Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Jonathan T. Black, PhD


The current barrier to CubeSat proliferation is their lack of utility depth. These small satellites are exceptionally well suited for specific space missions such as space weather observation and other scientific data gathering exploits; however, they are not suited for every mission. The 10cm-cube form factor that gives the CubeSat its unique advantage is also its greatest hindrance. A potential bridge over this gap is the successful integration of deployable booms onto the CubeSat structure. With this research, the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) explored the parameters of deployable tapespring booms using the triangular retractable and collapsible (TRAC) cross- sectional geometry developed by Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) and used on NASA’s CubeSat, Nanosail-D. These booms were augmented with reflective membranes and specifically designed to deploy on orbit for the purpose of ground observation; observations that could later be used to determine the deployed dynamics of the booms from optical data gained passively by solar illumination. Initially, the boom behavior at multiple frequency excitations was characterized so as to develop an accurate finite element model where further predictions could be determined without the costly attempt to simulate the often irreproducible environment of space. Nine total modal frequencies were detected and modeled below 25 Hz, which was to be expected as the gossamer-like structure of the beams is particularly susceptible to low-frequency excitations. In addition to stationary testing, deployment concept testing was also conducted to determine the viability of a novel boom and membrane deployment scheme developed in house. In concurrence with the finite element model, this data provides the foundation for the future development of deployable appendages onto the CubeSat platform here at AFIT.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number