Abstract Paraboloidal membrane shells of revolution are commonly used as key components for advanced aerospace structures and aviation mechanical systems. Due to their high flexibility and low damping property, active vibration control is of significant importance for these in-orbit membrane structures. To explore the dynamic control behavior of space flexible paraboloidal membrane shells, precision distributed actuation and control effectiveness of free-floating paraboloidal membrane shells with piezoelectric actuators are investigated. Governing equations of the shell structronic system are presented first. Then, distributed control forces and control actions are formulated. A transverse mode shape function of the paraboloidal shell based on the membrane approximation theory and specified boundary condition is assumed in the modal control force analysis. The actuator induced modal control forces on the paraboloidal shell are derived. The expressions of microscopic local modal control forces are obtained by shrinking the actuator area into infinitesimal and the four control components are investigated respectively to predict the spatial microscopic actuation behavior. Geometric parameter (height-radius ratio and shell thickness) effects on the modal actuation behavior are explored when evaluating the micro-control efficiency. Four different cases are discussed and the results reveal the fact that shallow (e.g., antennas/reflectors) and deep (e.g., rocket/missile fairing) paraboloidal shells exhibit totally different modal actuation behaviors due to their curvature differences. Analytical results in this paper can serve as guidelines for optimal actuator placement for vibration control of different paraboloidal structures. Highlights Paraboloidal membrane shells of different geometric parameters are investigated and compared. Modal microscopic control effect and the contributing components are explored. Curvature and flexural rigidity effects on modal actuation behavior of the paraboloidal shells are investigated. Analyses provide guidelines for optimal actuator placement on different paraboloidal shells.
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