High-temp composite replaces titanium on Nasa’s Shuttle successor

TenCate Advanced Composites developed a heat resistant composite material that is being used to provide a heat shield and backshell structure of the Lockheed Martin Orion multi-purpose manned spacecraft, currently being tested and developed by Nasa.

The composite material has replaced what was initially earmarked to be a fully titanium structure, used to provide shielding to the space capsule during re-entry.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems thermal protection group worked closely with TenCate Advanced Composites to develop the special heat resistant composite resin for the 5m diameter heat shield that will protect crew during the capsules re-entry.

The successful launch and subsequent re-entry last month of Orion multi-purpose development vehicle saw the material validated.

Steve Mead, Vice President of marketing and sales at TenCate Advanced Composites said: "The flight represents the culmination of a five year development and qualification effort for a suite of materials used in this extreme application. Further, as a result of the heat shield's large size and thickness, the advanced composites used had to achieve high consolidation using only a low pressure vacuum bag only process."

The Orion spacecraft is a multi-stage to orbit rocket that will replace the now retired Shuttle. It is due for manned launch in 2018 and is hoped to allow a mission to Mars by 2025.

Justin Cunningham

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