2015.B.3.6. The Development of a Low Mass Extendible Composite Boom for Small Satellite Applications


Mike Lawton (1)
Juan Reveles (1)
Vincent Fraux (1)

  1. Oxford Space Systems, United Kingdom




deployable retractable boom


This paper describes an extendable boom structure which combines novel materials and proven actuation principles to deploy a low mass, high stowage efficiency motion structure with one degree of freedom. The extendable architecture presented herein has been progressed from concept level to TRL3 in accordance with ESA’s TRL definition. It incorporates a novel deployment mechanism for actuation and a novel flexible composite material for the boom element. The boom element itself possesses very low length-density and highly tuneable bending stiffness and torsional stiffness characteristics.

The total mass of the boom and mechanism arrangement is approximately 0.35Kg, the boom is retractable and can extend up to a 2m length from a stowage volume of approximately 2.5×10-4 m3 equivalent to half of 1U. The deployment can be achieved with less than 0.75W power consumption assuming vertical deployment with no gravity compensation and a 0.025kg payload equivalent to a small magnetometer. The materials used in the boom’s construction are widely used by the space community and thus compatibility with the space environment can be claimed.

Due to its low mass and high stowage efficiency, the architecture presented here is well suited to cubesat and microsat missions where requirements for volume and mass are key drivers at system level design. The architecture presented is versatile and thus can be used as an expendable boom on its own for low mass and low positional accuracy payload requirements or can be used as an actuator as part of a larger, rigid multi-element telescopic boom for mission where stiffness and high positional accuracy are the main system drivers. In addition, electrical conductors and gas feeds can be embedded within the flexible composite matrix thus reducing design complexity and accommodation issues for payload feeds or antenna systems.

A full characterisation programme supported by Europe’s main satellite manufacturers is now under way. This programme will enable this development to progress from TRL 3 to TRL5 in the course of 12 months. The activity will see analytical model developed to accurately predict stowed and in-orbit behaviour of the extendable boom in both of its variants, e.g. as a standalone boom and as an actuator of a multi-element boom with outer telescopic shell. Details of our findings to date will be presented in a full paper.


  • Download slides in PDF format here (22MB)

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