Flexible heat shields deployed by centrifugal force

Rui Wu, Peter Roberts, Constantinos Soutis, Carl Diver

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    519 Downloads (Pure)


    Atmospheric entry aerodynamic decelerators which also provide thermal protection do not scale well for smaller payloads (e.g. CubeSat) or where the planets atmosphere is significantly less dense than the Earth's (e.g. Mars entry). Both cases require heat shields larger than can be accommodated either within the launch vehicle fairing, or within acceptable payload volumes, so deployable shields are required. Unlike previous designs proposed to fulfil this requirement like inflatable structures or deployable solid mechanisms, the presented research addresses this by utilising inertial force, or specifically, centrifugal force generated from autorotation to deploy and stiffen a flexible heat shield. Structural dynamic analyses including the trajectory simulation on a CubeSat sized system has shown that the autorotation and deployment form a closed loop which reliably leads to an equilibrium of deployment, while the heat shield is near fully deployed at altitudes higher than 30 km with tolerable spin rate (<6 rps) and oscillation. Thermal analysis suggests that a front surface temperature reduction of 100 K is achievable on a CubeSat sized vehicle as unlike inflatable structures, no thermal insulation is needed around the flexible material. This design concept can realise a lightweight, compact and concise entry system.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)78-87
    Number of pages10
    JournalActa Astronautica
    Early online date20 Jul 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


    • Aeroelastic oscillation
    • Centrifugal deployment
    • Deployable aerodynamic decelerator
    • Entry vehicle
    • Heat shield
    • Morphing
    • Origami
    • Thermal protection


    Dive into the research topics of 'Flexible heat shields deployed by centrifugal force'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this