Northrop Grumman has a proven development approach to design-to-performance or build-to-print structural panels for various government, civil and commercial spacecraft customers. These structural panels, including optical solar reflectors, are made using graphite-epoxy/honeycomb.
The honeycomb panels have embedded heat pipes, structural and thermal analyses, material selection, panel consolidation, precision machining, panel inserts, reinforcement for locally concentrated loading, application of optical coatings, contamination control, ultrasonic and radiographic testing, thermal performance and cycling testing, static load, vibration, and acoustic testing. This panel design is one of many designed to fit customers' needs.
With more than 20 years of experience designing and manufacturing composite flight hardware, we have a range of products and design capabilities suited to meet customer-specific needs.
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 structure applications, from global mapping and communication antennas and space telescopes to high-sensitivity instrumentation such as particle detectors and magnetometers. With decades of experience in all types of deployable spaceflight structures, Northrop Grumman can quickly devise and deliver an optimal, lowest-risk solution.
We deliver 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.
In the 40-plus years since its original invention, the coilable boom is unsurpassed for overall performance. Its winning combination of compact stowage, low mass, self-deployability (and therefore minimal nonstructural 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) to ultra-long-baseline (>80 m) dipole antennas.
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.
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 that is now available to every smartphone user. During an 11-day Shuttle mission, more than 80% of Earth's topography was mapped to 30-m pixel resolution with the help of a 60-meter 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-meter 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.
Extendible Support Structures
Stiff and stable deployment of large sensors is best accomplished with a purpose-built folding truss, and Northrop Grumman is a world leader in producing such systems.
For example, we were selected by Ball Aerospace to design and build the Reflector Deployment Assembly for the Global Precipitation Measurement Microwave Imager. The RDA is a folding, statically determinate hexapod truss used to support a 1.2-meter-diameter reflector dish.
Our RDA structure exceeded the stringent requirements for placement repeatability (less than 0.001 inches, 3-sigma, more than 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 the final reflector position is driven entirely by the precision of the folding struts.
Northrop Grumman also produced the Extendible Support Structure for the RADARSAT-2 mission for MDA and the Canadian Space Agency. The structure 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.
- Linear, preloaded structures
- Sub-millimeter deployment precision and stability
- Active or passive fully controlled deployments
- Predictable, deterministic structures
- Passive compensation of satellite or bus distortion
- Ideal for 1 m2 to 100 m2 structures
- Motor- or spring-driven deployment
- On-orbit retraction capability
- Performance validated at subscale level
Northrop Grumman is the world's leader in two-phase thermal management of spacecraft and has more than 30 years of experience designing and manufacturing space-qualified products for various government, military and commercial customers. By combining engineering expertise in thermal and structural design with hardware fabrication, we provide leading-edge thermal-management solutions not only to the aerospace community but also to customers for terrestrial cooling communication electronics.
The company works closely with engineering experts, customer staff and vendors to provide a systems-oriented, multidisciplinary approach to successfully meet customers' needs, whether those needs are for design-to-performance or build-to-print programs.
Capabilities include design, manufacture, testing and integration of complete two-phase thermal-control systems such as heat pipes (-260 C to +175 C); heat pipe radiators and structural equipment panels; two-phase-loop heat pipes (LHPs); deployable radiator assemblies; phase-change materials (PCM); multi-layer insulation (MLI) blankets; thermal preparation; cryogenic cooling applications; and composite structures.
Facilities and resources include 105,000 square feet of engineering and manufacturing space featuring flight-certified integrated assembly areas, processing ovens, thermal vacuum chambers, large environmental chambers, paint booths and full machining and inspection capabilities.