Infusion Rigidizable Inflatable Space Elements

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

We are introducing a new concept for inflatable, rigidizable structural elements for a variety of space applications. The technology is based on a production process for composite elements that was previously established for architectural applications and the automotive industry.

An early prototype in the shape of an instrument boom has been produced by the project team. This boom consists of an inner and an outer tubular foil with arranged reinforcing fibers (braided fibre hoses) in between and is deployed by inflation. The unique feature of our technology is that we are rigidifying the composite by in-situ resin infusion and a point initiated self sustained curing process (frontal polymerization). What is quite common and probably "low-tech" back on Earth, has significant advantages as a space application.

Novel to our approach is that we can apply the abundant vacuum of space to the whole surface area of the composite part via an outer membrane that is permeable by gaseous elements but not the fluid resin constituents. The specially adapted resin system is cured by its own reaction enthalpy rendering the process independent from a complex thermal management system. The initial non-rigidized product is very well foldable in comparison to pre-impregnated fibers. Moreover, we can facilitate complex cross-section topologies and fiber layups while achieving an unmatched high resin utilization. Resulting unique selling properties are the environmental independence, low mass, low stowage volume as well as enhanced strength and stiffness values in comparison to other systems.

Outgoing from observed first principles, a formulated application area, and an early prototype we assembled the relevant disciplines in a diverse team. Essential prior IP is either held by consortium members or directly accessible by granted rights as described below. Within the project further protectable IP regarding the space application shall be identified and secured for the consortium.

The ESA Technology Strategy is listing a demand for such structural elements in the fields of offset scientific instruments, high-performance antennas, solar arrays as well as large reflectors for deployable telescopes. Frontal polymerization as a technology for space applications is similarly at the center of ESA research interests. Besides these connections, the area where our concept is most suited to the task would be in complex structural elements of an orbital or cis-lunar propellant depot, a planetary habitat, a inflatable spaceship, a spacestation or the buoyancy body for an atmospheric planetary probe (e.g., on Venus).

Since those topics are outside the focus of the Austrian funding strategy for space applications, we would like to use the exploratory project as a leverage to fortify the consortium structure, investigate the risks and uncertainties associated with the technology and apply for full scale technology development funding at the upcoming Horizon Europe funding instrument within the cluster "Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness - Space".

Contents and goals

This project has the potential to enable future robotic and human rated explorative missions into the cislunar space and to other bodies in the solar system that are not deemed feasible today. A funding to this project would enhance the visibility of Austria as a provider of key technology and strategic space incentive in the european and the international space industry. Similarly it would help to re-spark the interest for spaceflight, exploration and technology in the upcoming generations.

Project Partners


Manuel Schleiffelder Mechatronik Fluggerätebau

Project partner

  • Marlies Arnhof
  • SpeedPox GmbH

Contact Address

Manuel Schleiffelder Mechatronik Fluggerätebau
Mag. Manuel Schleiffelder
Kirchstetterngasse 27 / H5
A-1160 Vienna