Inflated space-based structures have become popular over the past three decades due to their minimal launch-mass and launch-volume. Once inflated, these space structures are subject to vibrations induced by guidance systems and space debris as well as from variable amounts of direct sunlight. Understanding the dynamic behavior of space-based structures is critical to ensuring their desired performance. Inflated materials, however, pose special problems when testing and trying to control their vibrations because of their lightweight, flexibility, and high damping. Traditional modal testing techniques, based on single-input, single-output (SISO) methods, are limited for a variety of reasons when compared to their multiple counterparts. More specifically, SISO modal testing techniques are unable to reliably distinguish between pairs of modes that are inherent to axi-symmetric structures (such as an inflated torus, a critical component of a gossamer spacecraft). Furthermore, it is questionable as to whether a single actuator could reliably excite the global modes of a true gossamer craft, such as a 25 m diameter torus. In this study, we demonstrate the feasibility of using a multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) modal testing technique on an inflated torus. In particular, the refined modal testing methodology focuses on using Macro-Fiber Composite (MFC®) patches (from NASA Langley Research Center) as both actuators and sensors. MFC® patches can be integrated in an unobtrusive way into the skin of the torus, and can be used to find a gossamer structure’s modal parameters. Furthermore, MFC® excitation produces less interference with suspension modes of the free-free torus than excitations from a conventional shaker. The use of multiple actuators is shown to properly excite the global modes of the structure and distinguish between pairs of modes at nearly identical resonant frequencies. Formulation of the MIMO test as well as the required postprocessing techniques are explained and successfully applied to an inflated Kapton® torus.

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