NASA chose GeoPlasma’s innovative materials for radiation shielding and thermal barrier coatings (TBC) to fly aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to be evaluated for potential applications for lunar habitation, long-term deep space missions such as Mars, and other unspecified defense applications.
GeoPlasma, a joint venture of Geocent and Plasma Processes, along with partners The University of Tennessee and The University of Alabama in Birmingham was awarded NASA Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I and II funding to develop composite materials as an integral part of a spacecraft or habitat structure to shield crew and critical avionics against Galactic Cosmic Rays and secondary particles.
Thermal and structural properties of the materials are measured before and after being exposed to the space environment, evaluating their capability for potential applications. Tests must be successfully completed for the advanced materials to be promoted to a higher Technology Readiness Level.
The first batch of shielding and TBC material was launched to the ISS on April 17, 2019, for a one-year test characterizing thermal and radiation properties. Astronauts will perform an extra-vehicular activity to attach the samples external to the ISS. The second batch of samples will launch in December 2019 and will be dedicated to characterizing any degradation in mechanical properties due to long term space environment exposure.
GeoPlasma’s principal investigators on the project, Dr. Subhayu Sen and Scott O’Dell reported that “GeoPlasma has matured these materials to the extent that NASA has selected them to fly and test on the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-11) platform.” Dr. Sen added that GeoPlasma is “extremely grateful to NASA for this opportunity since the long-term durability of such materials against the overall space environment, including atomic oxygen, radiation spectrum, thermal excursions, and UV, can only be tested on the MISSE platform.”