Carbon Nanostructure Fibers Boost NASA Spacecraft

Lockheed Martin subsidiary’s new technology protects key system for Juno’s six-year mission to explore Jupiter

 

file Lockheed Martin subsidiary Applied NanoStructured Solutions produced the carbon nanostructure-infused fiber used to make contoured supports that prevent thermal blanketing from interfering with Juno’s solar array support mechanisms.Photo courtesy of NASA.

From memory foam mattresses and infrared ear thermometers to fuel cells and corrosion preventing coatings, hundreds of everyday products originated from technology initially developed for NASA’s space programs. Another innovative technology with broad potential lifted off recently with the launch of NASA’s Juno satellite.

Applied NanoStructured Solutions, LLC (ANS), a Lockheed Martin company, produced the carbon nanostructure-infused fiber used to make contoured supports to prevent thermal blanketing from interfering with the three solar array support mechanisms. The supports also provide an electrostatic discharge path. During its five-year journey to Jupiter, the Lockheed Martin-made Juno spacecraft will rely on solar energy to power it computers and instruments.

Juno lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5. The probe covered the 250,000 miles to the moon’s orbit in one day and will take another five years and 1,740 million miles to reach Jupiter, the solar systems’ largest planet and 10 times the size of Earth.  Juno will orbit Jupiter 33 times over the course of a year to study the planet’s origin and evolution in hopes of learning more about our solar system.

Scalable to meet large-volume production demands, the strong, lightweight carbon nanostructure-infused fibers provide mechanical properties along with multi-functionality such as customizable electrical and thermal conductivity. They could potentially replace materials and systems in commercial and defense applications.

The carbon nanostructure-infused composite supports reduce Juno’s weight by incorporating several separate functions into the structure itself. The carbon nanostructure composite material’s conductive properties provide an electrostatic discharge path, electromagnetic shielding and electrical grounding for the electronics, eliminating the added weight of separate systems. ANS provided the materials to Lockheed Martin Space Systems, who used standard composite manufacturing processes and tooling to mold the supports.

“This marks the first demonstration of carbon nanostructure-infused, multi-functional composite material on space platforms. These materials are an attractive alternative to existing composites, which only perform a single function,” said Tushar Shah, chief technology officer for ANS.  “It is a great achievement by the ANS engineering team to go from idea conception to deploying a next generation material in space in four years.”