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Geometry Attained by Pressurized Membranes

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An intensive investigation has been carried out to study the surface profiles obtained as a result of the large deformations of pressurized membranes. The study shows that the inflated membrane shapes may have the requisite surface accuracy for use in future large space apertures. Both analytical and experimental work have been carried out. On the analytical side, the classical work of Hencky on flat circular membranes was extended to eliminate the limitations it imposed namely a lateral non-follower pressure with no pre-stress. The result is a computer program for the solution of the pressurized circular membrane problem.5 The reliability of the computer program is demonstrated via verification against FAIM, a nonlinear finite element solver developed primarily for the analysis of inflated membrane shapes. The experimental work includes observations made by Veal11 on the W-shaped deviations between the membrane deflected shape and the predicted profile. More recent measurements have been made of the deformations of pressurized flat circular and parabolic membranes using photogrammetric techniques. The surface error quantification analyses include the effect of material properties, geometric properties effect of seams, loading uncertainties, and boundary conditions. These effects are very easily handled by the special FEM ccFAIM which had recently been enhanced to predict the on-orbit dynamics, RF, and solar concentration characteristics of inflatable parabolic antennasreflectors such as the IAE Inflatable Antenna Experiment that flew off the space shuttle Endeavour in May 1996. The results of measurements have been compared with analyses and their ramifications on precision-shape, large-aperture parabolic space reflectors are discussed.

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  • Structural Engineering and Building Technology

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