UK composites set for space testing on ISS

Written by: Andrew Wade | Published:

New composite materials developed by researchers at the University of Bristol will be part of an upcoming mission to stress test materials in space.

Due to launch in spring 2022, the Euro Ageing mission will see 45 different materials from various participants sent to the International Space Station, where they will be encased in a chamber on the Bartolomeo platform especially designed by Airbus. Once in place, they will spend six months exposed to the harsh space environment, enduring micro-meteoroids, temperatures from -150C to +150C, high velocity dust, severe electromagnetic radiation and space debris. Real-time data will assess how the materials are performing and help scientists improve materials for the next generation of space missions.

“This project will assess how our composites fare in the extreme space environment,” aid Ian Hamerton, Professor of Polymers and Composite Materials at the University of Bristol.

“The data we recover will be used to make a ‘digital twin’ of the physical material, which will help us understand how these materials – and indeed other materials – function. Not only will this improve the performance of our composites but it will help us and others develop even more ambitious space materials.”

The materials were developed using facilities within one of the University of Bristol’s specialist research institutes, the Bristol Composites Institute, with help from the National Composites Centre, based on the Bristol & Bath Science Park at Emersons Green. The NCC, one of seven centres of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, provided support in-kind to cure the panels and machine them ready for testing, pre-launch to the International Space Station.

“The NCC is delighted to support this ground-breaking and exciting science experiment onboard the International Space Station to advance the use of composites in the space environment,” said Stuart Donovan Holmes, head of Defence and Space at the NCC.

“This project is an excellent example of the strong relationship between the NCC and the University of Bristol, working together to ensure a quick turnaround on this exciting piece of work.”

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