Title Light Curing Rigidizable Inflatable Wing
Source Proc. 45th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conf., paper 2004-1809
Year 2004
Author(s) Allred, R. E.; Hoyt, A. E.; Harrah, L. A.; McElroy, P. M.; Scarborough, S.; Cadogan, D. P.; Pahle, J. W.
Abstract The objective of this study was to prove the feasibility of using light-curing resins to rigidize an inflatable wing for terrestrial and space applications. Current inflatable wings rely on the continuous presence of an inflation gas to maintain their shape. Rigidization of inflatable wings provides several potential advantages, including reducing the vulnerability to punctures, increasing stiffness and load-carrying capability, allowing a higher aspect ratio for high altitude efficiency and longer missions, and reducing weight by eliminating the makeup pressurization supply. This study was a multifaceted approach that included defining operating environments for Mars survey craft and military UAVs; analyzing wing loads during deployment and rigidization as a function of internal pressure and leak rate to determine needed rigidization times; developing rapid cure resin formulations with long shelf lives; fabricating, deploying, and rigidizing a wing half-span; and testing and characterizing the rigidized wing. Results show that the wings must deploy and cure rapidly at low temperatures for some missions. The maximum time allowed for the resin to rigidize is the range in time that the inflated and unrigidized wing maintains structural integrity to fly and provide lift for the vehicle while the wing is undergoing rigidization. A series of epoxy acrylate-based resin formulations were developed that cure in 10 seconds or less at 0°C. These resins also exhibited greater than 10 year storage lifetimes in accelerated aging studies and showed mechanical properties close to thermally cured aerospace epoxies. A half-span demonstration Eppler 398 airfoil was fabricated from E-glass fabric/ATI-ROC™- E37X1 resin and a polyurethane bladder. After fabrication, the wing was packed and deployed two times. The unrigidized prepreg material was very compliant and was able to be packed tightly. After the packing and deployment trials were completed, the wing was inflated to 7 psig and given a 30-minute solar cure. The rigidized wing exhibited the desired high stiffness without inflation pressure.
Keywords Inflatable wing, rigidization, ROC, rapid cure resin, shelf life, low temperature cure, E37X1

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