Fabrication of Structural MLI Using 3D Printing Technologies

Period of Performance: 01/27/2009 - 09/28/2009


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Tethers Unlimited, Inc.
11711 N. Creek Pkwy S., Suite D113 Array
Bothell, WA 98011
Principal Investigator


We propose to utilize a combination of 3D printing technology and high-strength, temperature-resistant composites to create structural components for spacecraft that incorporate an integral thermal barrier. The use of 3D printing technology will enable rapid fabrication of complex structural components to enable responsive configuration and production of satellites to meet time-critical tactical and strategic needs, and it will enable a multi-layer radiative barrier to be integrated conformally within a structure that has both a durable outer shell and a rigid internal structure. By bonding temperature-resistant composites such as carbon fiber to the exterior and interior of the structure, a very high strength, durable, and temperature-tolerant structure can be created. In the proposed effort, we will develop concept designs for 3D-printable structures that incorporate radiative thermal barriers. We will then utilize 1-D and 2-D modeling of thermal transfer, thermal expansion and strain, and structural characteristics to select the best balance between weight, complexity, strength, and radiative performance. Additionally, we will evaluate current and upcoming 3D printable materials and processes, and select the process/material combination with the best strength, weight, offgassing, temperature tolerance, and fatigue performance. We will then fabricate a sample and test its performance within a vacuum chamber.