Magna Parva Limited has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency to develop novel materials for use in space which will provide improved protection against radiation and micrometeorites. The increasing need of a new low-cost hybrid material has arisen to help protect spacecraft and the safety of its crew. Astronauts and satellite electronics can suffer subtle damage from radiation in orbit and the satellites themselves can be damaged by natural interplanetary dust particles or by small pieces of orbital debris. The project will develop laminated materials which provide more protection per kilogram than current options.
Spacecraft in orbit around the Earth continually sustain damage from hyper velocity impact, colliding with micrometeoroids and orbiting debris (MMOD). Travelling at orbital velocities reaching speeds of 8km/s, the possible impact is unthinkable. To put this into perspective; ballistic objects fired from firearms on Earth travel around 0.3km/s. Whilst the majority of orbiting debris and micrometeoroids are small enough to not be a worry, a need for protection is established. A small fraction of the MMOD population is large enough to cause potentially catastrophic damage. Large objects in orbit around Earth are tracked such that space craft can be manoeuvred and collisions can be avoided.
The second motive behind the development of the ‘Low Cost Hybrid Materials’ is radiation. In the space environment radiation takes the form of energetic particles; these originate from supernova explosions and other high energy events outside the solar system. There are also Solar Energetic Particles which originate from the sun. The Earth’s magnetosphere blocks out the majority of radiation, but at increasing altitudes, and beyond Earth orbit, exposure levels increase. The risk of collision with MMOD and increasing exposure to radiation needs to be mitigated.
Magna Parva will be supported by the expertise from a number of high technology companies and universities from across the UK, showing the strength of this sector. Director Andy Bowyer said “This provides an exciting step for the company into a new business area. The materials we develop in this contract will be particularly useful in deep space missions such as those planned for the Orion capsule”. Magna Parva is supported by their subcontractors Fluid Gravity, TISICS, RadMod and Kallisto.

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