SAM (Self-inflating Adaptive Membrane, developed by Thomas Sinn (advisor: Dr. Massimiliano Vasile) at the University of Strathclyde) is a new concept of a modular deployable multi-functional structure that can adapt itself to various mission conditions. SAM can operate as a reflector, as an antenna, as an extended solar array or as solar sail for example. The developed membrane is a modular passively inflatated structure made of basic triangular elements connected through shape memory alloy wires, enabling shape change with small applied current levels.
The composition of all the triangular elements forms an extended surface that can change the shape of the entire structure and fulfil multiple configurations. The big advantage of the triangle element approach is that a structure can be obtained which is simultaneously stiff and flexible due to the stiff pillow elements and the flexible actuation lines. The adaptive material will allow the extended surface to change its curvature and become a reflector, to change the focal point of the reflector, to maintain a flat surface or to change the orientation of part or the entire surface and induce an angular momentum. The current design of SAM envisions one side inherent a reflective surface while the opposite side is covered in thin film PV cells. By controlling the shape one could control the attitude and therefore face the PV side of the surface to the sun or alternatively point the reflective side.
The testing and validation of the deployment of this modular multifunctional structure is planned to happen through a suborbital flight within the upcoming REXUS (Rocket Experiments for University Students, a DLR/SNSB/ESA funded program) campaign. SAM will be deployed from a 1U cube sat and will demonstrate the deployment and surface control technology in microgravity. The next step is to install SAM on a 2/3U cube sat.