Micro gravity experiment by airplane (June 6, 2015)

Our laboratory has been proceeding the research project "Formation of center for research and development of advanced deployable structure pioneering innovative space science" supported by Coordination Funds for Promoting AeroSpace Utilization, MEXT since the end of FY2014. The project leader is Prof. Hiraku Sakamoto in Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech). The project member is Furuya laboratory (Tokyo Tech), Oda laboratory (Tokyo Tech), WEL Research Co. Ltd., and Sakase Ad-Tech Co. Ltd. This project is named ORIGAMI. We conduct the following three topics.

[Topic 1]Development of space verification scheme for advanced deployable space structure
[Topic 2]Development of design and verification method of deployable space structure by fusion of experiment and numerical analysis
[Topic 3]Formation of center of research and development of deployable space structure that enables the knowledge transfer over the generation

The leader of Topic 2 is Prof. Yamazaki. He manages the research collaboration with the above member. We challenge to establish the methodology of the desgin and verification of deployable structure with different dimension or shape using the findings from the experiments and the numerical analysis. We aim for the establishment of the design and verification method firstly in the world by the fusion of the experiment in the laboratory, that in the airplane under micro gravity, that in space, and numerical analysis. As a part of this challenge, we will conduct deployment experiments in an airplane under micro gravity.

When the airplane ascends quickly and decends in parabolic path, the cabin is in almost zero gravity environment. We will use the small aircraft MU-300 of DIamond Air Service (DAS) to conduct deployment experiments of various deployable structure in the airplane. We will conduct the experiment in January 2016.

We can conduct the micro gravity experiment for about 20 seconds in one parabolic flight. We will conduct the parabolic flight several times a day for six days. The right figure illustrates the layout of the cabin. As shown in the figure below, we will exchange the experimental set-up between the parabolic flights, and conduct the experiment several times a day (The layout will be changed after the discussion with DAS). We will test planar self-deployable truss, 3D self-deployable truss, combined membrane structure like SPROUT, spin deployable membrane, and de-orbit membrane structure for several kg class nano-satellite.

Prof. Miyazaki is proceeding a KAKENHI project "Establishment of prediction method of dynamics of large gossamer muti-body space structures and understandings of their dynamics. In this research project, we will establish a similarity rule of deployable membrane structure using the experimental result in vacuum under 1G environment on the ground, that in atmosphere under micro gravity environment, and mumerical results. We will apply the know-how of the airplane experiment of ORIGAI to another airplane micro gravity experiment of spin deployment membrane and self-deployable truss.

The critical point of the realization of large deployable membrane structure in space is the prediction of the behavior of the membrane structure on porbit. The prediction method of the motion during the deployment has not yet established yet. The reason is summarized into the following two points:

  1. It is difficult to conduct the experiment under the zero gravity and vacuum environment simulteneously on the ground, especially the experiment of large structure
  2. Numerical analysis result has not been believed enough yet.
In order to solve these problems, we will conduct the airplane experiment to construct the similarity rule and predict the behavior of the structure on orbit from the ground experiment of small scale model (including airplane experiment) and to verify the numerical analysis.

P.S. (March 31, 2017)

We conducted the micro-gravity experiment by airplane in January and February, 2016. You can see the symmary of the experiment in the web page "Advanced Deployable Structure". THe below video is the short movie of the experiment.

College of Science and Technology, Nihon University
Department of Aerospace Engineering
Miyazaki and Yamazaki Laboratory
College of Science and Technology, Nihon University
7-24-1 Narashinodai, Funabashi, Chiba 274-8501, Japan
e-mail: asel (at) forth.aero.cst.nihon-u.ac.jp