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Stephen E. Scarborough and David P. Cadogan
ILC Dover LP
Frederica, DE 19946

NASA and DoD have recognized shape memory rigidizable inflatable structures as enabling
technology for future space and interplanetary missions (antennas, sunshields, solar arrays) as
well as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) applications. When used with a high performance fiber
such as carbon, inflatable shape memory polymer (SMP) composites offer many benefits for
advanced aerospace structures such as tight packing ratios, low coefficient of thermal expansion
(CTE) repeatable packing and deployment cycles, and rapid deployment and rigidization. These
benefits are similar to those obtained with purely inflatable structures, however inflatables
generally have a high CTE, and stiffness properties that are orders of magnitude lower than
inflatable SMP composites. Over the past few years, ILC Dover has matured and tested several
SMP composite systems. These composite material systems have been based mainly on single
glass transition temperature (Tg) systems with Tg ranging from 50°C to 95°C. With this in
mind, it is important for the aerospace and military community to understand the implication of
SMP technology insertion into various systems. This paper will discuss recent material and
structure test results and will also examine a number of development activities geared towards
the application of the SMP composite technology.

KEYWORDS: Advanced Composite Materials / Structures, Applications – Space / Spacecraft /

Satellite, Smart Materials / Smart Structures

Rigidizable materials are “materials that are initially flexible to facilitate inflation or deployment,
and become rigid when exposed to an external influence” (1). Although many types of
rigidization mechanisms exist, this paper will focus exclusively on thermally activated SMP
composite materials and structures with a Tg of ~55oC. SMP composite structures are fabricated
using methods similar to that of traditional thermoset composites. The final shape of the SMP
composite structure is set during its initial elevated temperature cure cycle. Once the cure cycle
is completed, the SMP material can be heated to a minimum of ~75oC (20oC above the Tg)
where it becomes flexible and allows for tight folding. The flexibility of the composite at the
folding temperature depends on both the resin and fiber properties, but the best analogy for the
flexibility of the materials that are being utilized in this study is that they are similar to folding
wet cardboard. Once the material is folded, it can be constrained in that position and then cooled
to approximately 40oC (15oC below Tg) at which point the SMP composite can be unconstrained

Copyright 2006 by ILC Dover LP. Published by Society for the Advancement of Material
and Process Engineering with permission.
and will remain frozen in the folded position until it is heated again. When heated to
approximately 75oC after being folded, the SMP material will begin to naturally return to its
initial cured shape based on the shape memory recovery force of the composite. Although the
composite has a higher shape memory recovery force than the shape memory polymer resin
alone, inflation is required for most applications to augment the structure’s return to its deployed
(original) shape. Once the material is cooled below ~40oC, it will regain it’s structural rigidity
and will no longer need the support provided from the inflation pressure. Recent testing on this
SMP composite material has been conducted and is discussed in the following sections.


The materials that were used in this study were an 11.5x11.5 count, 203 g/m2, 5 harness satin
weave (5HS) fabric made from 6K IM7 carbon tows and TP407, a thermoset polyurethane SMP
resin with a Tg of ~55oC. The Aerospace Corporation (El Segundo, CA) and ILC Dover
conducted testing on both the neat resin (no fibers) and the composite. Outgassing, CTE, and
modulus vs. temperature tests were performed on the neat resin, while Dynamic Mechanical
Analysis (DMA), Thermo-Gravimetric Analysis (TGA), CTE, and compression tests before and
after folding were performed on the composite. The properties of the IM7 fiber are shown in
Table 1.

Table 1. Properties Used for IM7 (6K) Carbon Fiber

Parameter Value Reference
Axial Tensile Modulus, E11f 276 GPa (2)
Transverse Tensile Modulus, E22f, E33f 12 GPa (3)
Shear Modulus, G12f, G13f 19 GPa (3)
Poisson’s Ratio, ν12f, ν13f 0.25 (4)
Axial CTE, α11
-0.396 ppm/ C (5)
Transverse CTE, α22f, α33f 21.6 ppm/oC (5)
Density, ρf
1.78 g/cm (2)
Tensile Strength 5,175 MPa (2)
Ultimate Elongation 1.87% (2)
Filament Diameter 5.2 µm (2)
Fiber Cross-Sectional Area 0.13 mm2 (2)

2.1 Neat Resin Vacuum Stability Testing ILC Dover fabricated a number of TP407 neat resin
samples for testing by the Aerospace Corporation. Nusil Silicone Technologies (Carpinteria, CA)
performed ASTM E595 outgassing testing on the TP407 resin. The resin was tested in the cured
state after its typical cure cycle of 8 hours at 135oC. During this test, the samples are pre-
conditioned at 25oC, standard pressure, and 50% relative humidity for 24 hours prior to being
exposed to vacuum at 125oC for 24 hours. The measurements that are taken during the ASTM
E595 test are Total Mass Loss (TML), Collected Volatile Condensable Material (CVCM), and
Water Vapor Recovered (WVR). The typical NASA limits are 1.0% Total Mass Loss (TML) and
0.1% Collected Volatile Condensable Material (CVCM). However, materials are also
considered within the NASA limits if the WVR subtracted from the TML is less than 1.0%. The
results of the testing are shown in Table 2. Thus from vacuum stability standpoint, the TP407
polyurethane resin is acceptable for space applications.
Table 2. TP407 Polyurethane ASTM E595 Outgassing Results (Aerospace Corp.)
TML-WVR (%) CVCM (%) WVR (%)
0.95 0.01 0.40
<1% (Passes NASA Standards) <0.1% (Passes NASA Standards) N/A

2.2 Neat Resin CTE Testing The Aerospace Corporation also tested the CTE of the TP407 neat
resin using two samples provided by ILC Dover. The measurements were made using a TA
Instruments, Inc., Thermal Mechanical Analyzer (TMA) from –150oC to +50oC. The results are
shown in Figures 1 and 2 and indicate that the average CTE of the neat resin is 75.3 ppm/oC in
the temperature range of ~-40oC to ~25oC. Below –40oC, the average neat resin CTE is 53.0
Experimental Data CTE = 74.4 ppm/ C
o o
(L - L21)/L21, 10 m

0 Curve Fit -45 C < T < 20 C


-8000 o
CTE = 56.2 ppm/ C
-10000 o o
-110 C < T < -45 C
-150 -130 -110 -90 -70 -50 -30 -10 10 30 50
Temperature, C

Figure 1. TP407 Neat Resin Sample 1 CTE Results (Aerospace Corp.)

Experimental Data
2000 Curve Fit o
CTE = 76.2 ppm/ C
o o
0 -36 C < T < 30 C
(L - L21)/L21, 10 m




-8000 o
CTE = 49.9 ppm/ C
o o
-100 C < T < -36 C

-150 -130 -110 -90 -70 -50 -30 -10 10 30 50
Temperature, C

Figure 2. TP407 Neat Resin Sample 2 CTE Results (Aerospace Corp.)

2.3 Neat Resin Modulus Vs. Temperature Testing The Aerospace Corporation also performed
flexural modulus testing of the TP407 SMP resin over the range of –150oC to +25oC. Three
samples were tested in a DMA at six different temperatures to determine their elastic modulus at
those specific temperatures. The data from the three samples was then plotted and a linear
regression was performed (Figure 3). The data shows a linear decrease in modulus of from
3.328±0.48 GPa at –150oC to 1.328±0.28 GPa at +25oC. A summary of the properties of the
TP407 neat resin is shown in Table 3.
Sample Nos. 3-5
3.5 Linear (Sample Nos. 3-5)
Elastic Modulus, GPa




Linear Curve Fit
1.0 o
E = -0.0097T + 1.784 GPa (-150 to 25 C)

-150 -125 -100 -75 -50 -25 0 25 50
Temperature, C
Figure 3. TP407 Neat Resin Samples 3-5 Elastic Modulus Results (Aerospace Corp.)

Table 3. Summary of TP407 Polyurethane Neat Resin Properties

Parameter Value Reference / Method
Elastic Modulus, Em 1.328±0.28 GPa The Aerospace Corporation by DMA
Poison’s Ratio, νm 0.33 Estimate
CTE (-110 C to -40 C), αm
o o
53.0 ppm/°C The Aerospace Corporation by TMA
CTE (-40 C to +25 C), αm
o o o
75.3 ppm/ C The Aerospace Corporation by TMA
Density, ρm
1.2 g/cm N/A
o .o
Heat Capacity at 25 C, Cpm 0.97 J/g C Estimate from typical polyurethane (6)
Thermal Conductivity, km 0.35 W/m.K Estimate from typical polyurethane (6)
Glass Transition Temperature, Tg ~55oC DMA

2.6 Composite Properties Versus Temperature DMA and TGA testing was performed on 2
ply samples of the TP407/IM7 5HS shape memory composite at ILC Dover. The samples were
cut from a larger composite section that was cured using the typical profile. The DMA test,
which is used to glassy and rubbery regimes of the material, was conducted at a frequency of
1Hz from –110oC to +150oC (Figure 4). The TGA test, which is used to determine the
degradation temperature of the resin, measured mass loss from 0oC to 1000oC (Figure 5).
Sample: TP407 S2 File: \\...\Space inflatables\ISAT\Data.006
Size: 20.0000 x 14.0500 x 0.8200 mm DMA Operator: Gume Rodriguez
Method: Temperature Ramp Run Date: 2005-11-08 11:58
Comment: After 8h cure @ 275°F Instrument: DMA Q800 V7.1 Build 116
1.0E5 1.0E5

Tg ~53oC 17998MPa

Fifth Cycle

10000 10000
Storage Modulus (MPa)

Loss Modulus (MPa)


Use Regime: Material is

in the glassy state Folding and
1000 Regime: Material 1000

is in the rubbery

100 100
-150 -100 -50 0 50 100 150
Temperature (°C) Universal V4.0C TA Instruments

Figure 4. DMA Results from IM7/TP407 Shape Memory Composite

TP407/IM7 Composite, Cured 8hours at 275°F on 10/7/2005
300.69°C ––––––– TP407-IM7.003
––––––– TP407-IM7.001
301.48°C ––––––– TP407-IM7.002


Weight (%)

TP407 Resin Max Use Temperature ~300oC

40 68.27%



0 200 400 600 800 1000
Temperature (°C) Universal V4.0C TA

Figure 5. TGA Results from IM7/TP407 Shape Memory Composite

The Tg of the TP407 composite is identified on Figure 4 as the peak of the loss modulus curve
(Tg=53oC). As highlighted in Figure 4, structures made from this material will be stiff (glassy)
when they are below ~40oC. Therefore, depending on the environment, insulation may be needed
to keep the temperature below this limit (plus a safety factor). Also shown in Figure 4 is the
packing and deployment regime which is above ~75oC. Above this temperature, the material will
become rubbery and can be packed and deployed as described previously. This temperature
regime can be tailored depending on the SMP resin chosen.

The TGA test was conducted to determine the maximum temperature that the material can be
heated for packing or deployment. Three samples were used for this testing. As seen in Figure 5,
the mass of the composite material remains constant until 300oC, indicating that the TP407 resin
begins to degrade at that temperature. Therefore, when packing and deploying inflatable
rigidizable structures made from the TP407 polyurethane resin must remain below 300oC and the
recommended packing and deployment temperature range is 75oC to 130oC.
2.7 Composite CTE Testing A shape memory composite boom was manufactured in order to
test the CTE of the TP407/IM7 composite. The Aerospace Corporation, through the efforts of
PMIC (Corvallis, OR) characterized the CTE of the boom using a laser interferometer from
+25oC to -60oC. In this temperature range the boom had an average CTE of ≅ 3.2 ppm/°C. This
could be reduced through the use of unidirectional fabrics. The boom was tested in the as
manufactured condition (never packed or deployed) and did not have a polymeric film bladder,
which is typically needed to contain the inflation gas. Earlier testing on similar booms indicated
that the packing and deployment cycle does not effect the CTE. The CTE testing indicated that
the boom had positive length changes during thermal cycling which appears to stabilize over
time, but further study is need with respect to thermal cycling on this material. The physical
properties of the tube are shown in Table 4, while the CTE test results are shown in Figure 6.
Table 4. CTE Boom Properties
Boom Plies Fiber Resin Length Mass OD Wall Thickness Vf
# (m) (g) (m) (mm) (%)
6a 2 (5HS) IM7 (6K) TP407 1.27 271.1 0.0980 0.59 51

Boom CTE ≅ 3.2ppm/oC

Figure 6. Thermal Expansion for TP407/IM7 Boom # 6a (Aerospace Corp.)

2.8 Composite Compression Testing Nine 0.5 meter long TP407/IM7 booms were fabricated
at ILC Dover in order to perform compression testing both before and after tight folding to assess
how the booms would perform in actual use. Three booms were tested in the pristine condition,
three booms were tested after five pack-and-deploy cycles, and three booms were tested after ten
pack–and-deploy cycles. In future space applications, structures fabricated from these types of
SMP materials may need to be packed and deployed between five and ten times in order to allow
ground testing of the flight article prior to launch and final deployment and rigidization in space.
Since more samples would be required for full qualification, the testing performed on the
TP407/IM7 booms is considered a technology feasibility study rather than a full space-
qualification test program. To fully qualify the TP407/IM7 structural material, more samples
would need to be tested through more packing and deployment cycles, perhaps up to 50 cycles
depending on the final application.

To perform the packing and deployment trials, the booms were first heated above 75oC,
flattened, and then folded by hand 180o between two aluminum plates. The distance between the
plates was kept constant through the use of two 8mm bars. The boom was compressed between
the two aluminum plates until both plates made contact with the 8mm bars. The flattened boom
was then cooled below 40oC. Once cooled below 40oC, the boom was reheated above 75oC and
inflated to 41.37-kPa (6-psi) and then cooled below 40oC while inflated. This cycle was repeated
either five or ten times depending on the boom. After the last pack-and-deploy cycle, the tubes
were bonded into aluminum test end caps and compression tested. The pack-and-deploy cycle is
shown in Figure 7. To demonstrate how tightly the booms are folded during the test, a packed
tube in the folding fixture is shown next to a deployed boom in Figure 8 along with some other
views. The properties of the nine booms are shown in Table 5.

Fully Flattened Boom

Repeat Pack-
180 Fold
Fold and-Deploy
Process 5 or
10 Times

Compression Test
Heat to Fold, Cool in
As Manufactured using Al End Caps
Folded Position Heat to Deploy, Inflate,
after Cycle
Cool in Deployed Position
Figure 7. Pack-and-Deploy Process Used for Compression Test Specimens
Packed Boom in
Folding Fixture
Side View of Packed Boom

Top View of Packed Boom

Figure 8. Comparison of Packed vs. Deployed Booms

Table 5. Properties of TP407/IM7 Booms Used for Compression Testing

Boom # of Pack and Avg. O.D. Avg. Wall Avg. Fiber Avg. Vf Vf Std
Designation Deployment [m] Thickness [mm] Volume Fraction [%] [%]
No. Cycles [%]
BAC006a 0 0.0986 1.00 28.6
BAC006b 0 0.0986 0.97 27.6 29.7 2.76
BAC006c 0 0.0985 0.89 32.8
BAD007a 5 0.0989 1.07 25.9
BAD007b 5 0.0986 0.89 29.2 29.1 3.15
BAD007c 5 0.0985 0.87 32.2
BAD007d 10 0.0985 0.96 32.8
BAD007e 10 0.0985 0.83 31.7 31.8 0.95
BAD008a 10 0.0980 0.84 30.9

As seen in Table 5, the fiber volume fraction of the TP407/IM7 booms was low in comparison to
typical composites and also in comparison to the boom used for CTE testing. A successful effort
was made to improve the manufacturing process to increase the fiber volume fraction to near
50% for other TP407 booms, but unfortunately, compression testing after folding has not been
conducted on those booms. The TP407/IM7 test results that are presented here are part of the
beginning of a larger test program where a number of other SMP booms were also tested. On
these nine test articles, two axial strain gauges (SG) were mounted onto opposite sides of each of
the booms. The test was performed by loading the 0.5-m long booms in an Instron machine at a
rate of 0.127 mm/min to 889.6 N two to three times around the circumference for a total of 6 to 9
compression tests. Using the measured thickness around the circumference of the booms
including any seams, a cross-sectional area was calculated. This allowed the stress to be
calculated from the load data on the Instron machine. This stress versus strain data was then
averaged to calculate the modulus of the booms. The modulus data for the six tubes is shown in
Table 6 and graphed in Figure 9.

Table 6. TP407/IM7 Measured Boom Compression Modulus

Boom # of Pack Test Avg. E11 E11 Std. Avg. E11 from Tube
Designation and Repetition from SG from SG SG [GPa] E11 Std.
No. Deployment [GPa] [GPa] [GPa]
BAC006a 0 9 23.85 0.24
BAC006b 0 9 32.32 1.54 34.82 10.39
BAC006c 0 9 48.30 1.16
BAD007a 5 9 24.10 0.79
BAD007b 5 8 34.40 1.15 31.27 5.44
BAD007c 5 9 35.64 1.28
BAD007d 10 6 29.53 2.61
BAD007e 10 6 39.77 4.52 37.37 8.54
BAD008a 10 6 43.89 10.18

Although there is scatter in the data, which has been attributed to the strain gauges and potential
issues during manufacturing, the general trend from this initial testing is that the modulus of the
TP407/IM7 material does not decrease substantially after tight folding. This is significant
because of the fact that most space structures are modulus driven. Also of interest is the fact that
the modulus tests correlate fairly well with the predicted modulus of the booms of 37.9-GPa. The
modulus of the booms was predicted using the method described by Mikulas (7). In this method,
the rule of mixtures is used to calculate the unidirectional properties of the composite based on
the properties of the fiber and resin (in this case the properties of IM7 and TP407 in Tables 1 and
3 were used along with the average Vf of the nine tubes of 30.2%). The fabric was then modeled
as a 0/90/90/0 laminate in standard laminate code (8). In order to take into account crimp in the
fabric, the calculated modulus is reduced by 12%. This method works well in initial design and
can be used to quickly verify that the test results are in the correct range.

After the modulus testing was completed, the tubes were loaded to failure to determine their
maximum compressive buckling load. The calculated buckling load of a cylindrical shell made
of the TP407/IM7 composite is 13,730-N. This is based on the buckling of circular cylindrical
shells and was calculated using the predicted boom modulus of 37.9 GPa, a length of 0.5-m, and
a wall thickness of 0.92-mm( 8). The buckling data is summarized in Table 7 and graphed in
Figure 10. Note that for the intended application of these booms, they were required to have a
minimum buckling load of 750N after being packed and deployed approximately 8 times.
Table 7. TP407/IM7 Measured Boom Compression Buckling Load
Boom # of Pack and Buckling Load Avg. Buckling Load BL. Std. [N]
Designation No. Deployment [N] [N]
BAC006a 0 6521.3
BAC006b 0 9015.9 7768.6 1763.95
BAC006c 0 No Data
BAD007a 5 5966.2
BAD007b 5 9762.2 7643.07 1936.24
BAD007c 5 7200.8
BAD007d 10 5636.9
BAD007e 10 7091.4 4936.75 2577.03
BAD008a 10 2082.0

The results of the maximum buckling load testing are also encouraging for the use of SMP
composite technology. Although there is scatter in the data, the general trend with the
TP407/IM7 composite is that the buckling load does not begin to decrease until after five tight
packing and deployment cycles. Also, even after ten tight packing and deployment cycles, the
minimum buckling load seen during the testing of 2082N still provides a safety factor of 2.8X
over the requirement of 750N for the intended application of these booms. The scatter in the
buckling load data is most likely attributed to manufacturing issues that were eliminated on later
manufacturing runs, as well as inconsistency in the folding process. As seen in the data, the
standard deviation increases with the number of folds. This is most likely due to the fact that the
folding was conducted by hand in the test fixture. Future experimentation with SMP composites
may require automated folding fixtures to reduce the scatter in the data. However, in reality there
may always be some scatter in the data due to the folding inconsistencies that will almost always
occur during ground testing.

As mentioned earlier, boom processing improvements were made during this work that allowed
for the construction of booms with lower void volumes and higher fiber volume fractions. This
process was used on the CTE boom 6a (Table 4) and also on three additional 0.5-m TP407/IM7.
These three booms had an average fiber volume fraction of 47.1 ± 2.05% and were tested in
compression in the pristine condition. One change that was made during this testing was the use
of an extensometer (EX) to measure strain instead of strain gauges. As with the earlier booms,
these booms were loaded three times in three equidistant locations around their circumference to
889.6-N and then taken to failure on the 10th cycle. The properties of the three booms that were
manufactured using the improved manufacturing technique are shown in Table 8 while the
measured boom compressive moduli and maximum buckling loads are shown in Tables 9 and
10. The data for these three booms is graphed along with that of the initial samples in Figures 9
and 10.
Table 8. Properties of Improved TP407/IM7 Booms Used for Compression Testing
Boom # of Pack and Avg. O.D. Avg. Wall Avg. Fiber Avg. Vf Std
Designation Deployment [mm] Thickness [mm] Volume Fraction Vf [%] [%]
No. Cycles [%]
6b 0 98.07 0.49 48.8
6c 0 98.05 0.48 47.7 47.1 2.05
6d 0 98.10 0.52 44.8

Table 9. TP407/IM7 Improved Boom Measured Compression Modulus

Boom # of Pack Test Avg. E11 E11 Std. Avg. E11 from Tube
Designation and Repetition from EX from EX EX [GPa] E11 Std.
No. Deployment [GPa] [GPa] [GPa]
6b 0 9 60.26 2.18
6c 0 9 62.70 5.72 60.91 1.28
6d 0 9 59.76 4.48

Table 10. TP407/IM7 Improved Boom Measured Compression Buckling Load

Boom # of Pack and Buckling Load Avg. Buckling BL. Std.
Designation No. Deployment [N] Load [N] [N]
6b 0 10907.7
6c 0 10824.5 11520.9 1135.0
6d 0 12830.7

Avg. Axial Compression Modulus

Improved Booms (Vf=47.1%)

60 Predicted E11=58.6 GPa; Test E11=60.91+/- 1.28GPa
(Extensometer Used to Measure Strain; Error Bar: +/-1s)

Initial Booms (Vf=30.2%)
10 Predicted E11=37.9 GPa; Test E11=34.48+/- 2.5 GPa
(Strain Gage Used to Measure Strain; Error Bar: +/-1s)
0 2 4 6 8 10
Number of Pack-and-Deployment Cycles
Figure 9. TP407/IM7 Modulus vs. Number of Pack-and-Deployment Cycles
Improved Booms (Vf=47.1%)
Avg. Buckling Load [N]
(Error Bar: +/-1s)




4000 Initial Booms (Vf=30.2%)

(Error Bar: +/-1s) 2.8X Safety Factor over
2000 Requirement of 750N
0 2 4 6 8 10
Number of Pack-and-Deployment Cycles
Figure 10. TP407/IM7 Buckling Load vs. Number of Pack-and-Deployment Cycles

The data for the last three booms is more consistent than the previous tests indicating that the
improvements in the manufacturing process were successful. The higher modulus of the three
booms is consistent with the increase in fiber volume fraction. Using the method of Mikulas (7)
and the average fiber volume fraction of 47.1%, the predicted modulus of the three booms was
58.6 GPa. This predicted modulus correlates well with the test data. The maximum compressive
buckling load was also calculated for these three booms using their average thickness (0.496-
mm) and the average predicted modulus of 58.6 GPa using the method of buckling of cylindrical
shells (8). The calculated maximum buckling load using this method is 4,601N, which is lower
than the calculated value for the previous booms mainly because of the lower thickness of these
higher fiber volume fraction booms. The tested buckling values of all three pristine booms were
on average 2.5 times higher than the predicted value. This can be attributed to the a 1K T-300
carbon fiber helical wrap that is mainly used as a manufacturing aid, but also appears to increase
the boom’s resistance to shell buckling in the pristine condition.


SMP composite materials have recently been used for experimentation on a number of
development programs for various applications. The selection of the specific fiber, resin, and
even the rigidization type depends on the application and has been discussed elsewhere (9).
Examples of uses of the SMP composite technology include trusses and torus-shaped structures
for lightweight satellite supports, antenna reflectors, and deployable wings for UAVs. These
SMP composite materials allow users to tightly pack large, lightweight structures into small
volumes for later use on orbit or in the atmosphere.

Cylindrical booms similar to those that are described in Section 2.8 have been recently
assembled into a truss structure at ILC Dover. The truss structure was fabricated from 1.5-m
long, 45.7-mm diameter 2 ply IM7/SMP booms. To demonstrate the technology and allow the
truss to be packed and deployed, resistive heater wires were placed onto the outside of the booms
and surrounded by insulation. The truss, in the deployed and packed positions, is shown in
Figure 11. This type of truss can be designed using SMP composites to have deployed-to-packed
length ratios of 100:1.

Figure 11. SMP Composite Truss Application in the Deployed and Packed States

Experiments have also been performed using the SMP composite material to manufacture
deployable parabolic dishes. The use of this technology is currently planned for JHU/APL’s
Hybrid Inflatable Antenna (10). A 2-m diameter SMP composite reflector was recently
fabricated and installed into a torus support structure to demonstrate the technology (Figure 12).
In an application such as this, it is envisioned that both the dish and the support torus could be
fabricated from the SMP composite. The 2-m reflector has not been packed and deployed at this
time, but two 0.5-m reflectors were manufactured from the TP407/IM7 composite to demonstrate
a potential folding scheme for the dish (Figure 13). At this time, further research and
development work is being performed to tailor the properties of the SMP composite to fit this

Figure 12. 2-m SMP Composite Reflector in the Hybrid Inflatable Antenna (JHU/APL)
Figure 13. 0.5-m SMP Composite Reflectors in the Deployed and Packed States

Singly curved parabolic antenna models have also been fabricated from the TP407/IM7
composite for use in another type of antenna (11). These antenna models had a length and width
of ~0.5-m, or about 1/10th the scale of the actual application. After cure, a vapor deposited
aluminum (VDA) coated polyimide film was attached to the inner surface of the antenna to
increase its reflectivity. The dish was then heated to above 75oC for packing (in this case it was
rolled) to demonstrate the potential of the technology for tight packing as seen in Figure 13.
After the antenna was packed, it was placed in an oven for deployment by the material’s shape
memory return function only. This shape memory return feasibility test was qualitatively
successful and further work is continuing in this area to work on the details of scaling this
technology up to larger sized antennas and quantitatively measure the shape memory recovery
response of the composite.

Back Surface

Reflective Surface

Figure 13. 0.5-m SMP Composite Singly Curved Parabolic Reflector (Deployed / Packed)

The results of the experiments described in detail in this paper clearly demonstrate the feasibility
of using SMP composites in deployable space structures. As shown through various tests, SMP
composite materials can be designed to have outgassing properties that are within typical NASA
limits, high specific strength and stiffness after up to ten tight packing and deployment cycles,
and also can have low CTE. When both the resin and fiber properties are well characterized, rule
of mixtures and standard laminate code can be used to predict the properties of SMP composites
with reasonable certainty. These standard composite tools can be very useful in the early stages
of conceptual design. Therefore, SMP composite materials have an immense potential to be used
in large, low mass, stiffness driven space structures that must also be dimensionally stable and
compactly stowed.

The authors thank the following institutions for funding support and technical guidance over the
past two years: DARPA, NASA Langley Research Center, the Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Lab, NASA Glenn Research Center, JPL, Adherent Technologies, and NASA
Dryden Flight Research Center. The authors also thank Dr. Gary Steckel at The Aerospace
Corporation for all of his material testing work.

1. Cadogan, D.P. and Scarborough S. E., “Rigidizable Materials for Use in Gossamer Space
Inflatable Structures,” AIAA-2001-1417, 42nd AIAA/ASME/ ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures,
Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference and Exhibit AIAA Gossamer Spacecraft Forum,
Seattle, WA: April 16-19, 2001.
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(AIAA 2001-1258), 42nd AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC SDM Conference, 2001.
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Antenna Singly Curved Parabolic Antenna Reflector Development,” AIAA-2003-1651, 44th
AIAA/ASME/ ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference and
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