In-Space Manufacturing of Large Electrostatically Actuated Mesh Reflectors

September 6, 2023 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm America/New York Timezone

This Chapter Meeting has been changed to VIRTUAL Only!

Antennas and Propagation and Microwave Theory and Techniques Societies, co-sponsoring Life Members

Zoom link will be sent to those who register.

Speaker:  Zack Cordero of MIT

Large reflectors in space (>30 m diameter) can enable advances in communications, remote sensing, and astronomy, by enabling antennas with increased gain, resolution, and bandwidth. However, modern deployable reflectors exhibit a decrease in performance as their diameter increases, due to fabrication errors, slewing, and disturbances on orbit, such as thermal distortion, which decrease surface precision. A potential solution to achieve larger apertures with high precision is to combine in-space manufacturing (ISM) with active control. Herein we demonstrate a reflector concept which combines a candidate ISM process called Bend-Forming with electrostatic actuation to achieve closed-loop control of the reflector surface. We design and fabricate a 1-meter diameter prototype of an electrostatically actuated X-band reflector, using a knitted gold-molybdenum mesh as the reflector surface, carbon fiber-reinforced plastic booms as electrodes, and a truss support structure fabricated with Bend-Forming (a deformation process for constructing trusses from wire feedstock). To characterize the performance of this prototype, we measure its radiation patterns at X-band in an RF anechoic chamber. We successfully demonstrate 1) the stabilization of a pull-in instability with closed-loop control, and 2) beam steering of up to 4.2 degrees with asymmetric electrostatic actuation. Our reflector prototype highlights the opportunities of implementing electrostatically-actuated reflector antennas in space.

Zack Cordero of MIT


Zack Cordero is the Boeing Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT where he leads the Aerospace Materials and Structures Laboratory. He received an SB in physics and a PhD in materials science and engineering from MIT. Prior to joining the MIT faculty, Zack held appointments as a postdoctoral fellow in the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and as an assistant professor in the Materials Science and NanoEngineering department at Rice University. Zack’s research at MIT integrates materials processing, mechanics of materials, and structural design to develop new materials and structures for launch vehicles and spacecraft. In addition to his research, he is passionate about hands-on education for engineering students and has developed courses that integrate machine design, materials selection, and manufacturing to train the next generation of aerospace engineers. His website is