A seminal event for space-based communications occurred over four decades ago with the Echo series of satellites (Fig. 1). Echo 1 was an approximately 30.5-m diameter balloon made of 0.0127-mm thick Mylar polyester film, carrying a set of 107.9-MHz beacon transmitters for telemetry. In 1996, NASA launched from the Space Shuttle Endeavor the Inflatable Antenna Experiment, an approximately 14-m diameter by 30-m long antenna (Fig. 2). Today, a resurgence of interest in large, ultra-lightweight gossamer spacecraft is developing, due to their potential for reduced launch mass and stowed volume [Jenkins (Ed.), 2001]. Applications for gossamer technology range from planar configurations in solar sails, concentrators, and shields, to inflatable lenticulars for radar, radio, and optical uses [Chmielewski and Jenkins, 2000]. Imaging and communication applications require precision gossamer apertures (PGAs).
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