Gossamer Systems - Analysis and Design


An evolving trend in spacecraft is to exploit very small (micro- and nano-sats) or very large (solar sails, antenna, etc.) configurations. In either case, success will depend greatly on of ultra-lightweight technology, i.e., “gossamer systems technology.” Areal densities of less than 1 kg/m2 (perhaps even down to 1 g/m2!) will need to be achieved.
This course will provide the engineer, project manager, and mission planner with the basic knowledge necessary to understand and successfully utilize this emerging technology. Definitions, terminology, basic mechanics and materials issues, testing, design guidelines, and mission applications will be discussed. A textbook and course notes will be provided.

Key Topics:

  • Introduction to gossamer systems
  • Analysis techniques for gossamer spacecraft
  • Materials development for gossamer spacecraft
  • Design and testing of gossamer spacecraft
  • Applications of gossamer systems
  • Status and future of gossamer systems

Who Should Attend:

This course will be of interest to aerospace, electrical, and mechanical engineers, material scientists, astronomers and physicists, project managers, and mission planners involved in space technology.

Course Information:

Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Course Length: 2 days
AIAA CEU's available: Yes


I. Introduction to gossamer systems
A. Motivation and history
B. Unique characteristics, definitions, and terminology

II. Analysis techniques for gossamer spacecraft
A. Membrane mechanics
B. Large deformation problems
C. Wrinkling analysis and finite element analysis

III. Materials development for gossamer spacecraft
A. Material requirements, space environmental issues
B. Polymeric materials
C. Rigidizable materials

IV. Design of gossamer spacecraft
A. Design of compliant structures
B. Shape achievement and control
C. Long-term durability issues

V. Testing of gossamer spacecraft
A. Static and dynamic mechanical testing
B. Deployment testing
C. Performance testing

VI. Applications of gossamer systems
A. Radio/radar
B. Optics
C. Solar sails
D. Solar concentrators and shades
E. Lunar and planetary applications

VII. Status and future of gossamer systems
A. Current and future science applications
B. Current and defense applications



Dr. Christopher Jenkins, PhD, PE is Head of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at Montana State University. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of compliant structures, gossamer spacecraft, and bio-inspired engineering. He has co-authored over 190 technical publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. Dr. Jenkins has edited several research monographs and published two textbooks, including the new Bio-Inspired Engineering. An Associate Fellow of AIAA, he has taught the popular Gossamer Spacecraft professional development course.



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