Integrated Ceramic Matrix Composite-Carbon/Carbon Structures for Large Rocket Engine Nozzles and Nozzle Extensions

The material system could be used in rocket propulsion components in which temperature, environmental reactivity, and economy are increasingly demanding.

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

Low-cost access to space demands durable, cost-effective, efficient, and low-weight propulsion systems. Key components include boost and upper stage rocket engine nozzles and extensions. Nozzle material options include ablatives, actively cooled alloys, and radiation-cooled composites and metals, each of which has known limitations. Metallic nozzles have high density and limited temperature capability. Carbon/carbon (C/C) is an attractive alternative, but has manufacturability, oxidation resistance, and joining ability concerns.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Product development, Ceramics, Composite materials, Nozzles, Rocket engines
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Aromatic Thermosetting coPolyester (ATSP) Composites for High-Temperature and Cryogenic Applications

This family of polymers has utility in diverse applications ranging from structural composites to circuit boards, wear-resistant coatings, and rigid structural foams.

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

Advanced composite materials processable by cost-effective manufacturing play an important role in developing lightweight structures for future space and planetary exploration missions. With the growing demand for improved performance in the aerospace sector, advances in polymer systems with extreme thermomechanical properties are critical in providing excellent retention of performance in high-temperature environments, and high resistance to microcracking at cryogenic temperatures.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Composite materials, Polymers, Lightweighting
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Ultralow-Temperature-Operable Solid Propellant Binder

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama

A unique binder was developed that exhibits a glass transition temperature of –100 °C, which is more than 50 °C lower than that of traditional HTPB (hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene) and CTPB (carboxyl-terminated polybutadiene) binders. This innovation would be a solid propellant that would ameliorate low-temperature operability problems for the two-stage Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Cold weather, Solid propellants, Spacecraft fuel
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Carbon Nanotube-Assisted Microwave Healing of Thermally Re-Mendable Composites

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

A method creates thermally healable composites using carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotube microwave heating provides a pathway to overcome issues associated with electrical resistive heating networks. Carbon nanotubes embedded within a thermally reversible polymer can be heated by direct exposure to a microwave source. The heat generated by the nanotubes can drive the thermally reversible polymerization of the matrix. Because the microwave source can be focused, the composite can be locally heated at the point of damage thereby reducing the energy requirements for thermal healing. The carbon nanotubes can conform to any shape, allowing the manufacture of complex shapes without concern of damaging the heating network.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Composite materials, Nanotechnology, Radiation
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Aluminoborosilicate Supplement for Thermal Protection of a Re-entrant Vehicle

This material can be used in aircraft, turbine engines, automobiles, and any application that requires thermal protection surfaces.

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

The Toughened Uni-piece Fibrous Reinforced Oxidation-Resistant Com posite (TUFROC) allows for much more affordable and sustainable operations involving Space Launch Services and other systems that utilize Earth reentry vehicles. TUFROC has an exposed surface design and appropriate materials combination that will allow a space vehicle to survive both the mechanical stresses of the initial ascent, and the extreme heating and stress of re-entry. It provides a thermal protection tile attachment system that is suitable for application to a space vehicle leading edge, and for other uses in extreme heating environments (up to 3600 °F, and possibly higher, for short time intervals).

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Thermal management, Composite materials, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft
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Processing and Manufacture of Inorganic-Organic Hybrid Syntactic Structural Cryogenic Insulator

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Reducing the cost and weight of launch structures is essential to meeting NASA goals for reliable access to space. Currently, separate systems are used for structure and pressure containment, cryogenic insulation, and high-temperature insulation. One way of reducing this cost and weight is through the development of multifunctional materials that can eliminate parasitic weight. Combining two functional components — structure and insulation — reduces weight and structural complexity, which usually is akin to fragility in the system, and minimizes the need for parasitic thermal protection and insulation systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Composite materials, Insulation, Launch vehicles, Lightweighting
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Multifunctional Ablative Thermal Protection System

This material has applications in aerospace systems, manufacturing, and structural components requiring three-dimensional reinforcement.

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

The Orion crew module highlighting the compression pads in the heat shield.

NASA has developed a unique and robust multifunctional material called 3-Dimensional Multifunctional Ablative (3DMAT) Thermal Protection System (TPS) that meets both the structural and thermal performance needs for a lunar return mission and beyond. 3DMAT uses a game-changing woven technology tailored to the needs of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) compression pad. Compression pads serve as the interface between the crew module and service module of the Orion MPCV. The compression pads must carry the structural loads generated during launch, space operations, and pyroshock separation of the two modules. They must also serve as an ablative TPS withstanding the high heating of Earth re-entry. 3DMAT leverages NASA’s investment in woven TPS to design, manufacture, test, and demonstrate a prototype material for the Orion compression pads that combines the weaving of quartz yarns with resin transfer molding.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Thermal management, Fibers, Resins, Entry, descent, and landing, Launch vehicles
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Hierarchical Support for Nanocatalysts

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

This work focused on enhancing catalyst activity and durability by developing a method to control size, dispersion, and exposure. Existing nanocatalysts are typically fabricated in bulk or powder form. There are monolithic catalysts, but they rely on meso-porous materials as supports. Bulk nanocatalysts suffer from a lack of complete exposure to reagents, counteracting the benefits of the nanoparticles. Catalysts upon meso-porous support have limited exposure due to diffusion distances through the porous support. This requires higher catalyst loading, and may lead to particle coalescence and deactivation.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Catalysts, Nanomaterials
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Control of Carbon Nanotube Density and Tower Height in an Array

Applications include high-density semiconductor chips, and heat dissipation and thermal conduction in personal computers, smartphones, and televisions.

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

Use of arrays of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as an intermediary for transport of electrical particles (e.g., electrons) and/or transport of thermal energy from one body to another has grown. For example, a CNT array may be used for dissipation of thermal energy or accumulated electrical charge associated with operation of an electronics device or system. However, the device or system may require use of different CNT array densities in various regions because of differing transport requirements.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Electronic equipment, Nanotechnology, Semiconductors
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In-Situ Chemical Analysis of Material Surfaces

Composition by freezing uses laser ablation and laser ionization mass spectrometry for detection of chemical, pharmaceutical, biotech, and hazardous materials.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

In order to understand whether the ablation laser would cause chemical reactions within the trapped organic molecules during resonant laser ablation of water ice containing organic molecules, a two-layer approach was devised. The first layer consisted of D2O ice containing organics that are inactive for the laser wavelength used (2.94 microns), and shown not to ablate under these conditions. When an additional layer of H2O ice was deposited on top of the D2O layer, both H2O and D2O layers, and the organics embedded in the D2O layer, became ablated due to resonant excitation of the H2O ice layer that transferred energy to the D2O layer. This showed that the organic matter is not damaged.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Lasers, Water, Chemicals, Hazardous materials, Test equipment and instrumentation, Test procedures
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