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LIQUIFER Systems Group Gmbh

Obere Donaustraße 97/1/62

1020 Vienna / Austria

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Deployable Structures for a Lunar Base

applied bionic concepts





Thales Alenia Apace, ESA – European Space Agency

Research institution

University of Technology, Vienna, Austria, Prof. Helmut Richter

Research team

Petra Gruber, Barbara Imhof, Heike Koch, Rene Waclavicek, Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger, Kürsad Özdemir with students, V. Kumer, B. Wisser, P. Mikolaicak, P. Pongratz, M. Schwarzgruber, V. Topaz, O. Wimmer


G. Jeronimidis & R. Bonser at the Centre for Biomimetics, University of Reading, UK


In late 2005, Alcatel Alenia Space awarded a contract to the Institute for Architecture and Design – HB 2 at the University of Technology Vienna to explore the possibilities for deployable structures derived from bionic concepts within the Lunar Exploration Architecture study.

The study “Deployable Structures for a Lunar Base” aimed at finding innovative solutions for deployment possibilities.  Translating folding/unfolding principles from nature, candidate geometries were developed and researched using models, drawings and visualizations.  The use of materials, joints between structural elements, and construction details were investigated for these conceptual approaches.

Reference scenarios were used to identify the technical and environmental conditions which served as design drivers, and mechanical issues and the investigation of deployment processes narrowed the selection down to six chosen concepts.  The applicability was evaluated at a conceptual stage in relation to the timescale of the mission.

Where human experience is limited, models from nature can deliver solutions exceeding the imagination of technicians and engineers.  For the successful transfer of natural principles into technical application however, the problem of scaling must be overcome.  Bionic terrestrial models are often smaller than their technical / architectural interpretations and the deadweight which results in the latter limits the resizing.  Therefore a partial gravity environment, such as the Moon, is advantageous for the application of those concepts.  In this study we concentrated our effort into “folding/unfolding” techniques.

The Department of Design and Building Construction has been active in the research of biometrics and space design since the year 2000, developing interdisciplinary design programs.  The experience of these students’ projects and the collection of candidate bionic role models served as a base for the study.

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image courtest of HB2, University of Technology, Vienna