Modular inflatable space structures

Aman Chandra, Jekanthan Thangavelautham, Alessandra Babuscia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

8 Scopus citations


There is a growing need to develop a human focused exploration program and support infrastructure, including relay sites in deep space. One of the first targets will be cislunar space station, which is a strategic gateway towards permanent settlement of the Moon and Mars. A station in deep space will require structures with large surfaces, very high volume to mass ratio and high-packing efficiency. The transportation of bulky payloads to beyond low-earth orbits pose formidable cost and logistical challenges. This requires a paradigm shift in research towards methods to build and assemble low-mass, large and complex structures in space instead of transporting them from Earth and deploying them on-site. On-site additive construction and assembly methods hold promise, but they face a major challenge of still having to transport large and heavy robotic equipment required to perform complex construction. This paper presents an alternate and more feasible pathway in developing small structural units that can be quickly shaped and assembled with limited external support. Inflatable structures hold that promise as they are low-mass, can be quickly reshaped, inflated and rigidized into desired modular units that are assembled into large, complex structures. Our present work extends the inflatables concept to study modular, inflatable blocks assembled into pre-determined geometries. The inflatable building blocks would be assembled into communication relays, science instrument antennas, structures to hold solar panels and large reflectors. Our efforts aim to identify common desired structural design traits in these modular units to enable them to be multi-functional building blocks that can be assembled into more complex functional blocks. Our design methodology focuses on simplicity of deployment mechanisms and high-scalability over varying sizes. Finally, this paper will provide preliminary feasibility of the modular inflatable building block concept and analyze the applications of this technology towards assembly of large structures in deep space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2018
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781538620144
StatePublished - Jun 25 2018
Event2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2018 - Big Sky, United States
Duration: Mar 3 2018Mar 10 2018

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Other2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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