Manning the lifeboats – for space

Some remarkable developments of aerospace devices, based on advanced flexible materials, are now hitting the heights

An Anglo-Italian company is developing a flexible planetary re-entry lifeboat and inflatable space module - as well as products for slightly more down-to-earth applications.

Aero Sekur, which undertakes its manufacturing and R&D in Italy, produces parachutes, flotation air bags and fuel tanks. But the company is also engaged in developing a flexible fabric lifeboat for space vehicles, called the SPacecrew Emergency Module (SPEM), in light of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003.

The design that Eureka saw at Farnborough International Airshow was made out of a complex laminate of materials, capable of withstanding the heat of re-entry on its underside. According to Aero Sekur CEO Mark Butler, a flexible, inflatable heat shield is deployed, at an altitude of 100km. “This allows the capsule to slow down significantly as it crosses the upper layers of the atmosphere,” he says.

Author
Tom Shelley

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