Ultra-light release device integrated with screen-printed heaters for CubeSat’s deployable solar arrays

Deployable solar arrays can improve the potential utilization of CubeSats by generating sustainable energy. This paper presents an ultra-light release device integrated with screen-printed heaters to latch and release CubeSat’s solar arrays in the sequence of structure and material design, fabrication, and experimental verification. Finite element analysis of interference fit gives the locking force and maximum Von Mises stress variation with the interference and thickness, which provides the selection basis for geometrical parameters of the release device. Tensile and fracture toughness tests have been conducted to verify improved toughness for spandex fiber reinforced shape memory polymer composites (SMPCs). And the fine denier fiber shows a better toughness improvement performance. DMA tests have been performed to give the temperature sensitivity of the materials. Besides, locking forces obtained from finite element analysis and experiments show good consistency. Moreover, recovery tests confirm the release device with good shape recovery properties and excellent adaptability to energizing conditions. Finally, experiments on a CubeSat prototype qualify the release device with good feasibility, reliable locking performance and satisfactory reusability. This work is expected to provide an effective miniaturized hold-release mechanism for deployable structures.

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