Single Wall Carbon Nanotube Wire Harness
There have been numerous studies in both the United States and Europe which have evaluated the total mass of cables, interface hardware, and connectors in comparison to the total dry mass of spacecraft.
Generally speaking the total harness mass is approximately 10% of that of the total spacecraft. The harness mass includes the power distribution cables (~25%), data transfer cables (~55%), and the mechanical fasteners and shielding (20%). If the wire associated with the solar panel interconnects were included, the harness mass is even a larger percentage of the total spacecraft mass.
Ironically, although these cables form a critical link between all the essential components of a modern spacecraft, a relatively small amount of work has been done to try and reduce this mass or improve the performance characteristics. We are working to create paradigm change in spacecraft harness materials through the utilization of carbon nanotubes. The high specific power and high current carrying capacity of carbon nanotubes make them very attractive candidates.
In addition, there are many ancillary properties associated with SWNTS which constitute tremendous advantages over current technology for spacecraft. SWNT ribbons have been shown to exhibit neutral temperature coefficients for electrical conductivity, high radiation tolerance, and excellent mechanical properties. SWNT bundles have been shown to have the highest mass specific tensile strength ever measured while remaining extraordinarily flexible.
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