Northrop Grumman is the satellite industry's premier source for mission-enabling, space-qualified deployable booms, masts, and backing structures for commercial, military, civil, and scientific space programs.

The company has consistently met the challenge to develop deployable solutions for a broad range of large space structures applications, from global mapping and communication antennas and space telescopes, to high-sensitivity instrumentation such as particle detectors and magnetometers. With ecades of experience with all types of deployable spaceflight structures, Northrop Grumman can quickly devise and deliver an optimal, lowest-risk solution.

Northrop Grumman delivers systems that deploy linear panel arrays, membrane surfaces, and discrete elements to stringent accuracies with excellent stability. Continue reading to learn more about the many types of systems we have designed, built and tested, which have all flown with 100 percent on-orbit success.

Coilable Booms

In the 40+ years since its original invention, the coilable boom is unsurpassed for overall performance. The coilable’s winning combination of compact stowage, low mass, self-deploy-ability (and therefore minimal non-structural mass overhead), scalability, placement accuracy and thermal stability make it the preeminent choice for a huge range of in-space deployment applications. Northrop Grumman is constantly refining this foundational technology to serve new applications, for example, coilable booms for the precision deployment of x-ray optics for a number of NASA missions currently in development. Ultra-lightweight carbon fiber versions are enabling a variety of applications, ranging from large membrane deployment (e.g. solar sails and sunshades) and ultra-long-baseline (>80 m) dipole antennas.

Telescoping Booms

Northrop Grumman’s telescoping booms provide the highest push and pull force (hundreds of pounds) of all linearly deploying structures by means of an internal motor-driven lead screw. The smooth outer surface and internalized mechanism provide robust protection from environmental hazards, including operation by astronauts during EVA on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS). These booms are built for ultra-high cycle life (10,000 deploy/retract) and reliability. Latching joints between each segment provide a stiff, precise, preloaded system once deployed. Designs can be optimized for mass, strength, and/or placement precision.

Articulating Masts

Northrop Grumman’s articulated mast systems are designed and manufactured for the deployment of a variety of critical spacecraft payloads, such as baseline extension for radar antennas and long focal length optical systems.

First installed on the International Space Station in 2000, Northrop Grumman's Folding Articulated Square Truss (FAST) Mast technology allows for a compact stowage length (less than eight feet when fully retracted) and more than 115 feet when fully deployed. The FAST Mast canister is designed and qualified to fully retract and deploy the spacecraft’s solar arrays 35 times during its expected 15-year on-orbit life.

An evolution of the FAST Mast is the ADAM mast which has been employed to meet the most aggressive stiffness, strength, and stability requirements for linear deployments. Notable applications include the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and the NuSTAR X-ray imager.

SRTM accumulated a vast trove of global topographic data which is now available to every smartphone user. Over the course of an 11-day Shuttle mission, over 80% of Earth’s topography was mapped, to 30-m pixel resolution, with the help of a 60-m articulated mast provided by Northrop Grumman.

For NuSTAR, Northrop Grumman designed and built an ADAM mast system, as well as the extremely thermally stable optical bench and tip adjustment mechanism, used to support the X-ray telescope’s 10-m focal length. NuSTAR will be the first focusing high-energy X-ray mission, opening the hard X-ray sky to the search for black holes, mapping supernova explosions, and studying the most extreme active galaxies.

Articulating Backing Truss Structures (Extendible Support Structures)

In some cases, the stiff and stable deployment of large objects is best accomplished with a purpose-built folding truss, and Northrop Grumman is a world leader in producing such systems. For example, Northrop Grumman was selected by Ball Aerospace to design and build the Reflector Deployment Assembly (RDA) for the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Microwave Imager (GMI). The RDA is a folding, statically determinate hexapod truss to support a 2.4-m-diameter reflector dish. Our RDA structure exceeded the stringent requirements for placement (less than 0.001 inches, 3-sigma over 10 deployments) and thermal stability (less than 0.01 inches and 18 arcsec each axis over each orbit). Deployment is powered and controlled by a robust spring/damper drive unit that, once deployed, does not apply loading to the structure to ensure that the final reflector position is driven entirely by the precision of the folding struts.

Northrop Grumman also produced the Extendible Support Structure (ESS) for the RADARSAT-2 mission for MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) and the Canadian Space Agency, which is currently in service in a wide variety of roles, including sea ice identification and ship routing, iceberg detection, agricultural crop monitoring, marine surveillance for ship and pollution detection, terrestrial defense surveillance and target identification, and surface mapping.

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