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NASA's new satellite radiator is a work of art

Researchers are developing origami-inspired radiators for CubeSats.
Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
February 1, 2017
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Brigham Young University

Satellite radiators are typically huge and heavy -- not at all ideal for tiny spacefarers like CubeSats. To address small satellites' need, NASA Goddard technologist Vivek Dwivedi has teamed up with Brigham Young University scientists to develop a "smart" radiator inspired by origami. The three-dimensional structure made out of temperature-sensitive materials like shape-memory alloys can fold and unfold to preserve and shed heat, respectively. It also folds when it wants to soak up heat from the sun or the Earth, because the team found that the deeper the cavities, the greater the absorption.

The Brigham Young scientists are still working to enhance the radiator's design, though you can see the prototype's structure in the image above. Dwivedi, on the other hand, is focusing on developing a vanadium oxide coating that can enhance its heat-retaining and shedding capabilities. The material begins as a semi-conductor and transitions into a metal state when it reaches 154 degrees Fahrenheit. Since its ability to radiate heat increases when it switches to metal state and temperatures fluctuate wildly in space, Dwivedi is trying to find a way to lower its transition temperature. He plans to do so by applying very thin layers of of silver and titanium to the vanadium oxide.

The researchers aren't quite done developing the radiator yet. But when they're finished, it can be attached to any part of a small satellite's surface.

In this article: cubesats, nasa, origami, science, space
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