TenCate Aerospace Composites USA has been involved as a partner of Lockheed Martin in the development of a series of prepreg systems as the basis for the heat shield for the spacecraft Orion. The new resin system enables simpler and more efficient production techniques.
NASA has contracted Lockheed Martin to build the space vehicle as part of the Constellation programme, which includes a mission to the Moon. TenCate Aerospace Composites USA was asked to develop a series of combinable film adhesives, resins, couplings and microcapsule-filled composite foam products. In this respect the company can benefit from its fifteen-year experience with out-of-autoclave processes (such as resin injection technology) for the production of composite materials for aircraft, satellite and radar dome constructions. For some time now, TenCate Aerospace Composites USA has been involved in developing materials and components that can withstand exceptionally high temperatures and the erosive effect of a space flight for example.
In partnership with TenCate Aerospace Composites, Lockheed Martin has developed a new resin system for the Constellation programme. In comparison with other high-temperature resin systems, this resin system enables much simpler and more efficient manufacturing techniques. It has the potential to be used in a wide range of commercial applications, including aircraft, launch vehicles, re-entry vehicles, automobiles and payload fairings for lorries. The Lockheed Martin team that developed the exploration vehicle for the Orion crew also built the heat shield. It was unveiled on 1 March in Denver (Colorado, USA). With a diameter of 5 metres, this shield is the largest of its kind in the world.
The shield is lifted from the mould
According to Frank Lee, director research & technology of TenCate Aerospace Composites USA, we are talking here of ‘a highly demanding application. The cooperation with Lockheed Martin has resulted in the development of materials that satisfy the stringent demands applicable to a space flight and which can withstand the heat on re-entering the atmosphere. It is chiefly important that the materials are optimally suitable for large-scale production of composite parts with the aid of the vacuum oven hardening method.
Photos courtesy of Lockheed Martin