Mechanical actuators for deployable systems on satellites are often complex, expensive, only designed for a single use, and too large or heavy for use in nanosatellites. The Folded Lightweight Actuated Precision System (FLAPS) uses shape memory alloys (SMAs) to actively control the position of solar arrays on a CubeSat. SMAs “remember” distinct shapes when heated above their transition temperatures, selected at 90 °C in this project. These shapes can be characterized and trained by annealing at high temperatures (approximately 500 °C). The SMA strips are placed in opposition inside a hinge assembly, which connects the satellite bus to the actuated surface. The multi-use SMA actuators would allow the solar panels to take on different angles, providing power generation optimization and active drag management. Other potential FLAPS applications include aperture positioning, radiators deployment, and antenna steering. Going forward, FLAPS could also increase accessibility by decreasing cost, especially within the CubeSat format. Given the recent push for the democratization of space, these types of reliable, low-cost tools are important in making that access complete.
Paula do Vale Pereira - Graduate Student, Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, MIT
Katherine Chun - Graduate Student, Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, MIT