Opterus Research and Development, Inc. has been awarded by NASA a groundbreaking project that will pave the way for very large lunar surface solar arrays.
The six-month contract, which was awarded through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program, will begin development of a patent pending large-diameter Collapsible Tubular Mast (CTM). The mast will use High Strain Composite (HSC) materials that reduce mechanical system part count by an order of magnitude. The CTM Opterus is developing will handle much greater buckling, torsional, and bending loads than any existing HSC deployable mast developed to date.
Technologies developed in the program will also serve as pathfinders for NASA’s ambitious Moon to Mars program, which puts a premium on the need for reliable, reusable, retractable equipment that can be packaged and deployed multiple times.
“This approach is a fundamental shift away from open cross section HSC slit-tubes typically considered for use in large array applications,” said Thomas Murphey, CEO of Opterus. “We’re building a collapsible mast that meets stiffness and strength requirements of heritage articulate trusses at a fraction of the cost. It will support blanket arrays in space as large as several hundred meters across. What we’re doing will blow away the prevailing perceptions of HSC strength and performance.”
This new Phase I program is to be completed by March of 2021, and it leverages two additional Phase II SBIR programs Opterus has with NASA for blanket and deployment mechanism development.
“This combination of SBIR programs supports our long-term vision to productize and deliver R-ROMA™, a high performance Retractable-Rollable Mast Array,” Murphey said. “This is exactly what NASA’s SBIR/STTR program seeks to achieve with small businesses such as Opterus.”