the direct comparison of antenna concepts and the selection of specific designs meeting all requirements. This methodology was used to design a deployable dual-matrix composite conical log spiral (CLS) antenna for use on CubeSats which outperformed existing off-the-shelf designs through higher gain, higher bandwidth, and more efficient packaging.

Starting from this initial design, the antenna is tuned to maximize performance and an assembly including the CubeSat, dual-matrix antenna, dual-matrix hinge for antenna deployment, and a flexible feeding network is developed. All portions of the assembly are prototyped and tested. The antenna electromagnetic performance is predicted using ANSYS HFSS and verified by testing in an anaechoic chamber with antenna gains predicted within 4% of measured values. Structural stiffness is characterized through the antenna's fundamental frequency with simulated performance in the Abaqus finite element software within 6% of measured values. Comparison of antenna performance before and after packaging and deployment shows the structural frequency, antenna gain, and antenna bandwidth are unaffected by folding, demonstrating that dual-matrix composites are appropriate for use as deployable structures.

Techniques for the quasi-static deployment of dual-matrix composites are presented. An analytic minimum energy method, which accounts for fiber microbuckling in regions of high curvature, is used to predict the folded shape and deployment moments of a dual-matrix hinge. The model shows excellent agreement with LS-Dyna finite element simulations for a variety of material properties. Comparison with experimental characterization demonstrates the capability of the models to predict folded radii and deployment moment of a prototype hinge withing 5% of measured values. The developed analysis tool-set enables a design of deployment restraints and mechanisms.

The woven elastomer composites forming the fold regions in dual-matrix composites have been the subject of very few studies. Existing methods for predicting the stiffness of woven epoxy composites are applied to elastomer composites here and show poor agreement with measurements. A novel approach is presented for the prediction of tow stiffness in elastomer composites using a semi-empirical approach. The reinforcing efficiency parameter in the well-established Halpin-Tsai model for tow homogenization is estimated using experimental measurements of stiffnesses of several laminates. It is shown that for elastomer composites, the parameter values are orders of magnitude higher than the heuristic values used for epoxy composites. The method is used to predict the stiffness of woven epoxy and elastomer composites making up the dual-matrix structures studied in this work showing agreement withing 15% of experimental measurements for arbitrary layups. The method is extended to the prediction of viscoelastic behavior of dual-matrix structures to enable investigation of deployment reliability after long storage times.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:composites, deployable space structures, dual-matrix composites, elastomer composites, deployable antennas
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Space Engineering
Awards:Charles D. Babcock Award, 2017. William F. Ballhaus Prize, 2018.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Thesis Committee:
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (chair)
  • Kochmann, Dennis M.
  • Daraio, Chiara
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Defense Date:21 May 2018
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Air Force Office of Scientific ResearchFA9550-13-1-0061
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05302018-165415595
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Ch. 2
Sakovsky, Maria0000-0002-3683-8505
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10975
Deposited By: Maria Sakovsky
Deposited On:01 Jun 2018 23:17
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 18:53

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