Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation


Main content start

AA114Q: Large Space Structures

In space, large structures are often advantageous - large solar arrays are required for collecting solar power and allowing spacecraft to operate in deep space, large diameter telescopes allow us to explore the origins of our universe, and large antennas allow us to track climate change and get large amounts of data back down to Earth. However, our ability to get large structures into space is limited by the size of modern rocket fairings, causing large space structures to be designed very differently from those on Earth. This seminar focuses on the design principles used by aerospace engineers to realize large space structures. Over the quarter, we discuss techniques for deployable space structures folded on the ground and unfolded in orbit including origami, foldable thin structures, and inflatables. The seminar also introduce students to current developments in space structures such as on-orbit assembly, in-space manufacturing, and reconfigurable space structures. We examine the materials used in these structures, overview mathematical principles used for their design, and learn from past failures of deployable structures. The seminar allows students to delve deeper into the concepts with hands-on experimentation, analysis of existing space structures (ex. James Webb, the ISS solar arrays, and CubeSat missions), and allows students to practice written and oral communication skills. The quarter concludes with a project to design and prototype a deployable structure for small satellites.

Prerequisites: none

Offered: Spring 2022, Fall 2022

Past student projects 

Origami membrane deployment using tape springs - Kai Fronsdal and Alice Ku


Origami flasher deployment using articulated ring - Helen Deng and Samuel Montagut Agudelo