DuPont today announced that it has signed a Space Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to jointly develop urethane foam insulation reinforced with DuPont™ Kevlar® fiber for use in a variety of future spacecraft, including the new launch vehicle being designed to replace the space shuttle.
DuPont and scientists at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama will specifically seek to develop a process to incorporate Kevlar® fiber into the cell walls of the foam, thereby enhancing the performance of the thermal protection systems used in the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle. There may be other uses for the material in future science and exploration applications ranging from vehicle TPS to inflatable structures.
“DuPont materials have enabled manned and unmanned missions into space for almost half a century, and we continue to work closely with NASA in helping solve their most pressing challenges,” said Thomas G. Powell, vice president and general manager – DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems. “We look forward to the opportunity to work with NASA scientists in helping develop their next-generation thermal protection systems.”
Kevlar® is perhaps best known for its use in bullet- and stab-resistant body armor, but it also has strong ties to the U.S. Space Program. The high performance fiber that is five times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis is used today, along with DuPont™ Nomex® fiber, in space suits worn by astronauts. Additionally, a parachute made of Kevlar® fiber was included on the Galileo probe to Jupiter, and at the International Space Station, a blanket made of Kevlar® fiber was used to wrap its inner walls and provided protection from micrometeorites.
Many other DuPont inventions have contributed to space exploration. On Apollo missions to the moon, 20 of the 21 layers in each space suit were made with DuPont materials, including DuPont™ Mylar® polyester film, neoprene and DuPont™ Kapton® film. Today the Mars Exploration Rovers – Spirit and Opportunity – contain almost 70 yards each of flexible circuits made of thin DuPont™ Pyralux® laminates and composites which connect the “brains” of the rovers to their robotic arms, cameras, high gain antennae, wheels and sensors. The rovers also feature Kapton® film for hundreds of strip heaters which are used for thermal control, ensuring the critical warmth needed to maintain operations in the extremely cold Martian atmosphere.
DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.
The DuPont Oval, DuPont™, The miracles of science™, Kevlar®, Nomex®, Kapton® and Pyralux® are registered trademarks or trademarks of DuPont or its affiliates.
Mylar® is a registered trademark of DuPont Teijin Films