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News > Deployable Boom Successfully Unfurls
Jeremy Banik, program manager and co-inventor of the TRAC boom, with a TRAC mast.  (AFRL Image)
Jeremy Banik, program manager and co-inventor of the TRAC boom, with the slender, 13-foot TRAC mast, fabricated at Kirtland Air Force Base. (AFRL Image)
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Deployable Boom Successfully Unfurls

Posted 1/9/2012   Updated 1/11/2012 Email story   Print story


by Eva Blaylock, AFRL/RVOT
Space Vehicles

1/9/2012 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico -- The Air Force Research Laboratory's deployable boom experiment was successfully unfurled in low-Earth orbit, or LEO, from NASA's NanoSail-D satellite on Jan. 20, 2011. This is the first in-orbit deployment of the Triangular Rollable And Collapsible (TRAC) boom, and the first deployment of a 100-square-foot solar sail using these booms.

When collapsed, the four 7-foot long TRAC booms and the deployment mechanism are the size of a few slices of bread, or 4x4x2 inches. In five seconds, the booms expand into a radial pattern large enough to support the thin 100-square-foot polymer sheet.

The mission of the sail is to investigate the possibility of using a highly compact solar sail package to de-orbit old satellites. According to the NASA mission team, the solar sail will remain in LEO between 70 and 120 days depending on the atmospheric conditions.

"The TRAC boom experiment was a great success in demonstrating this unique stored-strain-energy, free-deployment approach as viable for unfolding large, thin, planar payloads from very small spacecraft packages," said Jeremy Banik, program manager and co-inventor of the TRAC boom. Thomas Murphey is the other co-inventor, and the device has been licensed to NeXolve Corporation.
Recently, the longest TRAC mast, with a length of 13 feet, was successfully fabricated in-house at Kirtland Air Force Base. The slender mast can be rolled to a mere 1¾-inch diameter spool (about the size of a roll of quarters), along with three other identical masts.

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