Cardboard for NASA

THE CHALLENGE: Origami Space Recycled

Design and model (virtually, with paper or 3D printed) the packaging of key mission components for size constrained spacecraft to minimize stowed volume, but maximize capabilities.


This project is a solution to the Origami Space Recycled challenge. The solution was allowed to be designed and modeled with paper, and we selected a specific type of paper: cardboard. Cardboard saved lives of Apollo 13 crew, while poor packaging killed Komarov, the first human casualty in space.

Even ordinary cardboard can be made fire-resistant if fire retardants are added to it. Cardboard can also be coated with protective layer, for example, of airgel, a material created by NASA. Aerogel coated cardboard almost does not burn. A welding torch with a temperature of 3 or 4 thousand degrees could not ignite it for 3 minutes.

Another reason why the packaging becomes more important is a new generation of satellites and space crafts, which will be produced from conventional aluminum and not the expensive alloys that are qualified for launching from Earth. Components of the new generation space vehicles will be packed in special containers, and these containers need to be fit for launch.

We offer multi-layered packaging based on cardboard. This double protection includes three-layer cardboard and three layers of packaging made of cardboard. The inner layer will be made of cells. On board, the space crew can use the cells to create personal structures (like open office space). It can be used to build flexible walls, behind which equipment can be stored (so that it does not fly away). And after the arrival to Mars the crew can make comfortable furniture - chairs, tables, cabinets and beds.

The world produces a lot of products made of cardboard. Eco-friendly furniture is made of it on Earth. On Mars, the weight is less, so this furniture will be durable. It consists of the identical parts, so you can easily replace them. No additional weight - it's just packaging. On the site it would be cut along the cutting lines. You can bind cardboard products using cardboard couplings.

Finally, condensation is easily absorbed by such materials, and if something still gets glued to them - as we have said, it is not always possible to calculate all risks - packaging would be partially destroyed, the inner layer comes off, much better than the jammed parachute.

(Please see more detail in the solution video above and the prototype video also referred to in the github project)

Resources Used

Images from and other sites are used in the solution video, with no commercial intention implied

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