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10th October 2018, Omaha, NE

Using HSCs in space applications

MultiMechanics, a developer of multiscale composite modelling and simulation software, and Opterus R&D, a Colorado-based satellite component manufacturer specialising in the design and testing of deployable space structures, have announced a collaboration in response to a NASA Solicitation seeking further exploration of the use of thin-ply High Strain Composites (HSCs) in space applications.

These advanced composites have the potential to reduce weight and increase the performance of space systems, but they exhibit behaviour that is difficult to predict using currently available Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tools.

Thin-ply High Strain Composites have the potential to reduce weight and increase the performance of space systems. © MultiMechanics

Thin-ply HSCs are being used by Opterus in several commercial, NASA and DoD missions that achieve “unprecedented packaging and deployed stiffness performance”, according to the company. Compared to traditional composites, HSCs are said to exhibit improved damage tolerance, resistance to microcracking, improved aging and fatigue resistance, reduced minimum-gage thickness, and increased scalability.

However, HSC materials behave in a complex manner that is difficult to predict. Strain levels in HSCs are up to three times higher than in traditional composites, causing behaviours that are nonlinear with fibre tensile stiffening and compression softening and sensitive to creep and stress relaxation. Expensive, iterative physical testing is currently being used to study the loading-deformation and failure response of HSCs. The MultiMechanics – Opterus collaboration will develop accurate, validated, and usable software to predict the behavior of HSC structures.

In response to a NASA Solicitation and in order to accelerate the adoption of HSCs for space applications, Opterus R&D will create material models of HSCs that can be used in currently-available FEA systems. MultiMech will be used in this development due to its unique capabilities to model rate-dependent material behaviour, a critical feature presented by HSCs.

“MultiMechanics offers the most computationally efficient material modelling platform, along with the broadest range of material options,” said Dr Thomas Murphey, President at Opterus R&D. “In addition to the advanced capabilities of their software, the MultiMechanics team has also shown an interest in and willingness to support the growing HSC community.”

Phase I of the programme is to generate test data, exercise the current commercial version of MultiMech, and identify the best path forward to confirm that MultiMech can address all HSC analysis needs in the future. In Phase II, MultiMechanics will take a larger role aimed at implementing features specific to solving HSC engineering challenges.

“HSCs exhibit high potential for reduced weight and increased performance for several space applications,” commented Dr Flavio Souza, President & CTO at MultiMechanics. “We are proud to support Opterus R&D and the entire HSC community in their mission to accelerate the adoption of these promising materials.”

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