The purpose of this research is to investigate the use of compliant mechanisms in space applications and design, analyze, and test a compliant space mechanism. Current space mechanisms are already highly refined and it is unclear if significant improvements in performance can be made by continuing to refine current designs. Compliant mechanisms offer a promising opportunity to change the fundamental approach to achieving controlled motion in space systems and have potential for dramatic increases in mechanism performance given the constraints of the space environment. A compliant deployment hinge was selected for development after industry input was gathered. Concepts for large-displacement compliant hinges are investigated. A design process was developed that links the performance requirements of deployment to the design parameters of a deployment hinge. A large-displacement monolithic compliant rotational hinge, the Flex-16, is designed, analyzed, and tested. It was developed for possible application as a spacecraft deployment hinge and designs were developed using three different materials (polypropylene, titanium, and carbon nanotubes) and manufacturing processes (CNC milling, electron beam manufacturing metal rapid prototyping, and a carbon nanotube framework) on two size scales (macro and micro). A parametric finite element model allowed for prediction of prototype behavior before fabrication. The Flex-16 hinge is capable of 90 degrees of deflection without failure or contact and can be designed to meet industry requirements for space.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





compliant space mechanisms, compliant mechanisms, space mechanisms, deployment hinge, large displacement, monolithic, rotational joint