UK Space Tech Uses Shape Memory

Contact Us | Tel: 01202 296566

In-2CRev-41px-TM Twitter logo whiteSML FacebookWB45x45Red-signin-Small-base-44dp

UK Space Tech Uses Shape Memory

 12th Jun 2015

A UK start-up has developed deployable spacecraft structures by basing their designs on the Japanese art of Origami.

Oxford Space Systems worked with Professor Zhong You of Oxford University to develop structural designs that use ‘shape memory’ to unfurl in a specific way. Using chain structures fabricated from fibres and resins the structures behave in the same way as leaves.

This means satellite payloads take up significantly less space, are far lighter and simpler to deploy.

AerospaceAdOSS’ focus is simplicity in areas where faults mean mission failure. Deployable panels, large deployable antennas (LDAs) and flexible boom systems are the primary areas of development. All three require complex structures and multiple motors to work which increases the chance of jamming and fault.

OSS’ approach means fewer motorised parts saving on space and weight which allows for redundancies. Using composites over traditional materials makes them less prone to distortion so snagging and jamming isn’t a concern in products like their Astrotube retractable boom. However OSS has gone to the trouble of rifling the sections which not only make extension smoother but rotation achievable without a heavy and costly rotary actuator mechanism.


The OSS Astrotube - Image Courtesy of Oxford Space Systems

The underlying thought behind all of OSS’ design is how the materials behave. The company’s parabolic antenna has only a single motor and significantly less structure. However the nature of the composites and the use of a patented linear sliding bearing allow the structure to recover if there is any jamming or distortion. Essentially the entire structure is its own redundancy.

AerospaceAdOSS has gained the backing of Innovate UK, the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the Satellite Applications Catapult (which isn’t quite what you imagine it to be) and were the winners of the Harwell Launchpad competition. They are also finalists in the Oxford Brookes University Innovation Award: the winner is due to be announced on the 19th June.

In March, Oxford Space Systems was selected by the UK Space Agency to fly its AstroTube Boom on a 3U cubesat mission, set to launch in Q2, 2016.

We’re recruiting heavily for engineers in the aerospace industry. If you’re looking for your perfect role with some of the biggest names in the industry register your details with us today.





Job Search


Latest Engineering News

Mark Howard: on the way to the wing of the future
Airbus UK’s R&T chief Mark Howard reflects on the trends that are driving development in the civil aerospace sector Without wings an aircraft simply can’t get off the ground. It may sound an obvious point to make but is one worth reiterating because as a nation our capability to design and manufacture these complex and […]
UAV makes record endurance flight
Vanilla Aircraft’s VA001 combustion-powered UAV has achieved a world record with a non-stop, unrefuelled 56-hour flight. The flight of the 36-foot wingspan ultra-long endurance aircraft was submitted for a world duration record for combustion-powered UAVs in the 50-500 kg subclass. A representative from the US National Aeronautic Association was present to witness the record. The […]
Semta Skills Awards finalists announced
Semta, the Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance, has announced the shortlist for its 2017 awards. The event, which takes place on March 8th at the London Hilton, Park Lane, will see 27 finalists compete across nine categories, including Apprentice of the Year, Graduate of the Year, Skills Champion of the Year, Technician of the […]
MIT team 3D-prints graphene sponges
Researchers at MIT have 3D-printed graphene structures that resemble sponge or coral, which are up to ten times stronger than steel but have much lower densities.   The team started by compressing small flakes of graphene using a combination of heat and pressure. This produced a strong, stable structure whose form resembles that of some […]