Printable Spacecraft

A printable spacecraft project is running as part of the NASA NIAC (NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts)

Printable Spacecraft: Flexible Electronic Platforms for NASA Missions (21 pages, by Kendra Short and Dr. David Van Buren.

Flexible printed electronics have revolutionized consumer products such as cellular phones and PDAs, allowing greater functionality with decreasing size and weight. We think the same can be done for spacecraft.

We propose to investigate the feasibility of implementing a complete end to end spacecraft – science measurement through data downlink – based purely on flexible substrate “printed” electronics.

The benefits would be decreased design/fabrication cycle time, reduced unit level mass and volume, and decreased unit level cost.

We propose to:
1. Explore the viability of printed technologies for creating small 2D spacecraft, including mission concepts, architectures, materials, subsystems, integration and manufacturing aspects.
2. Complete an inventory of the availability and capability of relevant sensors and spacecraft subsystem elements.
3. Identify gaps between what is currently available in industry products and what is required for space applications.
4. Develop a high-level strategy for technology investments needed to fill those gaps.

Inventory of sensors and subsystem elements.
• Conclusion: Variability in functionality and maturity
• Findings:
• Huge variability in maturity of design and manufacturing approaches
• Functionality is limited in many areas
• Even for mature components, there may be a hit on key figures of merit.
• There are opportunities for hybrid systems, depending on which characteristics of a printed system are to be optimized for the application (flexibility, printability, cost, mass).

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