New nano-barrier could strengthen spacecraft payloads

Airbus and the University of Surrey, England, have developed a robust multilayer nano-barrier for ultra-lightweight and stable carbon fibre reinforced polymers. It could be used to build instruments for future space missions.

Airbus has been using Carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRPs) on its spacecraft and instrument structures for many years. Good examples are the two GRACE FO satellites that are tracking movement of liquid water, ice and land masses due to climate change, and BepiColombo which will explore Mercury. On those type of missions CFRPs offer many advantages; in particular a high strength to weight ratio.

But applications are limited because the material absorbs moisture, often released as gas during a mission. This affects the dimensional stability and alignment of optical payload structures. Engineers can try to minimise this problem by performing long, expensive procedures such as drying, recalibrations and bake-out – all of which may not completely resolve the issue. 

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