In-Situ Shape Measurement of Flexible Structures
Many future space mission requires large deployable planar surfaces such as antenna arrays. For such an application, the radio waves are steered and focused by the interaction of the different phases of each antenna. However, large deployable structures, usually light and flexible, can deform and vibrate easily. The variations of the shape of the structure implies a change in position of the antennas which directly translates into a phase difference. If not taken into account, these differences can be large and effectively lower the performance of the system.
In order to achieve great control over the phase interactions of an antenna array, it is required to be able to estimate its shape while in space.
We are investigating the performance of different type of sensors that can give us a position information (accelerometers, sun sensors, GPS, etc.) . Those measurements are spread on our large structure, and using integrating techniques such as finite element methods and Kalman filters, we are able to link the sensors together to output the estimated shape of the antenna array.
This research focuses especially on the error that such sensors and integration techniques imply and we are trying to come up with smart and effective ways to improve and implement such a system.