Viscoelasticity, Numerical Modelling, Space Structures, Deployable Space Structures, Finite Element Analysis


The Habitable Worlds Telescope Starshade is an occulting disk that orbits in tandem with a telescope that occludes and diffuses the light from stars to observe the relatively dim exoplanets in orbit around them. It achieves this in part with tailored petals that diffuse light to soften the light from the star. Due to the relative sizes of the star and the planet, NASA considers the shape stability of the Starshade's petals to be a Key Technology Gap. The Starshade is developed to be a deployable composite structure that folds on itself to fit within modern rockets. Due to the nature of satellite launches, Starshade will sit in the stowed configuration for multiple years, during which the viscoelastic material properties of the materials that consist of the Starshade will deform in the structure and take an unknown time to recover fully. Thus, the need arises to understand Starshade's viscoelastic behavior through recovery after fully deploying. Starshade's Petals consists of a sandwich composite structure where multiple composite edges are joined together using a significantly less stiff adhesive that is comparably thicker than the individual Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic layers that consist of the composite edge. This could cause traditional modeling approaches to not fully capture the potential modes of relaxation in the structure, so a diagnostic model, referred to as the Phoenix Edge, is developed to compare different modeling techniques. After modeling techniques are validated against each other, they are applied to the NI2 Petal to predict the viscoelastic structural response through 6 months of recovery after three years of stowage in a furled configuration.

Completion Date




Committee Chair

Kwok, Kawai


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering; Mechanical Systems






In copyright

Release Date

May 2024

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Campus Location

Orlando (Main) Campus

Accessibility Status

Meets minimum standards for ETDs/HUTs