1206. Advanced Composite Materials – The Outlook for Space System Structures Through the 1990’s


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D R Dunbar: 1206. Advanced Composite Materials – The Outlook for Space System Structures Through the 1990’s. 1978.



Many of our future space programs will require structural systems two to three orders of magnitude larger than present systems. Others will require unprecedented dimensional stability. The characteristics of such future space systems will be driven by the need for structures with long operational life, great dimensional stability, low life cycle cost, and very low mass density. Such structures will be transported to orbit using the reusable space transportation system now being developed, augmented by future heavy-lift vehicles.
Advanced composite materials will play a dominant role in structures for these future space systems. Composites offer the combination of mechanical and thermo physical properties coupled with in-space fabric ability that makes future space systems technologically feasible. Graphite fiber-reinforced plastic material has seen a rapidly growing use throughout the 1970s in spacecraft. Beginning with some early Explorer satellite structures to today’s communication satellites, earth resources satellites, and interplanetary spacecraft, graphite/epoxy is leading the way for increasingly bolder applications of advanced composites technology. The technologies demonstrated and proven in the 1970s will be vital in the 1980s and 1990s to ensure the success of such systems as large communication stations, earth resources systems, in-space manufacturing facilities, space solar power systems, and ultimately, manned habitats or space stations.
This paper addresses the outlook for composite materials in future space structural systems: their volume and mass distributions, their fabrication and assembly in space, and their operational characteristics.


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