There is a need for large mirrors that can be launched to various bodies in the solar system in a packed form and unfolded to provide the required dimensions. The solution to the need for foldable panels that can be made as mirrors or other structures including antennas, etc. has been conceived using an origami configuration that is folded in two dimensions. The foldable panel configuration, if made as a mirror, allows supporting rover operation in craters and caves that are shadowed and inaccessible to direct sunlight. The benefits of its use include providing light to the solar cells of the rover, providing a heating source using sunlight, and illuminating the area of operation where the rover is located.

The first two images show vertical expansion of the panel via the scrolling and origami folding process; the last two images show horizontal expansion of the panel.
Launching large panels such as mirrors, solar cell panels, and antennas is not practical unless they are packed in a folded form and then unfolded. The features included in the packing and unpacking of the disclosed panel configuration have been the use of folding, scrolling, and telescopic movement. A combination of scrolling in one dimension and origami folding in the other allowed the minimization of packaged volume. A folded film is scrolled and is supported by two telescopic vertical rods that keep the panel in a minimum packaging volume. The two rods are held by a horizontal telescopic rod that allows unscrolling the panel by spacing them apart from each other. The two telescopic rods are extended, and thus unfold the panel to reach the full size.

The origami concept enables folding mirrors that can be stowed in compact configuration and, when needed, to expand into a full-size mirror.

This work was done by Yoseph Bar-Cohen and Mircea Badescu of Caltech, and Bahador Behdad and Renato Valz-Brenta for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-49472