9 July 2002 Autophagous spacecraft composite materials for orbital propulsion
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Abstract
We are developing structural polymer composite materials that can be converted into fuels and combusted with oxidizers for orbital propulsion of spacecraft. We have identified candidate materials and demonstrated sustained combustion with nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) as an oxidizer. To improve reaction chemistry we have evaluated several energetic additives. Detailed material compatibility tests were conducted to identify stable combinations of structural polymer and energetic additives. We have also demonstrated sustained combustion of structural polymeric materials with embedded additives and NTO. In the next phase of research, we plan to investigate hydrogen peroxide as the oxidizer. Samples of composites comprising thin metallic facesheets, structural polymer propellant matrix, and metallic mesh reinforcements (that also serve as electrical heaters/igniters for pyrolysis) were fabricated and their mechanical properties were measured. Concept of a spacecraft structural stringer, which also functions as a thruster, was developed using the composite material formulation. Both all solid and hybrid stringer-thruster designs have been developed. Prototype stringer-thrusters will be fabricated and tested in Phase II.
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Prakash Joshi, Bernard L. Upschulte, Alan H. Gelb, B. David Green, Dean M. Lester, Ingvar Wallace, W. David Starrett, David W. Marshall, "Autophagous spacecraft composite materials for orbital propulsion", Proc. SPIE 4698, Smart Structures and Materials 2002: Industrial and Commercial Applications of Smart Structures Technologies, (9 July 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.475062; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.475062
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