Hybrid Material Solutions for Human Spaceflight

The objective of the ‘Low-Cost Hybrid Material Solutions for Human Spaceflight’ (LHM) project was to design, manufacture and test four low cost hybrid materials to enable consideration as radiation/Hyper Velocity Impact (HVI) protection systems in future human spaceflight applications.

Two critical concerns in human spaceflight mission design are risks posed by HVI of Micrometeoroids and Orbital Debris (MMOD) and by Solar and cosmic radiation. Fibre Metal Laminate (FML) and Metal Matrix Composite (MMC) hybrid materials represent specific, promising solutions for use in protection of spacecraft against these risks.

The LHM project began with a state-of-the-art and functional requirement review of FMLs and HVI and radiation protection systems. Accounting for the trends observed in the review and a top-level biomimicry assessment, 20 potential material architectures were derived and assessed for shielding effectiveness compared to state-of-art materials and conventional Aluminium shielding.

A total of 16 concept materials were selected for simulation by Fluid Gravity Engineering Ltd. (HVI) and RadMod Research Ltd. (radiation). A trade-off was performed based upon the simulation results and manufacturing and space qualification concerns; the selected concepts were to include one specifically tailored to HVI protection, one tailored to radiation protection and two that satisfied both criteria. Four FMLs were selected:

  • Titanium alloy and Self-Reinforced Polyethylene (Ti-SRPE).
  • Magnesium alloy and Aramid-Reinforced Polyethylene (Mg-Aramid/PE).
  • Titanium alloy and Glass-Reinforced Polypropylene (Ti-Glass/PP).
  • Magnesium alloy and Self-Reinforced Polypropylene (Mg-SRPP).

Manufacture of the four FMLs was managed by Tisics Ltd. Constituent materials were obtained, prepared, bonded and cured after performance of adhesive selection tests. Characterisation tests were performed in order to demonstrate the viability of each material. Coupons were then manufactured for HVI, radiation and outgassing tests.

Results available on request

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