Date of Award
MS in Aerospace Engineering
The CubeSat Program has provided access to space for many universities, private companies, and government institutions primarily due to the low cost of CubeSat satellite development. While these costs are orders of magnitude lower than similarly capable nano-satellite missions, they are still outside of the budgetary constraints of many potential developers including university and high school clubs. Using 3D printed plastics in the production of CubeSat structures and mechanisms presents a large cost savings opportunity that will allow these institutions to participate in the development of these satellites, expanding the educational and scientific impact of the CubeSat Program.
Five rapid prototype plastics manufactured with four different 3D printing technologies were studied to determine their survivability when subjected to the required vibration testing and thermal bakeout that all CubeSats are must pass through before integration and launch. ASTM D638 Type V tensile bar samples of each plastic were procured and subjected to a thermal bakeout and tensile testing to determine the thermal and outgassing effects on their mechanical properties. This information was used to design a concept structure for use in a low budget CubeSat mission. Finite Element Analysis in Abaqus was then utilized to test the integrity of this structure under a worst case load condition derived from the ELaNa 6 launch vibration profile. Results from the analysis show that Objet FullCure720 photopolymer resin, DSM Somos Prototherm 12120 photopolymer resin, and Windform XT carbon fiber filled nylon all provide adequate strength to survive the environmental testing conditions required for this system to proceed through flight integration and launch.