Smart shape changing structures for space based solar power applications

Thomas Sinn

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The ever increasing demand of energy in the world requires new solutions to sustain our current life standards. One option would be to collect the suns energy in already in space to decrease the losses through the atmosphere. For these space based solar power platforms, very large structures in space are needed to collect the suns energy and then beam it down to Earth. The only current option to assemble such large structures in space would be the use of deployable structures that can fit within the payload volume of launchers available today. This paper will present the concept and design of a biologically inspired smart membrane that is capable of increasing its volume once it reached its final destination as well as change its shape to adapt to the changing environment. An example would be the shape changing concentrator dish of the space based solar power station that needs to redirect the sun’s energy on solar panels depending on the position of the sun. A multi body code was developed to simulate the behaviour of such an ultra-light structure in space considering all the perturbations acting on the system. Furthermore, the economics and system design of a technology demonstrator mission is presented as well.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2014
Event65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014) - Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 29 Sep 20143 Oct 2014


Conference65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014)


  • smart structures
  • space-based applications
  • solar power
  • shape changing capabilities
  • membrane potential


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