In 2020, GTM-AS started the development of a new accessible and innovative hinge for deployment of solar arrays on CubeSats. The key elements of this hinge design are simplicity, accessibility, and scalability. This project is a collaboration between the design and engineering team at GTM-AS and an Industrial Design graduation student from Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.
Simplicity in assembling and mounting is at the core of the NextGen CubeSat hinge design, while operational functionality is still guaranteed. To make an automatic deployment possible, we took advantage of a new kind of application in which we combine the simplicity of a Tape Spring Hinge with the controllability of a regular cover hinge. With this design we eliminate the need for additional parts to keep the solar panel locked in its deployed position and the phenomenon of cold welding because there are no metal parts that move tightly together.
The GTM CubeSat hinge will be the first hinge operating in space that is made of PEEK plastic. This opens a new possibility in less time-consuming and more affordable manufacturing. With just 4 parts (fasteners exclusive), this hinge will be the simplest, lightest, and most affordable hinge available on the market.
CubeSats make space more accessible. More and more parts become widely approachable and available. By reducing the costs of CubeSat parts and selling them online, everyone can get access to the parts they need to build CubeSats for research and new appliances in space. The GTM CubeSat hinge is a perfect example of that. All hinges will be produced, assembled, and stacked in-house. They will be delivered to the customer pre-assembled, so the only thing they have to do, is mounting it between the CubeSat and the Solar panel
The GTM NextGen CubeSat hinge is designed to mount a single solar panel to each side of a 3U CubeSat with a Rails or Tabs structure. However, scalability is also a key feature we kept in mind. For bigger satellites, two or more hinges can be combined on each to side to support bigger solar panels. The hinge is made to (while mounted to the structure and solar panel) fit within the envelope of standard CubeSat deployers.