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  • CubeSat Unfolding Solar Sail

    P18101, from left to right: Eric Pareis, Michael Berezny, Victor Braescu and Andrew Lewis

    The final design, when attached to a control unit, could be used for cases including studying the effects of propulsion on the sail due to photon impact, altitude control, or attaching to space debris and deorbiting it. In the future, this control unit, which could collect data and control sail orientation, can be added when the mechanism is integrated into a 3U CubeSat. In addition, while the functional prototype utilizes common materials like tape measures and mylar blankets, the final mechanism could instead use more exotic materials like TRAC booms and specially crafted mylar sheets, enabling scaling the design to a larger area sail as desired.

    Rotating Mounting Plate The gyroscopic mounting plate allows for

    implementation of sail orientation

    Geneva Cam Prevents unwanted rotation in the

    deployment mechanism

    Simplified Frame Design Fewer individual designs and less

    complicated assembly

    This project aimed to create a deployable solar sail within a 2U CubeSat frame. This collaborative effort with RIT’s Space Exploration team allows for reorientation of the sail after deployment, as well as partial retraction of the sail.

    Acknowledgments & Thanks: Thanks go out to Chris Leibfried, Elizabeth DeBartolo, the RIT MECE Machine Shop, as well as James Parkus, and RIT Space Exploration for their continued support of this project.

    Funding provided by RIT Multidisciplinary Senior Design, RIT Space Exploration, and Boeing.

    Space background image courtesy of Nova Next (

    For more in-depth information about

    this project, visit the team’s Edge page

    using the QR code:

    Multiple test designs were constructed via 3D printing and traditional manufacturing methods, while the final model was constructed from 6061 aluminum. Rigorous testing was done on numerous aspects of the design such as sail folding patterns, boom marking methods, sail attachment points, and functionality of the other crucial subsystems listed below. The final frame design, which was designed in cooperation with the RIT Space Exploration team, had waterjet cut components, and the internal components were manufactured via numerous methods within the RIT MECE Machine Shop.

    Use Cases and Future Work

    Prototyping and Testing

    Performance Requirements and Concept Generation

    Faculty Advisor: Mihail Barbosu | MSD Guide: Arthur North

    Performance criteria included: • Sail deployment time • Ease of assembly • Manufacturing complexity • Moment generation • Volume less than 20x10x10 cm3

    • Mass less than 2.66 kg

    Multiple concepts were generated from performance criteria, some more exotic than others. From left to right: • Geared deployment mechanism • Spiral unfolding motorized drive • Telescoping boom design • Memory metal mesh-enforced sail

    Deployment Mechanism Concept Drawings

    3D Printed Deployment Mechanism Prototype Construction Process of Large Sail Quadrant

    CAD Model of Final Design

    Major Components of Final Design


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