Structures capable of deployment into complex, three-dimensional trusses have well known space technology applications such as the support of spacecraft payloads, communications antennas, radar reflectors, and solar concentrators. Such deployable trusses could also be useful in terrestrial applications such as the rapid establishment of structures in military and emergency service situations, in particular with regard to the deployment of enclosures for habitat or storage. To minimize the time required to deploy such an enclosure, a single arch-shaped truss is preferable to multiple straight trusses arranged vertically and horizontally. To further minimize the time required to deploy such an enclosure, a synchronous deployment with a single degree of freedom is also preferable.

The Deployment Sequence of the Truss. The truss is stowed in a compact volume (top), and deployment begins when the motor is activated and begins drawing in the continuous deployment cable (bottom).
One method of synchronizing deployment of a truss is the use of a series of gears; this makes the deployment sequence predictable and testable, allows the truss to have a minimal stowage volume, and the deployed structure exhibits the excellent stiffness-to-mass and strength-to-mass ratios characteristic of a truss. A concept for using gears with varying ratios to deploy a truss into a curved shape has been developed and appears to be compatible with both space technology applications as well as potential use in terrestrial applications such as enclosure deployment. As is the case with other deployable trusses, this truss is formed using rigid elements (e.g., composite tubes) along the edges, one set of diagonal elements composed of either cables or folding/hinged rigid members, and the other set of diagonal elements formed by a continuous cable that is tightened by a motor or hand crank in order to deploy the truss. Gears of varying ratios are used to constrain the deployment to a single degree of freedom, making the deployment synchronous, predictable, and repeatable. The relative sizes of the gears and the relative dimensions of the diagonal elements determine the deployed geometry (e.g. curvature) of the truss.

This work was done by Louis R. Giersch and Kevin Knarr of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Mechanics/Machinery category. NPO-47269