Yes – you read that correctly. Fabric in outer Space!
Space- it’s the final frontier, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration just sent a mechanical robot into orbit around the earth to round up data about the planet’s soil moisture. Nasa’s soil Misture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite has three pain parts: a radiometer, a radar, and the largest rotating mesh antenna ever deployed in space. The radar transmits microwaves from the antenna that pierce the soil, and the radiometer detects the differences in returning waves that tell NASA about moisture content in the soil. To extract data from the entire planet, the mesh antenna rotates around an extended arm. This gives it it’s nickname – the spinning lasso.
The Astro Aerospace’s SMAP has an antenna made of proprietary fabric called AstroMesh. It is made up of fine, molybdenum wire coated with gold. The wire, made into tricot knit mesh on a large-width knitting machine, has electrical, thermal and radio frequency-reflective properties that fit the mission of reflecting microwaves to the earth’s surface. The Mesh antenna was stowed like a closed umbrella and successfully deployed after orbit on a huge boom unfolded robotically. This mesh is stretched across a carbon perimeter structure until it looks like a huge tambourine. It rotates to project radio frequencies down to the earths surface, while the continuous orbit allows for mapping all along SMAPs trajectory.
All that being said, it’s pretty cool if you ask us!