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In Situ Measurement of Carbon Fibre/Polyether Ether Ketone Thermal Expansion in Low Earth Orbit

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The low Earth orbit (LEO) environment exposes spacecraft to factors that can degrade the dimensional stability of the structure. Carbon Fibre/Polyether Ether Ketone (CF/PEEK) can limit such degradations. However, there are limited in-orbit data on the performance of CF/PEEK. Usage of small satellite as material science research platform can address such limitations. This paper discusses the design of a material science experiment termed material mission (MM) onboard Ten-Koh satellite, which allows in situ measurements of coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) for CF/PEEK samples in LEO. Results from ground tests before launch demonstrated the feasibility of the MM design. Analysis of in-orbit data indicated that the CTE values exhibit a non-linear temperature dependence, and there was no shift in CTE values after four months. The acquired in-orbit data was consistent with previous ground tests and in-orbit data. The MM experiment provides data to verify the ground test of CF/PEEK performance in LEO. MM also proved the potential of small satellite as a platform for conducting meaningful material science experiments.
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