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Goddard Space Flight Center Engineering Colloquium

Date: Monday, November 24, 1997

Title: The Inflatable Antenna Space Flight Experiment

Speaker: Gordon Veal


The first inflatable structure in space was the Echo Balloon Satellite launched in 1960. In the time between the Echo and the Inflatable Antenna Experiment (IAE), almost all space inflatables have been decoys for ICBM re-entry vehicles (RV) or "targets" used to evaluate the ability of newly developed sensors to discriminate between decoys and real RVs. The majority of the inflatable decoys and targets flown were developed and manufactured by L'Garde, Inc. The development of the decoys and targets led to the realization that thin film inflatable structures could be manufactured with great precision. This precision, plus the small packaging volume and the inherent light weight of the inflatable structure appeared to be an ideal combination for large space reflectors for either RF applications or solar concentrators. The IAE flown on the Spartan 207 was designed to demonstrate the feasibility of this class of structures for space applications. In conjunction with the thin film development efforts, L'Garde began developing the inflatably deployed and rigidized structures necessary to support the large inflatable reflectors. These support structures are also applicable to solar arrays, synthetic aperture radars, sun shields and solar sails. The presentation will provide a more detailed description of these types of structures plus a short film on the IAE deployment.


Gordon Veal is the Director of Engineering at L'Garde, Inc. He has been developing inflatable structures for space applications since the late sixties when he became involved with the Inflatable Exoatmospheric Object (IEO) while an employee of Ford Aeronutronic. This was the first inflatable decoy and the first inflatable to fly after the ECHO balloon satellite. He continued his involvement with inflatables after joining L'Garde and was instrumental in developing large inflatable reflectors. This began with a feasibility study in 1984 using one meter units and continued through the 14 meter IAE for which he was the Principal Investigator. Currently he is developing methods to control deployment and developing inflatably deployed rigidizable materials. Mr. Veal received his Bachelors degree from Michigan State University and his Masters degree from the University of Southern California.

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