NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a new method for bonding dissimilar materials using an elastic adhesive to permit the bond to withstand variations in temperature and pressure. Specifically, NASA uses this method to provide a >98% specular finish on composite materials that is proven capable of withstanding ultraviolet solar radiation exposure in a vacuum and thermal cycling from –115 °C to +65 °C, as well as meeting outgassing requirement limits of 1%.
The use of an elastic adhesive overcomes previous problems associated with large differences in the thermal expansion coefficient between dissimilar materials. The new method uses a combination of thermally and chemically stable materials to withstand large thermal shock loads. This innovation makes use of aluminized Kapton film, such as is normally used in fabricating thermal blankets for spaceflight hardware. The smooth finish and aluminum coating of the Kapton film provide the specularity.
This technology is broadly applicable to any application requiring lightweight mirrors or reflectors.