Advanced Large Precision Structures (ALPS) Laboratory

Starshade Perimeter Truss with demonstration petals, installed on gravity compensation fixture in the Advanced Large Precision Structures (ALPS) Laboratory.  The 10 m truss is half-scale for a 20 m perimeter truss supporting a 34 m starshade.  The entire system stows for launch and then unfurls to the required profile for starlight suppression and exoplanet detection/characterization.

The Advanced Deployable Structures Group operates the ALPS Laboratory to support a variety of technology development needs for precision space structures.  A key current activity is the design, fabrication, and testing of mechanical systems in support of the JPL Starshade, a deployable flower-shaped occulter for exoplanet discovery and characterization.  The ALPS laboratory supports precision testing for a variety of aperture technologies, including UV, Optical, IR, and RF reflectors.  Additional technology development activities include support for the large deployable structures on both the SWOT and NISAR missions, as well as active reflector systems for wavefront sensing and control.


The facility includes:

  •      NASA Exoplanet Starshade Deployment Testbed
  •      Precision Environment Test Enclosure (PETE)


The precision systems developed in the ALPS Laboratory include systems at the CubeSat scale (50cm apertures stowed in a satellite that measures 10x20x30cm in size), to the Starshade scale (34m aperture that stows into a 4m cylinder for launch).


JPL Precision Environment Test Enclosure (PETE): 
Top: CAD view of the PETE inside Advanced Large Precision Structures (ALPS) Laboratory
Bottom: Photograph of PETE with 8m deployable structure

The ALPS Laboratory enables the development and testing of precision structures, with specific applications for:

  • Electromechanical and optical systems
  • Rigidizable and inflatable structures
  • Lightweight mechanical structures
  • Large aperture support structures
  • Novel packaging/deployment concepts for CubeSat systems
  • Large, lightweight, deployable structural systems such as RF antennas, sunshields, solar arrays, occulters, decelerator systems, and solar sails


The Precision Environment Test Enclosure (PETE) is a separate facility in the ALPS Laboratory:

  • 10m x 5m x 3m test enclosure, mounted on isolator bearings.  The PETE has structural mount points on walls and ceiling suitable for gravity offload systems, with a reinforced floor grid.
  • Provides thermal (<0.01 deg C per hr) and seismic (< 0.0001 G rms) and acoustic (< 35 dBA) stability for precision testing.
  • Dedicated metrology systems for the characterization of test hardware.


Personnel / Contacts: 
  • Case Bradford (818.393.2793)