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Rev Sci Instrum. 2013 Jan;84(1):015005. doi: 10.1063/1.4776203.

Development of a non-explosive release actuator using shape memory alloy wire.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, 305-701, Guseong-dong, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, South Korea.


We have developed a newly designed non-explosive release actuator that can replace currently used release devices. The release mechanism is based on a separation mechanism, which relies on segmented nuts and a shape memory alloy (SMA) wire trigger. A quite fast and simple trigger operation is made possible through the use of SMA wire. This actuator is designed to allow a high preload with low levels of shock for the solar arrays of medium-size satellites. After actuation, the proposed device can be easily and instantly reset. Neither replacement, nor refurbishment of any components is necessary. According to the results of a performance test, the release time, preload capacity, and maximum shock level are 50 ms, 15 kN, and 350 G, respectively. In order to increase the reliability of the actuator, more than ten sets of performance tests are conducted. In addition, the proposed release actuator is tested under thermal vacuum and extreme vibration environments. No degradation or damage was observed during the two environment tests, and the release actuator was able to operate successfully. Considering the test results as a whole, we conclude that the proposed non-explosive release actuator can be applied reliably to intermediate-size satellites to replace existing release systems.

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