NASA STTR 2019-II Solicitation

Proposal Summary

Proposal Information

Proposal Number:
19-2- T12.05-3033
Phase 1 Contract #:
Subtopic Title:
In-situ Curing of Thermoset Resin Mixtures
Proposal Title:
A Modular In-Situ Curing Apparatus for Thermoset Resin Mixtures Applied as Thermal Protection Systems
Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc.
2520 West 237th Street
Torrance CA  90505 - 5217
Phone: (310) 530-7130
University of Southern California
3720 S. Flower Street, 3rd Floor
CA  90089 - 0701
Phone: (213) 821-2289

Principal Investigator (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)

Dr. Paul DiCarmine
2520 West 237th Street Torrance, CA 90505 - 5217
(424) 263-6358

Business Official (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)

Dr. Reuben Sandler
2520 West 237th Street Torrance, CA 90505 - 5217
(424) 263-6305
Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 3
End: 4
Technical Abstract (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)

Future human extraterrestrial missions will require export and landing of countless payloads on the lunar and Martian surfaces. Such a quantity and rate of payload delivery will require cost-effective and rapid manufacturing of many large Thermal Protection Systems (TPS). Intelligent Optical Systems proposes to develop a modular system for in-situ bonding and curing of thermoset resin to the spacecraft to facilitate automated manufacturing of TPS. This system is compatible with additive manufacturing techniques, high-temperature thermoset resins, and composite substrates currently in use and under development by NASA, SpaceX, and others. Our in-situ resin curing system will eliminate the need for large ovens or autoclaves. By leveraging advances in out of autoclave curing methods, our system will enable curing of additively manufactured high temperature thermoset resin based TPS in-situ. An infrared heat source mounted directly on the print head will rapidly stiffen the extrudate as it leaves the nozzle, enabling multi-layer printing. Upon completion of the printing process, a modular system of conductive heat blankets, conforming to the surface contours of the structure, will control final cure of the thermoset. The system will measure the temperature of the resin, and provide feedback control and log thermal history during curing. In-line surface activation with a corona generator will ensure strong bonding to the underlying substrate and at layer interfaces.

Validation of the system will be performed by measuring the degree of cure of in-situ cured samples and measurement of bond strength. We have already demonstrated in Phase I that in-situ cured samples achieve a high degree of cure, char yield, glass transition temperature, and bond strength, comparable to traditionally cured resins. The target end point for Phase II work is scaling the system by 10x with performance deviation of no more than 5% between in-situ cured and control cured resins.

Potential NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)

Potential applications for NASA include human missions to the moon and Mars. Such missions will require TPS to protect both crew and cargo from heat during hypersonic flight. The advanced TPS production technology developed in this project will be applicable to the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate's (HEO) Orion spacecraft and commercial spaceflight. Further development of the technique will enable 3D printing and automated production of high temperature resilient parts and molds on Earth, the moon, and Mars.

Potential Non-NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)

Commercial Space programs like SpaceX will benefit from advanced TPS manufacturing processes being developed by NASA. The proposed system will enable the parallelized and rapid production of heat shields required for interplanetary colonization. Additionally, this technology could enable commercial thermoset resin 3D printing technology, and impact the advanced manufacturing market as a whole.

Duration: 24

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