A New Hampshire company’s composite material is currently being used to protect the solar-powered spacecraft en route to Jupiter for NASA’s Juno mission. Nanocomp Technologies sheet composite material, Miralon, protects parts of the spacecraft’s propulsion system. NASA says the objective of the Juno mission “is to significantly improve our understanding of the formation, evolution and structure of Jupiter.”
Nanocomp Technologies describes Miralon as a “family of carbon nanotube (CNT) based sheets, tapes, yarns and dispersions” which the company designs, manufactures and sells. They claim it is the first commercially available CNT that reduces weight, increases strength and performance, and can manage and enhance conductivity.
The New Hampshire Union Leader reported Nanocomp worked with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the project, to integrate Miralon into the Juno spacecraft in a composite material replacing the traditional aluminum foil used for electrostatic discharge (ESD). The Juno spacecraft will be traveling through strong radiation belts en route to Jupiter, which creates a need for stronger-than-usual ESD protection.
“Lockheed was interested in implementing an alternative ESD solution to traditional aluminum foil that is typically bonded to the surface of composites,” said Nanocomp’s president, Peter Antoinette.
During the mission, Miralon will act as a surface layer on several components of the flight system’s attitude control motor struts and the main engine housing as it travels through intense radiation belts.
“It is extraordinary. Our materials are on this spacecraft to protect the engines and the thrusters — it is really tremendous,” said Antoinette. “It is basically used as a shield.”
Recently, Juno mission to Jupiter broke the record to become humanity’s most distant solar-powered emissary, traveling 493 million miles from the sun. The spacecraft launched in 2011 and according to NASA, is expected to arrive at Jupiter on July 4 this year.
For more information on the Juno mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/juno.