Self-Assembling Space Architecture: tessellated shell structures for space habitats

Ekblaw, A. and Paradiso, J.A., "Self-assembling Space Architecture: tessellated shell structures for space habitats," In AIAA Scitech 2019 Forum, Smart/Adaptable Deployable Structures (p. 0481).


As habitation and operation needs evolve around new commercial space stations in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and exploration missions to the Moon and Mars, space architecture must adapt to address new use-case and deployment contexts. Rather than relying on fixed, rigid shell or fixed, inflatable modules, a new paradigm for modular in-space construction can offer adaptive, reconfigurable, and re-usable outer shells. Our tessellated shell structure approach proposes multifunctional tiles (structural units augmented with sensing, guidance navigation and control, and shielding) that assemble autonomously via magnetically-mediated bonding along regular, geometric edges. We propose an extensible paradigm for in-orbit space habitat construction via quasi-stochastic self-assembly in microgravity and discuss re-purposing these shells for surface deployments as well. This 2019 AIAA SciTech paper details our v2 TESSERAE prototype design (building on the v1 system presented in our 2018 AIAA SciTech report), including the integrated sensing and GNC approach, progress on proof-of-concept prototypes with accompanying simulation models, and extensibility to other shell tessellations and multi-module space station polyhedral packing arrangements. This research serves as a technology demonstration mission, presented for this paper in the context of an upcoming suborbital deployment test.

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