A new thin-film polymer material is proposed that would improve orbit lifetime and packaging efficiency for use in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Micro-Meteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) prone applications. Thin-film polymers are used in many spacecraft applications including multi-layer insulation, sunshields for thermal control, deployable structures, solar sails, as well as flexible solar arrays. Materials on exterior spacecraft surfaces are subjected to extremely harsh environments composed of photon and charged particle radiation, thermal cycling, impacts from MMOD, and Atomic Oxygen (AO). Many applications that could benefit from using a thin polymer film are restricted from their use since many currently available materials do not meet durability or packaging requirements. This proposal defines research that will develop a new material capability for NASA and deliver samples for MISSE-FF testing needed to qualify the material for NASA missions and commercial applications.
During Phase I, NeXolve incorporated a PTFE structure within the CORIN®XLS polyimide to provide an AO-resistant polymer film with flexibility, tear resistance, and durability far exceeding current state of the art materials. Phase I also resulted in development of a new lab scale manufacturing method to form the CORIN® XLS/PTFE composite with improved tear resistance. The composite materials exhibited substantial increases in elongation properties and tear strength compared to baseline materials. The elongation of the composite films increased by as much as 700% compared to baseline material. An increase in tear strength of the composite compared to the baseline CORIN® XLS film was as high 1000% depending on the composite construction. Phase II seeks to develop a continuous manufacturing process for the CORIN XLS/PTFE composite that will allow commercial scale production. The Phase II research also seeks to advance the TRL of the material from 5 to 7 by utilizing the MISSE-FF platform.
Specific NASA missions that would benefit include the proposed Kon-TikiTechnology Demo, Solar Polar Imager(SPI) and GeoStorm space weather monitoring. There are a number of proposed NASA missions that would be improved by incorporation of CORIN® XLS/PTFE into the sunshields. Examples include: WFIRST, HabEx / Starshade,Origins Space Telescope (OST), and LUVOIR. All of these space telescopes would benefit greatly from the enhanced properties of CORIN® XLS/PTFE for their sunshield designs.
Potential Non-NASA Applications include: MLI blankets (almost all spacecraft), deployable array substrates (including solar and antenna arrays), deorbit drag sails. NeXolve is currently developing a 1-U deployable Solar Power Module for the commercial cubesat market. CORIN® XLS/PTFE composite material will provide more durable substrate for the LEO environment extended missions.