NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 03- II F3.01-7148
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Thermal Control Systems for Human Space Missions
PROPOSAL TITLE: Aeorgel Insulation for Integrated Cryotanks and TPS

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Wendell Rhine
30 Forbes Road, Building B
Northborough, MA 01532-2501
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

NASA seeks new and innovative technologies for materials, processes, and manufacturing that will provide safe, reliable, lightweight, and less expensive launch vehicle and spacecraft components. The proposed project SBIR Phase II project will develop aerogel insulation materials for composite cryotanks and TPS. Introduction of aerogel materials to reusable launch vehicles will result in significant reductions in the weight and volume of cryogenic insulation and high temperature Thermal Protection Systems. Aspen Aerogels' materials typically demonstrate 2-4x improvement in thermal conductivity over traditional insulation materials. When specifically engineered to work with current integrated insulation systems, a marked reduction in thickness and overall weight will be realized. Therefore, with team partner Northrop Grumman Corporation, Aspen Aerogels proposes to develop durable and lightweight aerogel insulation for current spacecraft such as the shuttle and future reusable launch vehicles. During the proposed effort we will develop and characterize fiber reinforced aerogel composites for use as cryogenic and high temperature insulation for reusable launce vehicles. We will also optimize the organic modified silica aerogels developed during the Phase I effort as an approach for improving their strength at cryogenic temperatures. A low-cost, environmentally benign manufacturing process will be used.

The resulting insulation system from this program will also have far reaching effects in both military and commercial applications. Similar to the insulating tiles for the space shuttle, the product could offer a replacement to the expensive insulating tile array used in the exhaust washed regions of advanced military aircraft. The potential also exist for insulating weapons, fuel tanks, electronics, and landing gear bays of military aircraft. Finally, the product will have a commercial impact in areas such as: airliner fuselages, thermal insulation for ovens, insulation for hot exhaust ducts, automotive firewall insulation, appliance insulation, and boilers and incinerators.

The material developed in this phase II efforts could have a variety of applications in the aerospace industry, and within NASA specifically. Aerogels are the most efficient thermal insulation known, and NASA has several applications that would benefit from the low density and low thermal conductivity of aerogels. Among these are replacements for the present blankets and high temperature re-usable tiles on the space shuttle. Aerogels could also be applied to NASA's integrated cryogenic fuel tanks, spacesuit applications, and internal insulation applications on re-usable spacecraft