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COATINGS FOR SPACE APPLICATIONS

The Oct 2017 issue of CMN discussed the use of optical coatings in the space environment. This issue of CMN discusses the functional applications of materials and coatings that are essential surface treatments for spacecraft and instruments to provide long service lives in the harsh thermal and pervasive radiation encountered in space environments. 

Thermal Control Coatings

In past articles, we have talked about tribological and decorative coatings as durable treatments for exposed surfaces. Recent events related to the 2020 space race and hypersonic vehicle requirements are bringing high-temperature and durable coatings back front and center. Before we get into the heart of the new challenges, let's take a moment to review the state of the art that came about as a result of the initial reusable orbiterin the Space Shuttle program.Well before that first flight on April 12, 1981 much work had to be done realize a successful landing of the vehicle from Space, including incineration of the main fuel tank by the Earth’s atmosphere and harvesting of the two solid rocket boosters for reuse on future launches. While the paint and surface protection approaches were consistent with the technology of the day, the orbiter itself required some significant innovation to protect the vehicle on the launch pad, in deep space, and for the critical re-entry. Unlike the boosters or the insulated fuel tank, the skin of the shuttle is a collage of insulating tiles with a special mixture of inorganics including a novel boron silicide which dissipates the heat generated by atmospheric friction.

 

Click here to access the full technical paper, Coatings for Space Applications