Origami … in Space!

Manan Arya (PhD ’16) had a space problem. The problem? When you want to send something into outer space, taking up as little space as possible is a big deal.

The logistics of rocket flight limit both a payload’s weight and its volume. The trick is fitting a lot of stuff into a tiny package. This challenge occupied Arya’s mind while he worked as a graduate student in the lab of Sergio Pellegrino, Caltech’s Joyce and Kent Kresa Professor of Aeronautics and professor of civil engineering.

Arya’s task was to uber-efficiently package structures that can be deployed in space to capture solar power. The surface area of each structure needs to be giant to soak up the maximum amount of sunlight. But it needs to take up minimal space en route. An artist at heart, Arya turned to the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding for inspiration as well as meditative diversion.

And his breakthrough came when he decided to break the rules.

In this video, Arya (today a technologist at JPL) recalls his childhood dream of traveling into space, the joy of becoming a Caltech student, and his space-saving aha moment.


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