Modern Design with – Origami in Space

Ah, simplicity…sometimes so complex to achieve.

Designing technology for launch into space is an exacting and ever evolving enterprise. And these engineers and designers face the same problem we have when trying to squeeze that extra pair of shoes into our carry-on. A large piece of technology must fit onboard, and then be unpacked successfully when needed in space. The ancient craft of origami is providing intriguing solutions.

Researcher Brian Trease, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is exploring the use of something called the Miura Fold, named for its inventor, Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura. Instead of folding a sheet of paper again and again symmetrically into a square, which requires the reverse to unfold it, this series of straight and angled folds allows the folded paper to be unfurled with just a tug at one end. “If I was deploying [a solar panel] in space," Trease says, "I would only need one motor to do that deployment. That's the beauty of the design." Grad students at BYU have also been working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and origami expert Robert Lang on silicon solar panel arrays that can unfold to 10 times their travel size. BYU professor and research team leader Larry Howell, believes the sky is not the limit, “Origami could also be used for antennas, solar sails and even expandable nets used to catch asteroids.”  Watch the origami in action here: