NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X6.02-8880
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Vehicle Airframe Structures
PROPOSAL TITLE: Optimal Composite Materials using NASA Resins or POSS Nanoparticle Modifications for Low Cost Fabrication of Large Composite Aerospace Structures

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Accudyne Systems, Inc.
134 Sandy Drive
Newark, DE 19713-1147

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Mark Gruber
134 Sandy Drive
Newark, DE 19713-1147

Reduced mass composite materials are crucial to the success of aerospace systems, but their adoption is inhibited because they require autoclave consolidation, a process that is prohibitively expensive for large aerospace structure. To remedy this, NASA-LaRC has been developing cost-effective high-performance thermoplastic composite processing equipment that enables out-of-autoclave tape placement. In particular, NASA is working with Accudyne Systems to install a heated in situ deposition placement head to fit on NASA-LaRC's placement machine.

This SBIR is to create the optimal composite material feedstock to go hand-in-hand with the thermoplastic process equipment so as to create desirable mechanical and physical properties in a part with out-of-autoclave in-situ placement. Accudyne Systems will define the matrix resin and fabricate thermoplastic tape to create the ideal in situ processible material. The first approach will be to proveout a fully amorphous composite based upon NASA 8515. This avoids the undesirable kinetics of a semi-crystalline thermoplastic like PEEK. The second approach will be to use POSS nanoparticles in semi-crystalline PEEK to accelerate crystallinity to the short time scale of the in situ process.

The best options will be commercialized to allow NASA and aerospace primes to fabricate low-cost large composite structure for air and space transport.

The Exploration Systems Enterprise requires reduced mass materials to enable new options for future Earth-to-Orbit (ETO) Transportation and Lunar and Earth Neighborhood missions in the 2010 timeframe. Primary vehicle structures use these materials for low mass to transcend the former route of expendable vehicle structures with unacceptably high life cycle costs to reusable launch vehicles that depend on large structure fabrication. Thus, an affordable fabrication process that uses effectively designed materials is key to achieving low cost launches.

There is nothing that could be done that would lower the cost of composites more than to eliminate the autoclave. That vision requires this new composite material, optimized for in situ processing. The major applications are large aerospace composites such as launch vehicles, launch vehicle tanks, satellites, wing and fuselage skins for commercial and military transport aircraft, fighter aircraft structure, helicopters, and submarine structure. Accudyne Systems will develop an optimal tape placeable material for the thermoplastic in situ consolidation process so that major aerospace prime contractors can fabricate large composite structures without the need for an autoclave.